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October 13, 2007

Does the efficacy of sex offenders residency restrictions impact their constitutionality?

This new piece by Sarah Tofte at the Huffington Post, entitled "Sex Offender Laws May Do More Harm Than Good," chronicles the potential inefficacy of sex offender laws.  Here are snippets:

A growing number of child safety and rape prevention advocates agree that current laws are not working.  For example, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), a state-wide coalition of 84 rape crisis centers and sexual assault prevention programs, had this to say about residency restriction laws: They "waste valuable resources on sex offenders who are unlikely to reoffend, while leaving a deficit of treatment, supervision, and focus on offenders who we know should be receiving more intense scrutiny."...

Residency restriction laws, in place in 20 states, are based on another popular belief about former offenders -- that keeping them away from places where children gather will reduce their risk of re-offending.  But there is no evidence these laws diminish crimes against children and some to suggest the opposite.

A recent study by the Minnesota Department of Corrections analyzed 224 sex offender recidivists to see if where they lived had an effect on their crimes.  The study found that residential proximity had very little impact on a recidivist's opportunity to re-offend.  Many took pains to drive far from their neighborhoods in order to re-offend. More than half (113) came into contact with their victims through "social or relationship proximity" to the child.  The most common example was that of a male offender who found his victim(s) while socializing with their mother.

The main impact of residency restrictions may be to drive former offenders underground, away from families, police supervision and the help that can stop them re-offending.  As an Iowa sheriff pointed out, "We've taken stable people who have committed a sex crime and cast them out of their homes, away from their jobs, away from treatment, and away from public transportation. It's just absolutely absurd what these laws have done, and the communities are at greater risk because of it."

It will be interesting to see whether, as evidence mounts about the inefficacy of sex offender residency restrictions grow, whether more courts are inclined to find these laws unconstitutional.

Some related related posts:

October 13, 2007 at 11:15 AM | Permalink


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For a good summary, see The Impact of Residency Restrictions on Sex Offenders and Correctional Management
Practices: A Literature Review

So far, no study has found the restrictions effective though some found them harmful.

Posted by: George | Oct 13, 2007 3:16:06 PM

I say, keep the real predators in prison, and leave teh people that committed a one time offence alone so they could get their life back.

Posted by: EJ | Oct 13, 2007 6:18:19 PM

I know of someone who is a sex offender. He's 31 yrs. old, a friend, and a student w/ a 4.0GPA, happily married and a church member.
He is going to jail now...probation will more than likely be revoked, meaning he will have to spend the rest of his probation incarcerated. Their were witnesses that heard his probation officer say that he was going to have him locked up, and now 2 months later, my friend is going to be locked for 3 yrs.
He'd moved to Kentucky, for hope of a better life. After being locked up, he'd served 1 yr. icarcerated, then 2 yrs. on probation in GA. Transferred to KY. where all the trouble began. He was repeated locked up over and over again. He never did anything to anybody after his incarceration-he only tried to better himself-but it was never good enough.
How many people can be truly be objective- non-biased to either side? Does anyone realize that not all charges are the same? Sure there are some really sick, pervs out there, but my friend never was. Why is he treated both by the governing authorities and normal everyday people as if he was some sick person.

Posted by: Jason | Mar 8, 2008 9:01:30 PM

Why don't we have assault & battery offender laws, or laws for people who have a habit of driving drunk and endangering the public? Just because a law is in place does not in any way guarantee that the public is safe. If those that are truly habitual sex offenders had any reguard for the law, we would have a perfectly safe society to live in, right? It is all centered around politics and gaining votes from the ignorant people that believe these laws actually protect them. In the mean time, anyone charged with a "sex" crime deals with constant torment and impossible living/working situations. This doesn't even begin to cover the judgement that is passed on them. All this leads to is broken homes, increased depression, and poverty, among many other bad results. It is the most ignorant thing I know of at this time.

Posted by: Stephanie | Mar 31, 2008 1:05:50 AM


Posted by: dan | May 2, 2008 12:35:46 PM


Posted by: dan | May 2, 2008 12:36:27 PM

My brother is on the Megan's Law site and we have a horrible time with it. A girl who looked--and acted!!--18 asked to give him oral sex and he consented. She turned out to be under 18!! As is the age-old story. We're trying to get him pardoned but it's been a rough road. What an unjust lifelong sentence for someone like him, while the guy who forcibly raped me doesn't even have to register! Sorry for the candidness but I'm having a fit!!!! I'm just a writer, looking for a way to use my words to reach the hearts of those in charge of clemency.

Posted by: anna | Jul 15, 2008 12:51:49 AM

As a registered sex offender in Kentucky I will say that crimes committed against Children should be a strict punishment, as well as rape of a woman. But for some crimes being listed as a sex offender is harsh and unjust punishment and the laws should be more clear as to what would cause you to be listed as a sex offender! I know everybody says that they are innocent and should not be treated or punished as badly as they are, however I am not saying for what I did I shouldn't be punished but for what they took from me as to what I did I feel my punishment was unjust. A girl I didn't know or never met exposed her breast to me and I touched them and she didn't say much at first then she went to the police station and filed a complaint and had me arrested for sexual abuse in the 1st degree!! Which is a felony in Kentucky now and im now a registered sex offender because of it. Im sorry but our laws are made to take away our rights at the first mistake for most parts in hopes one day they will have all americans under their thumb even more than they do now!

Posted by: Davy | Sep 3, 2008 12:53:59 AM

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