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August 31, 2011

Two new pieces in Journal of Law & Econ examine efficacy of sex offender registries

Cover This new press release from the University of Chicago Press Journals reports on two newly published articles examining the effectiveness of modern sex offender laws. Here are highlights:

Two studies in the latest issue of the Journal of Law and Economics cast doubt on whether sex offender registry and notification laws actually work as intended.

One study, by J.J. Prescott of the University of Michigan and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia University, found that requiring sex offenders to register with police may significantly reduce the chances that they will re-offend. However the research also finds that making that same registry information available to the broader public may backfire, leading to higher overall rates of sex crime.

Meanwhile, another study by University of Chicago Ph.D. student Amanda Agan finds no evidence that sex offender registries are at all effective in increasing public safety....

Using data from 15 states over more than 10 years, Prescott and Rockoff examine the evolution of sex offense rates as states passed and began to enforce their registration and notification laws....

Prescott and Rockoff find that a registration requirement without public notification reduces reported sex crime substantially, most likely through better police monitoring and more effective apprehension of recidivists. For a state with an average-sized registry, a registration requirement reduces crime by about 13 percent from the sample mean. The drop in crime gets larger as registries grow larger, indicating that registry laws lower crime by discouraging registered offenders from re-offending, as opposed to discouraging potential first-time offenders.

In contrast, public notification laws, such as the listing of released offenders on the Internet, may actually undo some or all of a registry's crime-reducing power. While Prescott and Rockoff discover that the threat of being subjected to notification deters some potential first-time sex offenders from committing crime, released offenders appear to become more likely to do so. In fact, adding public notification to an average state's registration law leads to slightly higher levels of total reported sex crime. Taken as a whole, the research shows that while police registration discourages sex offender recidivism, public notification actually encourages it.

Why would public notification encourage sex offenders to re-offend? Perhaps because they have little else to lose. In particular, notification can make the threat of prison less effective....

Agan finds no evidence that sex offender registries are effective in increasing public safety. Her study used three different types of analysis to test the effectiveness of sex offender laws. First, she compared arrest rates for sex crimes in each U.S. state before and after registry laws were implemented and found no appreciable changes in crime trends following the introduction of a registry.

Second, Agan tested whether registries discourage convicted offenders from re-offending. To do that, she looked at data on over 9,000 sex offenders released from prison in 1994. About half of those offenders were released into states where they needed to register, while the other half did not need to register. She could then compare crime rates in the two groups.

She found little difference in the two groups' propensity to re-offend. In fact, those released into states without registration laws were slightly less likely to re-offend. "The results show that an offender who should have had to register appears to behave no differently, or possibly worse, than on who did not have to register," she writes. "If anything, registered offenders have higher rates of recidivism."

Third, Agan looked at census blocks in Washington D.C. to see if higher numbers of sex offenders in a given block correspond to higher rates of sex crime arrests. She found that crime rates in general, and sex crimes in particular, do not vary according to the number of sex offenders in the area....

She concludes that sex offender registries do little to increase public safety, "either in practice or in potential."

Both these pieces appear in the February 2011 issue of the Journal of Law and Economics.  The Prescott and Rockoff piece, which is available on-line here, is titled "Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior?".   The Agan piece, which is available on-line here, is titled "Sex Offender Registries: Fear without Function?".

August 31, 2011 at 10:58 PM | Permalink

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all these do is confirm 1,000's of other studies from AROUND THE WORLD that prove the american politican and meda moguls' have been lieing and talking out their asses for years!

Posted by: rodsmith | Sep 1, 2011 1:05:26 AM

Little Megan opened the door and was taken from us by a sex offender from across the street. Knowing his address would not have saved Megan. Only control of the body of the sex offender would have. His release after a lifetime of offense was the cause of her rape and murder. Incapacitation would be a proven method in the case of violent repeat offenders. That is just common sense, and self-evident to everyone but the lawyer.

First, I congratulate the authors on conducting an empirical study and setting an example for the testing of all laws. All laws should first be pilot tested this way in small jurisdictions, and retested if proven effective in larger ones before getting enacted in a state or in the nation. I compliment Prof. Berman for adding this study, for a change of pace from the usual academic stuff.

At this point, sex offender registration is not effective. It does not meet Daubert criteria for expert testimony about the standard of due care. As testimony would be excluded, such laws should be repealed. It should be recalled like a drug or surgical device that is shown to not do as claimed, like an ineffective hair growth product. Because of the cost of registration, unless rebutted, this study shows that the program is a type of theft or defrauding of the taxpayer. As the authorities would raid the offices and arrest the promoters of an ineffective hair growth product, so should they do the same with any legislature that fails to immediately repeal its registration law. Victims of such a legislature, such as offenders denied an apartment rental, or a job not related to their sex offense, should be able to sue the legislature because the legislature now has knowledge of ineffectiveness. Failure to repeal now shows malice, and should be subject to exemplary damages.

The self-dealt immunity of the legislature is based on a psychotic and unlawful idea from Henry of Bratton and the 13th Centure, the Sovereign speaks with the voice of God. Otherwise, it has no justification. That justification is delusional and faith based, a violation of the Establishment Clause. The immunity has the same validation of laws in Iran under which political opponents have been prosecuted, even this year, laws against witch craft and necromancy.

Cuckoo. Cuckoo. Cuckoo.

I would have given the researchers a suggestion.

Add another correlate to the analysis. How many lawyers live in an area, and how many work in an area. In areas where lawyers live there would be few offenders registered and very little crime. Where they work there would be a high density of registered sex offenders. On a similar note, the number of lawyers per population would be a better predictor of the crime rate, including sex offenses, than any number in a registration list. Underlawyered countries tend to have low crime rates, and overlawyered countries high crime rates. For example, Mexico and South America are even more overlawyered than the US, and have even higher crime rates than we do. Japan and China are ridiculously underlawyered, low crime rates, great economies, great schools, good family cohesion. Egypt, unlike China and Japan, is extremely poor. Underlawyered. Low crime rate, including in Cairo. The crime rates are by population survey, not by police reports, influenced by politics.

If you want to lower crime, register the addresses of lawyers.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 1, 2011 4:56:55 AM

One author was a top Harvard Law grad. However, he and the co-author have PhD's in Economics. I was hoping this was the work of straight lawyers.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 1, 2011 8:34:57 AM

Sex Offenders should be taken seriously and it is back to school time for the kids. It is hard not to worry about the childrens drive and motivation to do well in school. That is also my biggest concern. The grades will reflect their motivation for doing well. Now we also have to worry about whether or not our children will be protected while they are away at school. Education and being well protected is the key.

Posted by: BOBBY HARMON | Sep 1, 2011 2:53:11 PM

Bobby, take a Xanax you might have less anxiety about it.

Posted by: james | Sep 1, 2011 6:10:28 PM

bobby get some help. 20years of studies show those poor children your so worried about have a much better odds of being molested by YOU than by anyone now on the registry

Posted by: rodsmith | Sep 1, 2011 8:04:23 PM

"Bobby, take a Xanax you might have less anxiety about it."

That's funny!

Who should be taken seriously are those people who have done real studies without some ulterior motive.

Posted by: Huh? | Sep 2, 2011 10:24:54 PM

and you have any evidence these two individuals had some kind of ulterior motive? there huh?

Posted by: rodsmith | Sep 3, 2011 2:55:10 AM

The vermin on the Supreme Court have deprived the taxpayer of standing to sue to end any garbage government program. Only the lawyer elite decides.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 3, 2011 10:40:37 PM

"and you have any evidence these two individuals had some kind of ulterior motive? there huh?"

Is that was I said, rodsmith?

Posted by: Huh? | Sep 4, 2011 4:46:11 PM

sorry the way i read this!

"That's funny!

Who should be taken seriously are those people who have done real studies without some ulterior motive."

seems to imply these two individual had an ulterior motive!

Posted by: rodsmith | Sep 4, 2011 5:41:26 PM

You didn't read all the posts then. Bobby Harmon said "Sex Offenders should be taken seriously." Which is why I said what I had. Referring to the bullshit "studies" done by those with a tendency for hawkishness.

Posted by: Huh? | Sep 4, 2011 8:58:20 PM

sorry didn't realize you were talking about the hate filled troll! though you were talking about the two poeple in the origianl post!

Posted by: rodsmith | Sep 5, 2011 12:38:42 AM

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