Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NY - DOES A WATCHED POT BOIL? A Time-Series Analysis of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law (08/2010)

Original Article

Despite the fact that the federal and many state governments have enacted registration and community notification laws as a means to better protect communities from sexual offending, limited empirical research has been conducted to examine the impact of such legislation on public safety. Therefore, utilizing time-series analyses, this study examined differences in sexual offense arrest rates before and after the enactment of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration Act. Results provide no support for the effectiveness of registration and community notification laws in reducing sexual offending by: (a) rapists, (b) child molesters, (c) sexual recidivists, or (d) first-time sex offenders. Analyses also showed that over 95% of all sexual offense arrests were committed by first-time sex offenders, casting doubt on the ability of laws that target repeat offenders to meaningfully reduce sexual offending.


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Sex Offender Registries: Fear without Function? (09/2010)

Original Article

I use three separate datasets and designs to determine whether sex offender registries are effective. First, state-level panel data is used to determine whether sex offender registries or public access to them decrease the rate of rape and other sexual abuse. Second, a dataset which contains information on the subsequent arrests of sex offenders released from prison in 1994 in 15 states is used to determine whether registries reduce the recidivism rate of offenders required to register compared with the recidivism of those who do not. Finally, I combine data on locations of crimes in Washington, D.C., with data on locations of registered sex offenders to determine whether knowing the locations of sex offenders in a region helps predict the locations of sexual abuse. The results from all three datasets do not support the hypothesis that sex offender registries are effective tools for increasing public safety.


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Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior? (01/2010)

Original Article

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 we 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 suggest that community notification deters first-time sex offenders, but may increase recidivism by registered offenders by increasing the relative attractiveness of criminal behavior. This finding is consistent with work by criminologists showing that notification may contribute to recidivism by imposing social and financial costs on registered sex offenders and, as a result, making non-criminal activity relatively less attractive. We regard this latter finding as potentially important, given that the purpose of community notification is the reduction of recidivism.


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FL - Jill Levenson - Sex Offender Residency Restrictions Impede Safety Goals (02/2012)

Original Article

Recently, the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that a policy banning registered sex offenders from entering Albuquerque's public libraries is unconstitutional. Over the past decade the availability of online sex offender registries has enabled widespread awareness of sexual offenders living in the community, increasing concerns for the safety of children and leading politicians to pass laws restricting where sex offenders can live, work and even be present. Residence restrictions in 30 states and countless municipalities typically prohibit individuals convicted of sex crimes from residing within 500 to 2500 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, daycare centers, bus stops and other places where children congregate. Few court challenges have been successful in overturning such restrictions. Research shows that politicians and citizens are overwhelmingly in favor of such laws, which are often based on stated (but empirically unsupported) assumptions that almost all sex offenders reoffend and that they are immune to therapeutic intervention. In fact, recidivism rates of known sex offenders are much lower than commonly believed, and properly designed treatment, though not equally effective for all offenders, can significantly reduce the risk of re-offending. Restrictions also reinforce the myth of "stranger danger," despite research from the Justice Department indicating that over 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims are well known to their perpetrators, who typically cultivate opportunities for molestation through familiar relationships with relatives and acquaintances.


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Sex Offender Residency Restrictions: How Mapping Can Inform Policy (07/2008)

Original Article

Laws that restrict where registered sex offenders may live have become increasingly popular during the past decade. As of 2007, some 27 states and hundreds of municipalities had enacted laws that bar sex offenders from residing near schools, parks, playgrounds and day care centers. The specified distance from a school or other venue is typically 1,000 feet but varies from 500 to 2,500 feet, depending on the jurisdiction. The laws, which have wide public support, are modeled after Florida’s “Jessica’s Law,” named for a nine-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped and killed by a molester. They follow the Wetterling Act of 1994 mandating sex offender registration and the 1996 Megan’s Law requiring public notification when an offender moves into a community.


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CT - SEX OFFENDERS' RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS (05/2007)

Original Article

As of August 2006, at least 21 states and over 400 local governments had adopted sex offender residency restriction laws and ordinances, respectively, according to the California Research Bureau in an August 2006 report entitled The Impact of Residency Restrictions on Sex Offenders and Correctional Management Practices: A Literature Review. These laws are modeled after nuisance codes, creating sex offender-free zones like drug-free zones. They typically prohibit sex offenders from living, and sometimes working or loitering, within a specified distance of designated places where children congregate. Like all states, Connecticut requires sex offenders to register. And like most states, police must notify residents when a sex offender moves or returns to their neighborhoods. But, the state has not enacted a law restricting sex offenders' residency. This could change soon, however. A bill, sHB 5503, currently before the General Assembly requires the Risk Assessment Board to use the risk assessment scale it develops to determine the sex offenders who should be prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of the property comprising an elementary or secondary school or a licensed center- or home-based child day care facility.


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FL - Jill Levenson - The Impact of Sex Offender Residence Restrictions: 1,000 Feet From Danger or One Step From Absurd? (11/2005)

Original Article

Public concern about the threat posed by sex offenders has inspired varied legislation designed to combat recidivistic sexual violence. For example, policies mandating sex offender registration, community notification, civil commitment, castration, “three-strikes and you’re out,” and nondiscretionary sentencing have been introduced. The newest wave of such statutes has come in the form of laws controlling where sex offenders can live. These restrictions prohibit sex offenders from residing within specific distances from schools or places where children congregate. Thus far, 14 states (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Tennessee) have enacted buffer zones that prohibit sex offenders from residing within close proximity to a school, park, day care center, or school bus stop. The least restrictive distance requirement is in Illinois (500 ft), but most common are 1,000- to 2,000-ft boundaries. California lawdoes not allowcertain sex offenders on parole to live within a quarter mile of an elementary school and prohibits parolees from living within 35 miles of a victim or witness.


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Off to Elba: The Legitimacy of Sex Offender Residence and Employment Restrictions (2006)

Original Article

Overborne by a mob mentality for justice, officials at every level of government are enacting laws that effectively exile convicted sex offenders from their midst with little contemplation as to the appropriateness or constitutionality of their actions. These laws fundamentally alter the liberties and freedom of convicted sex offenders to satisfy the ignorant fear of the masses. As a result, residence and employment restrictions which in theory are to protect society, in practice only exacerbate the perceived recidivism problem. When such laws are passed and the political process is broken, it is necessary for the judicial branch to step forward and protect those who are politically impotent.


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ATSA - Sexual Offender Residence Restrictions (04/2010)

Original Article

The availability of online sex offender registries has increased awareness of sexual offenders living in the community and has increased concerns for the safety of children, leading politicians to pass laws restricting where sex offenders can live. Residence restrictions typically prohibit individuals convicted of sex crimes from residing within 500-2500 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, daycare centers, bus stops, and other places where children are commonly present. Currently, 30 state laws have been adopted to prohibit sex offenders from residing near places frequented by children, and thousands of similar municipal ordinances have been passed in cities, towns, and counties throughout the U.S.


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FL - Jill Levenson - Sex Offender Residence Restrictions (01/2006)

Original Article

Sexual violence is a serious social problem and policy-makers continue to wrestle with how to best address the public’s concerns about sex offenders. Recent initiatives have included social policies that are designed to prevent sexual abuse by restricting where convicted sex offenders can live, often called “sex offender zoning laws,” or “exclusionary zones.” As these social policies become more popular, lawmakers and citizens should question whether such policies are evidence-based in their development and implementation, and whether such policies are cost-efficient and effective in reaching their stated goals.


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NY - The Efficacy of County-Level Sex Offender Residence Restrictions in New York (04/2012)

Original Article

This study examines whether county sex offender residence restrictions were associated with reduced sex crime arrest rates in New York State. In doing so, this study draws on the limited prior research regarding the effectiveness of residence restrictions, and on the extensive literature regarding the incapacitation and deterrence of crime through public policy measures. Results indicate that residence restrictions were not associated with significantly reduce arrests for sex crimes committed either by RSOs or non-RSOs against child victims. However, results suggested that these policies may generally deter some non-RSOs from sexually victimizing adults. Implications for future research and policymaking are discussed.


CSOM - Recidivism of Sex Offenders (05/2001)

Original Article

The criminal justice system manages most convicted sex offenders with some combination of incarceration, community supervision, and specialized treatment (Knopp, Freeman-Longo, and Stevenson, 1992). While the likelihood and length of incarceration for sex offenders has increased in recent years (since 1980, the number of imprisoned sex offenders has grown by more than 7 percent per year; in 1994, nearly one in ten state prisoners were incarcerated for committing a sex offense [Greenfeld, 1997]), the majority are released at some point on probation or parole (either immediately following sentencing or after a period of incarceration in prison or jail). About 60 percent of all sex offenders managed by the U.S. correctional system are under some form of conditional supervision in the community (Greenfeld, 1997).


VT - A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment (10/2011)

Original Article

The purpose of the present study was to test models of combining static and dynamic risk measures that might predict sexual recidivism among adult male sex offenders better than any one type of measure alone. Study participants were 759 adult male sex offenders under correctional supervision in Vermont who were enrolled in community sex offender treatment between 2001 and 2007. These offenders were assessed once using static measures (Static-99R, Static-2002R and VASOR) based on participants’ history at the date of placement in the community. A 22-item dynamic risk measure (SOTNPS) was used multiple times to assess participants, shortly after their entry into community treatment and approximately every six months thereafter. Analyses of SOTNPS scores resulted in the development of a new 16-item dynamic risk measure, the Sex Offender Treatment Intervention and Progress Scale (SOTIPS).


CA - No on Proposition 35 (Ban on Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery)

Original Article

10/10/2012

The state already has laws to combat human trafficking. So why is this ballot measure necessary?

If reducing sex trafficking and forced labor were as simple as adopting a ballot measure that promised to deal with those predatory practices, there would be every reason to vote for the popular Proposition 35 (PDF). But the initiative system doesn't work that way. Voters must ask more than whether they would like to see those cruelties come to an end. They must be satisfied that the particular, far-reaching and inflexible penalties and procedures that would be enacted by this measure would help; that they are the best approach to solving an actual problem; and that actual progress would dwarf any unintended consequences.

Proposition 35 fails those tests. Voters should not be lulled into believing that by approving this measure they will be taking effective action against slavery and sexual exploitation. Even if well intentioned, this initiative falls well short of the mark. The Times urges a no vote.

Voter initiatives can be an important check on a legislature so captured by special interests or partisan politics that it fails to deal with problems as they arise. There is plenty of evidence that California's Legislature is too timid or cowardly to deal with a variety of problems, but human trafficking is not one of them. The state doesn't lack for effective laws to combat trafficking. It is among 21 states that have passed significant anti-trafficking legislation. California and federal law today severely punish abduction and pimping of minors (and adults, for that matter), false imprisonment, forced labor and rape. Just last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed two more important pieces of legislation, including a measure that will make it easier for prosecutors to seize traffickers' assets.

These laws were adopted after hearings and testimony, consultation with law enforcement and legal experts, drafting and redrafting. They are designed to take apart the problem systematically and in the context of other criminal laws. Although they deal with separate aspects of the trafficking problem, together they form a comprehensive and — importantly — evolving approach.

Ballot measures, by contrast, are notoriously inflexible, engrafting into law provisions that cannot be changed — without yet another initiative — as drafting flaws come to light, experience provides useful guidance and data pile up to show which practices are effective and which simply make us feel good.

Proposition 35 all too well displays the weaknesses of the ballot process. For example: