Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Should Sex Offenders Have Civil Rights?

An in-depth NPR audio report, about 50 minutes long, is available here.


New laws give government significant powers to track and penalize defendants convicted of sex crimes, even after they have served their time. In some states, offenders can be committed to mental hospitals after they are released from jail if the state believes they are likely to commit further crimes. Other laws require offenders to register with local police or publicize where ex-offenders live, presumably to safeguard young children who live nearby. Join us on this edition of Justice Talking as we talk about the rights of those convicted of sex crimes.

Interview with John LaFond

Host Margot Adler talks with lawyer John LaFond about how the justice system and individual communities have dealt with sex offenders throughout history.

John LaFond is a lawyer, researcher and scholar in mental health law and criminal law. He is co-author of Back to the Asylum: The Future of Mental Health Law and Policy in the United States, and co-author of Criminal Law: Examples and Explanations. He is also co-editor of the forthcoming Sexually Violent Offenders: Law, Science and Policy.

Report from Florida

Reporter Judith Smelser reports on the unintended consequences of sex offender registries - how they can hurt the families and friends of people who have been convicted of such crimes - with the story of the Pratt family in Rocklitch, Florida.

Debate on the Issue

Law professor Bruce Winick debates professor Ernie Allen on the effectiveness of current laws affecting sex offenders and what should be done to prevent future abuse.

Bruce J. Winick is Professor of Law and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL. Winick has authored numerous books, the latest of which are Civil Commitment: A Therapeutic Jurisprudence Model, Judging in a Therapeutic Key: Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Courts and Protecting Society from Sexually Dangerous Offenders: Law, Justice, and Therapy.

Ernie Allen is President and Chief Executive Officer (and co-founder) of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children - . The Center's CyberTipline, called “the 911 for the Internet,” has handled 300,000 reports of child pornography and sexual exploitation, resulting in the arrest and prosecution of hundreds of adult predators.

During the debate, Mary Catherine Roper, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Philadelphia, speaks about a current case where a newborn baby was taken from his mother because his father, who doesn't live with them, was convicted of a sex offense 23 years ago.

Also joining the debate, Staci Haines, founder and executive director of Generation Five, an organization dedicated to ending child sexual abuse within five generations, speaks about how her approach differs from that of the criminal justice system. Staci has been organizing and educating in the area of child sexual abuse since 1985. She is the author of The Survivor's Guide to Sex, a how-to book offering a somatic approach to recovery from sexual trauma and to developing healthy sexual and intimate relationships.

Finally, Kellie Greene, founder and director of Speaking Out About Rape, Inc. (SOAR) and a rape survivor, talks from a victim's rights point of view about how society should deal with sex offenders. She was a co-author of the Florida Sexual Predator Prosecution Act of 2000.

Interview with Steve Bogira

Stepping back for a broader look at how criminal justice is administered in one of the nation's busiest precincts, host Margot Adler speaks with author Steve Bogira about his new book.

Steve Bogira graduated from Northwestern University and has been a prizewinning writer for the Chicago Reader since 1981. He is a former Alicia Patterson Fellow. His most recent book is Courtroom 302, which tells the story of one year in Chicago's Cook County Criminal Courthouse, the busiest felony courthouse in the country.

Monday, March 24, 2008

California Study




Data at a Glance

• 3.55% of sex offenders on parole with CDCR had committed new sex offenses by the time the conclusion of their three-year parole period.

• A ten-year follow-up study of 879 sex offenders in the state of Ohio reported that when using sex offense conviction as the outcome measurement, of 34 % of sex offenders who have re-offended, only 8 % were re-committed for a new sex crime, plus 3 % for a technical violation judged to be related to a potential new sex crime, while the other 22% reoffended for non-sexual offenses. (p 9)

• The impact on victims of sex crimes from community notification efforts (passive and active) is unknown. To develop recommendations for ways in which the needs of sex crimes victims can be balanced with the public’s right to know about dangerous offenders in their communities, a study of sex crime victims is necessary. (p 20)

The most recent California comprehensive review of the literature regarding the impact of residency restrictions on sex offenders and correctional management practices was published in August, 2006 (Nieto and Jung, 2006). Marcus Nieto, Senior Research Specialist for the California Research Bureau and Professor David Jung of Hastings Law School reviewed the above literature and concluded that little evidence supports the rationale that residency restrictions reduce the likelihood of reoffending by sex offenders.

The researchers criticized the Arkansas study as lacking researched-based evidence to support their conclusion. Nieto and Jung concluded that the Arkansas study merely speculated as to the intentions of the sex offender’s choice to live near where children congregated, and the study did not actually track recidivism.


What is certain is that the public does not want a sex offender living near where their children congregate. What is also certain is that sex offenders are less likely to reoffend if they are successfully reintegrated into our community. Residency restrictions appear to severely limit the housing options for and support for reintegration of sex offenders. The number of sex offenders who have declared themselves as transient or have absconded has increased dramatically since the implementation of Jessica’s Law. Whether residency restrictions increase community safety is uncertain. (p 132)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sex Offenders Who Live Among Us

Sex Offenders Who Live Among Us In Northeast Florida (link)
An Abstract

Executive Summary

Data for this study were complied from the files of 230 northeast Florida sex offenders. Of the total cohort of 230 offenders, all were sentenced and/or referred for participation in a sex offender treatment program. 115 sex offenders graduated from the treatment program; 115 did not graduate.

The offenders who did not graduate were either transferred out of this program, were terminated from the program, returned to incarceration after a probation violation, completed probation, or are currently missing or deceased.

The data presented here seek only to abstract some of the salient characteristics of area sex offenders. This abstract does not intend to draw or establish conclusions regarding the past, current or future behaviors (the likelihood of repeat offenses) for the 230 offenders represented.

In summary, the sex offenders who live among us can be characterized as follows:

Offender use of drug and/or alcohol
Graduates 66% - Have major drug and/or alcohol use
Non-graduates 74% - Have major drug and/or alcohol use

Offenders current status
Graduates 4 out of 115 are currently incarcerated
Non-graduates 43 out of 115 are currently incarcerated

Offenders relationship to their victim
Out of 230 individuals only 10 were strangers to their victims

Non-graduates with victims nine years of age or younger
100% were known to offender either by a family member or friend
100% have either major drug or alcohol use or both.
97% did not graduate high school
87% have been married and/or have children
67% are currently incarcerated
60% reported to being sexual abused as juveniles
40% have major mental health issues


America's Sexual Predator Laws and the Rise of the Preventive State (link)
Eric S. Janus

Most crimes of sexual violence are committed by people known to the victim—acquaintances and family members. Yet politicians and the media overemphasize predatory strangers when legislating against and reporting on sexual violence. In this book, Eric S. Janus goes far beyond sensational headlines to expose the reality of the laws designed to prevent sexual crimes. He shows that “sexual predator” laws, which have intense public and political support, are counterproductive. Janus contends that aggressive measures such as civil commitment and Megan's law, which are designed to restrain sex offenders before they can commit another crime, are bad policy and do little to actually reduce sexual violence. Further, these new laws make use of approaches such as preventive detention and actuarial profiling that violate important principles of liberty.

Janus argues that to prevent sexual violence, policymakers must address the deep-seated societal problems that allow it to flourish. In addition to criminal sanctions, he endorses the specific efforts of some advocates, organizations, and social scientists to stop sexual violence by, for example, taking steps to change the attitudes and behaviors of school-age children and adolescents, improving public education, and promoting community treatment and supervision of previous offenders.

Janus also warns that the principles underlying the predator laws may be the early harbingers of a “preventive state” in which the government casts wide nets of surveillance and intervenes to curtail liberty before crimes of any type occur. More than a critique of the status quo, this book discusses serious alternatives and how best to overcome the political obstacles to achieving rational policy.

"Janus makes a persuasive case that by throwing vast resources at a few offenders while hiding the true scope of sexual violence, sexual predator laws do more harm than good. Not only is the public not much safer than it was before civil commitment became widespread, he writes, but we've unleashed a political monster."—Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages

"Nowhere in Failure to Protect does the author minimize the damage done by criminals . . . . The problem, Janus says, is that extreme offenders have been incorrectly cast as the archetypal sex criminal. The result has been laws that reflect and reinforce a distorted view of sexual violence, remove resources from more effective policies, and are the signs of a constitutionally questionable 'preventive state.' Janus argues that sexual predator laws reflect a conservative backlash against hard lessons learned from the feminist movement about the systematic nature of sexual violence in society. and the fact that most sexual offenses are committed by a member of the victim's family or social circle. He identifies misconceptions about recidivism and questions 'actuarial' approaches that assign a static risk rating to an individual and ignore changes from treatment, aging, or altered circumstances."—Chronicle of Higher Education

"Eric S. Janus explores sexual predator laws from three perspectives: public safety, civil liberties, and effective government. He moves beyond the quick and easy arguments used both to defend and attack these laws, seeking policy solutions that can reduce sexual violence without scarring our constitutional values."—Roxanne Lieb, Director, Washington State Institute for Public Policy

"Failure to Protect is a vitally important book that demonstrates how we have drastically undermined the protections of our Constitution by creating a class of citizens for whom these protections no longer apply. The book raises this question: if one class of citizens can be excluded from the Bill of Rights, what other classes can also be excluded later on? This book should be essential reading for lawyers, law students, and those who care about preserving our liberties."—Charles Reich, Yale Law School, author of The Greening of America

About the Author
Eric S. Janus is Vice Dean and Professor of Law at William Mitchell College of Law. He is the author of Law and Mental Health Professionals and Civil Commitment in Minnesota.

Friday, March 14, 2008

California Coalition on Sexual Offending

Core Purpose:
Stop Sexual Abuse by supporting, educating and training professionals and the community.

CCOSO is a recognized leader in providing expertise, training, education, and legislative guidance in treatment, management and research related to sexual offending. CCOSO and its chapters strengthen local and statewide agencies and professionals to enhance community safety.


* Increase awareness by educating and training the community and professional organizations whose purpose is to manage and treat sex offenders
* Provide and promote a network of professionals in the field of sex offending
* Provide feedback and recommendations regarding legislation and public policy
* Provide information regarding management and treatment of sex offenders to all interested parties
* Develop and promote standards of care and best practices related to sexual offending
* Promote research in offender and victim treatment and community management practices
* Inform and influence media presentations on issues of sexual abuse
* Mentor and encourage potential professionals to enter the field


Welcome to the CCOSO Library. For articles on a given topic, click on the links below and you'll be taken to that section. You can easily return to this page from any section. You can also use the search below to search the library database for articles on a topic of interest to you.

1. Child Pornography
2. Community Management and Treatment - Adolescent
3. Community Management and Treatment - Adult
4. Community Reintegration
5. General Information
6. Internet Crimes
7. Laws and Legal Issues
8. Polygraph
9. Recidivism
10. Residency Restrictions
11. Sex Offender Registration

The California Coalition on Sexual Offending (CCOSO) POSITION PAPERS.


Thursday, March 13, 2008



Arkansas Crime Information Center (link)

Selected quotes:

Sex Offenders and Recidivism

One of the major tenets of sex offender registration and notification laws is the idea that sex offenders are more likely to recidivate than other types of offenders. This is also one of the biggest myths about sex offenders according to the Center for Sex Offender Management (2001). From a review of sex offender recidivism studies, Sample (2001, 106) argued that because of “methodological difficulties, differences in sample size, and variability in follow-up lengths, most studies report inconsistent levels of reoffending among sexual offenders.”

Hanson and Bussiere (1998) conducted a meta-analysis of studies on sex offender recidivism. From an international sample of 87 research projects (representing 28,972 sex offenders), the average recidivism rate for sex offenses was only 13.4%, while the average recidivism rate for any offense was 36.3%. Findings on offender characteristics showed that only age and marital status predicted sex offense recidivism. This was particularly true if an offender had prior sexual offenses, victimized strangers, had an extrafamilial victim, began offending at an early age, had a male victim, or had engaged in diverse sexual crimes. General recidivists (sex offenders who committed new crimes that are non-sexual in nature) were those most likely to have used force against their victims and less likely to have chosen child victims. Hanson and Bussiere (1998, 357) argued that their findings “contradict the popular view that sexual offenders inevitably reoffend . . . even in studies with thorough searches and long follow-up periods the recidivism rate almost never exceeded 40%.”

Walker and McLarty (2000) examined the characteristics of sex offenders on the Arkansas sex offender registry from 1997 to 1999; from this, they were able to describe the characteristics of offenders in the Arkansas’ registry. They found that the majority of the offenders (97%) were male, white (75.4%), between the ages of 30 and 69, and the majority of the offenders were from Arkansas (54.9%). The average offender committed 1.55 sex offenses and the majority of the offenders (53.3%) were charged with 1st Degree Sexual Abuse. Most importantly, in relation to recidivism, sex offenders were predominantly first time offenders (73% of sample). This could indicate that this was the sex offender’s first time offending or that this was the offender’s first offense that resulted in arrest.

Sample (2001) explored the social construction of sex offenders and sex offender registration laws in Illinois. She did this by incorporating a three-pronged analysis.

Sample performed a content analysis of three newspapers, interviewed policy makers, and analyzed police arrest records in an effort to compare common media and policy maker beliefs.

Between 1991 and 1998, Sample (2001, 34) noted a 128% increase in articles pertaining to sex offenders and offending. From the articles examined, Sample (2001, 66) found that sex offenders were portrayed as men in their mid-thirties, there was a lack of information on the race and social class of the offender, offenders were compulsive, the sex crimes themselves appeared to be changing (child pornography, pedophilia, and cyberporn), and the victims were portrayed as the innocent, the aged, and the infirm. The increase in these types of articles gives the public the impression of a growing sex offender problem (Sample, 2001, 69).

Sample then observed the relationship between media driven perceptions and the policy making process. Sample interviewed 35 legislators from Illinois. Of these 35 policy makers, only four were confident that sex offender registration and notification laws were effective; however, nearly all of the sample agreed “that current sex offender legislation . . . successfully addressed the public’s demand for action”(Sample 2001, 96). For these public officials, “the media indirectly influenced the enactment of sex offender legislation by affecting the public’s perceptions” and the media directly influenced policy making because the politicians “freely admit that the media serve as their major source of information”(Sample 2001, 99).

Sample (2001) then examined aggregate data sources to examine further the relationship between media accounts and policy maker legislation. She found that from 1990 to 1997, sex offenders represented only 1.2% of the total criminal charges in Illinois, and the number of sex offenses remained stable over this time period. The
typical offender illustrated in the data was male, of no discernable race, and similar in age to other types of offenders. Most importantly, sex offenders did not re-offend at a higher rate than other types of offenders, which goes against the commonly held perceptions of the public.

When examining sex offenders who committed only sex offenses, Sample (2001) found that the majority of crimes included adult victims, not adolescent victims as popularly portrayed in the media. More importantly, sex offenders of any type (rapists, pedophiles, etc.) had greater than a 6% re-arrest rate within 5 years of the same offense but most sex offenders were not re-arrested for a sex offense. Finally, sex offenders “with child victims had lower rates of re-arrest for any sex crime than those who victimized adults, the one exception being child pornographers”(2001, 162).

In conclusion to her multifaceted study on sex offender registration and notification laws, Sample wrote:

Popular conceptions of sex offending influence public officials’ reactions to the problem. Officials’ reactions [to the public] lead to the passage of the statutes that law enforcement personnel use to enact arrest charges. The arrest statistics, themselves a product of the social construction of sex offending, can be used to assess the extent to which legislative intent has been realized and the accuracy of popular perceptions of the problem. Information regarding the sex offending arrests is then used to reaffirm or reformulate popular perceptions of the problem (2001, 28).

This quotation shows the interrelatedness of these entities, media, policy makers, and arrest data, and how they affect one another.

Bynum (2001) noted that sex offender recidivism has been measured in three ways: Subsequent arrest, subsequent conviction, and subsequent incarceration. Because of this, reliance on “measures of recidivism as reflected through official criminal justice system data obviously omit offenses that are not cleared through an arrest or that are never reported to the police”(Bynum 2001, 2). From his examination of the literature, Bynum (2001, 8) concluded that studies on “sex offender recidivism vary widely in the quality and rigor of the research design, the sample of sex offenders and behaviors included in the study, the length of follow-up and the criteria for success of failure.” Further, due to “these differences, there is often a perceived lack of consistency across studies of sex offender recidivism.”

Because of the conceptual problems outlined by both Bynum and Sample, the literature is inconclusive as to the magnitude of recidivism for sex offenders. Research seems to indicate that sex offenders are not any more likely to recidivate than other types of offenders. It is important to note the homogeneity between sex offender recidivism and other offender type recidivism. The perception that sex offenders pose a higher risk of recidivism than other types of offenders formed the backdrop of the movement for sex offender registration and notification legislation. With this fact in mind, the next section examines studies that have been conducted on the effectiveness of registration and notification laws themselves.


Sex offender registration and notification policies are a relatively recent development in the criminal justice system. As such, there has been neither a great deal of methodological development nor many empirical findings. This research has attempted to overcome this lack of research by empirically exploring the effect of sex offender registration and notification laws on the number of sex offenses, measured by rape, committed over time across the United States. Utilizing time series analysis (ARIMA), we examined the incidence of rape in a sample of 10 states to see if the sex offender laws had any noticeable influence on sex offenses.

The key finding of this research is that the passage of sex offender registration and notification laws have had no systematic influence on the number of rapes committed in these states as a whole. Most of the states in our sample (five of ten) showed no significant differences (increase or decrease) in the average number of rapes committed before and after the sex offender laws. These non-significant findings masked the fact that roughly half of these non-significant changes were actually increases in the average incidence of rape within a given state. Of the states (four of the ten states) that did indicate statistically significant findings, three of these states experienced a decrease in the number of rapes after the implementation of the laws. The fourth state, however, actually illustrated a steep, statistically significant increase in the number of rapes committed.

These findings beg the question of what is occurring concerning the relationship between sex offender registration and notification and subsequent sex offending. It is possible, as Sample’s (2001) research indicated, that this was knee jerk legislation based simply on keeping the constituency happy. If that is true, sex offender registration and notification laws are failed legislation. As discussed above, there are alternative explanations of what could be occurring. These include a deterrent nature to these laws, a heightening of police awareness, both, or the rape counts simply decreased at the same time as the introduction of the law and therefore our model could be misspecified (i.e. confounded). We offer several suggestions of how these differing explanations may be producing the findings of this research.

First, sex offender registration and notification laws are based on the assumption that sex offenders are more likely to recidivate than other offenders. The research on the validity of this assertion is very mixed. While the nature of our data does not permit us to comment one way or the other in this area, sex offenders are assumed to be an identified group. As such, the rationale behind sex offender laws would assume that a majority of the offenses committed within the confines of any year would actually be sex offenders who are re-offending. A potential alternative assumption is that in those states with increases (roughly half of the states examined here), it would be expected that these offenders would be first time offenders or offenders who have never been caught before. This is supported by Walker and McLarty (2000) who found that 73% of sex offenders in their study committed a sex offense as their first offense. If this is the case, it would be expected that sex offender registration and notification is not able to control this population because a substantial number of them are committing sex offenses as their first offense. Hence, there is no name on the register and no way to inform the community.

Study Debunks Web Predator Myths

By Benjamin Radford, LiveScience's Bad Science Columnist (link)

posted: 06 March 2008 07:35 am ET

Don't believe the hype.

It's not just Flavor Flav's catchphrase, it's good advice for parents, teachers, police, and anyone else concerned about the threat of Internet predators.

According to a new study by researchers at the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, most of what you think about Web-based sex predators is probably wrong.

The study, published in the February/March issue of the journal American Psychologist and titled, "Online 'Predators' and Their Victims: Myths, Realities and Implications for Prevention," was based on three surveys: two of teen Internet users, and one involving hundreds of interviews with law enforcement officials. The results reveal that "the stereotype of the Internet 'predator' who uses trickery and violence to assault children is largely inaccurate."

Much of the public's concern comes from fear-mongering journalism. While TV shows like NBC’s "To Catch a Predator" and the "Today Show" gain high ratings scaring parents into thinking that threats to children lurk around every corner and abound on the Web, the reality is quite the opposite.

Among the study's findings:

Myth# 1: The sexual abuse of children has jumped, largely because of the surge in Internet predators.

Despite popular belief (and a fact-challenged 2001 "Newsweek" magazine headline that claimed that the Internet has created a "shocking increase in childhood exploitation of children"), sex assaults on teens dropped significantly (more than 50 percent) between 1990 and 2005. Ironically, it is the alarmist news coverage of sex offenses that has jumped dramatically over the past decade—not the attacks themselves.

Myth #2: Internet predators are a new threat to children.

In fact, the largest threat to children always has been, and remains, the child's parents and caregivers. Children are in far more danger of being abused, kidnapped, or killed by their parents than any stranger on the street or on the Web. While the Internet is a new way for some predators to find victims, if the Internet had not been invented they would have found victims in other ways—at home, school, or church, for example.

Myth #3: Children should not interact with strangers online because of the potential for abuse.

If there is one thing that the Internet does better than anything else, it is connecting people who don't know each other. That's the magic of the World Wide Web; it's just as easy to communicate online with someone around the block as around the world. Of course everyone (including kids and teens) should be careful about divulging personal information, but in virtual life, just as in real life, the vast majority of strangers are not a threat.

Myth #4: Most Internet predators are pedophiles.

The public largely assumes that people looking for sex online are targeting young children, but that's not true. In fact, most predators seek relationships and sex from teens and adolescents, not from younger children.

Myth #5: Internet predators often use deception to abduct and forcibly rape their victims.

The reality is that Web predators rarely use deception; most victims are well aware that the person they are communicating with online is an adult interested in sex. The predators rarely trick or force their victims into sex; they don't need to because the victims often voluntarily meet with them, intending to have sex. Most Web predators are guilty of statutory—not forcible—rape because the victim is under the age of consent.

Misplaced concern

There is no doubt that Internet predators are real, and do pose a threat. But the real danger is the public's deeply flawed understanding of the problem.

"To prevent these crimes, we need accurate information about their true dynamics," said Janis Wolak, lead author of the study. "The things that we hear and fear and the things that actually occur may not be the same."

Until the news media start accurately characterizing child sexual abuse and the real dangers of Internet predation, America's children will remain at greater risk.

* 10 Technologies That Will Transform Your Life
* Close Friends Protect Teen Girls From Abusive Boyfriends
* Online Privacy Concerns Increase

Benjamin Radford is managing editor of the Skeptical Inquirer science magazine. He wrote about sex offender panics and Megan's Law in his book" Media Mythmakers: How Journalists, Activists, and Advertisers Mislead Us." This and other books can be found on his website.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Irregular Passion: The Unconstitutionality and Inefficacy of Sex Offender Residency Laws

Thanks to this post at CO, I see a new note on sex offender residency restrictions from the Northwestern University Law Review. This piece — Sarah E. Agudo, Irregular Passion: The Unconstitutionality and Inefficacy of Sex Offender Residency Laws, 102 Nw. U. L. Rev. 307 (2008) (available here) — has these passages in its introduction:

Sex offenders are among the most hated members of our society.... In recent years, laws protecting society from these offenders have grown increasingly broad; the restrictions have become more severe and applicable to more people. Residency laws, which dictate where sex offenders can live upon release from prison or while on parole, exemplify this trend. Twenty-two states in the United States currently have some form of residency law that restricts where sex offenders can live. For example, many states prohibit sex offenders from living within 1000–2500 feet of schools, bus stops, or daycare centers....

It is likely that these recent expansions of sex offender legislation and the ensuing litigation over their constitutionality will prompt a Supreme Court decision establishing the limit on states’ control over their released offenders.

Research on the effectiveness of residency laws is scarce. However, a few studies suggest that residency restrictions have no impact on sex offense recidivism.... Protecting the public from sex offenders is unquestionably important, but states should not sacrifice civil liberties in favor of unproven methods of control. Reasonable and constitutionally acceptable residency laws may well exist.

The aim of this Comment is not to call for the abolition of all residency laws, but rather to promote a cogent dialogue regarding the upper bounds of their effectiveness and constitutionality in order to provide a framework for future legislation. Although, in many areas of law, democratic processes can adequately safeguard those bounds, the public outrage against sex offenders threatens to chill the usual political protections and justifies careful judicial oversight.

From Sentencing Law and Policy.

Are sex offender registries effective?

A new paper available here via SSRN asks "Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior?". The piece is authored by J.J. Prescott and Jonah Rockoff, and here is their abstract:

In recent decades, sex offenders have been the targets of some of the most far-reaching and novel crime legislation in the U.S. Two key innovations have been registration and notification laws which, respectively, require that convicted sex offenders provide valid contact information to law enforcement authorities, and that information on sex offenders be made public. Using detailed information on the timing and scope of changes in state law, we study how registration and notification affect the frequency of sex offenses and the incidence of offenses across victims, and check for any change in police response to reported crimes.

We find evidence that registration reduces the frequency of sex offenses by providing law enforcement with information on local sex offenders. As we predict from a simple model of criminal behavior, this decrease in crime is concentrated among local victims (e.g., friends, acquaintances, neighbors), while there is little evidence of a decrease in crimes against strangers. We also find evidence that community notification deters crime, but in a way unanticipated by legislators. Our results correspond with a model in which community notification deters first-time sex offenses, but increases recidivism by registered offenders due to a change in the relative utility of legal and illegal behavior. This finding is consistent with work by criminologists suggesting that notification may increase recidivism by imposing social and financial costs on registered sex offenders and making non-criminal activity relatively less attractive. We regard this latter finding as potentially important, given that the purpose of community notification is to reduce recidivism.

From Sentencing Law and Policy.

More criticism of sex offender residency restrictions

Providing another interesting perspective on sex offender residency restrictions is this new piece on SSRN from Asmara Johnson, titled "In the Zone: Sex Offenders and the Ten Percent Solutions." Here is the abstract:

This Article challenges prevailing judicial orthodoxy that many sex offender residency restrictions are constitutional under the federal Ex Post Facto Clause. The paper applies the analytical framework in Smith v. Doe, the Court's most recent case involving sex offender legislation. It also forges a new way of thinking about these regimes as land-use policies that "negatively" zone individuals out of the urban cores. The paper proposes an innovative "positive" zoning scheme, the Sex Offender Containment Zone, that zones high-risk convicted sex offenders back into the city and that is effective, humane, and constitutional.

At first glance, sex offender residency restrictions appear plausible because they ostensibly place a convicted sex offender's residence out of reach of children. However, these regimes address less than 10% of the very real problem of child sex abuse, as over 90% of this abuse is committed by a family member or acquaintance of the child. On the other hand, many schemes effectively banish almost 100% of convicted sex offenders to society's literal and psychic margins, condemning many low-risk offenders who pose minimal recidivist risk to a lifetime of isolation and breeding optimal conditions for high-risk offenders to re-offend. The practical implications of this policy choice, therefore, are dangerous and real, lulling the public into a veritable false sense of security.

From Sentencing Law and Policy.

About Me

This blog is meant for those who need a place to quickly find accurate and cited facts with (almost) no opinion. The research posted does of course cite other evidence-based research that is current. For an interesting take on "Just the facts, Ma'am," see the truth.