Needed changes will toughen Megan's LawIn 1995 the...


August 17, 1996

Needed changes will toughen Megan's Law

In 1995 the Maryland General Assembly joined 40 other states and enacted "Megan's Law" to make convicted sex offenders who prey on children register their whereabouts with the local police in the county in which they reside.

Offenders must register each year for 10 years.

Megan's Law was named after Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey child who was raped and strangled by a convicted sex offender who lived across the street from her.

The aim of the law, which became effective Oct. 1, 1995, is to help police keep tabs on convicted child abusers and to let Marylanders know if a molester has moved into the neighborhood.

School superintendents and school principals in the sex offender's county of residence will be notified by police.

Anyone can get information on registered sex offenders by filing a written request with the local police agency.

Maryland and other states that passed versions of Megan's Law were complying with a federal mandate ordering states to enact sex offender registration laws by 1998 or risk losing 10 percent of their federal grants for fighting crime.

In May 1996, President Clinton signed into law a federal Megan's Law that calls for the dissemination of sex offender information collected under state registration programs.

The federal statute, which supersedes state law, differs from Maryland's Megan's Law in two respects.

It requires registration of all convicted sex offenders, not just those who victimize children under age 15.

And it states that registration be required at the state level of law enforcement, not the local police.

U.S. Department of Justice figures show that a forcible rape is committed every six minutes. A California study of the effectiveness of registration programs found that most law enforcement agencies believed registration helped them arrest suspected sex offenders. . . . Another California study on recidivism evaluated sex offenders over a 15-year period and found that nearly 50 percent were rearrested, 20 percent for a subsequent sex offense.

We will submit legislation to the 1997 General Assembly that will change Maryland's law to conform to the federal law.

I am hopeful that the General Assembly will approve the changes.

nn Marie Doory


The writer represents Baltimore's 43rd District in the House of Delegates.

Wildlife becoming inconvenient

The Aug. 5 editorial, ''Suburban pests,'' presented the overpopulating deer and geese situation in a broad, seemingly balanced way. Our love of nature set against the increasing dangers caused by overabundance of fauna (and human beings) in shared areas does present a daunting challenge.

In the search for solutions, let us not forget that these creatures are born into the environment yet are helpless to change it.

The editorial headline labeled this wildlife as pests. Changing a deer's image from ''Bambi'' to ''pest'' might make inhumane solutions easier for us.

We should remember that the animals and birds haven't changed, but the environment has. And we did that.

May our solutions to the animal overpopulation problems be sensitive to all living things; not just to the species in control.

Frederick C. Rohlfing

Forest Hill

'Healers' receive no federal money

Your Aug. 9 article by the Associated Press titled "Christian Scientist healers suffer legal blow" should be commended for attempting to present a balanced account.

Unfortunately, however, the headline reflects a serious misstatement of fact in the article's second paragraph.

Contrary to the article, Christian Science practitioners, who heal using the religion's method of prayer, have never and do not now receive money through Medicare or Medicaid programs.

Sometimes patients choosing spiritual treatment from Christian Science practitioners also require practical nonmedical care, such as bandaging, bathing, etc.

Those who give this care are Christian Science nurses. It is they, and the sanitariums who employ them, that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments, not the practitioners.

Here are some additional aspects of the case not brought out in the article that many of your readers should find interesting: The federal judge who ruled against the payments did so because Medicare and Medicaid laws specifically mention the Christian Science denomination. He did, however, recognize the "laudable purpose" of the legal accommodation for religious freedom and is allowing the payments for Christian Science nursing to continue pending appeal.

If the District Court decision is not reversed on appeal it will mean that Christian Scientists will no longer be able to draw benefits under present law from a program many have paid into for years through Medicare and Medicaid payroll taxes.

The only significant difference between Christian Science sanitariums and the hospitals and nursing homes that other churches operate is that the Christian Science facilities follow the religion's teachings and stop at basic-care nursing, not employing medical treatment.

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