Perpetual Panic

Federal Sentencing Reporter

O'Hear, Michael M.
Paginationpp. 69–77
Type of WorkEssay

The account of recent developments that unfolds in these pages may be viewed as yet another chapter in the story of a child sex abuse panic that is now well into its third decade. 

 In Part I of these Editor’s Observations, I identify some of the key themes that emerge from the articles in this issue.  

 In Part II, I suggest some reasons why the sex crime panic has proven so durable, while another panic that also reached a fever pitch in the mid-1980s, the crack cocaine panic, seems to have subsided.   

 Finally, in Part III, I discuss a lesson that may be drawn from the various American crime panics: while it may be unreasonable to expect legislators to resist the pressure for increasingly punitive responses to problems that arouse widespread public alarm, the harmful effects of excessive or misdirected responses may be contained through the use of sunset provisions when new crimes or mandatory minimum sentences are created. 

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