This report assesses research that has studied federal, state, and local sex offender registration and notification laws’ impacts on convicted sex offenders.
This report is based on an analysis of 24 peer-reviewed research studies, a doctoral dissertation, a federal report, and a non-governmental organization publication. The study also examined whether researchers used randomized experimental research methods. The review concludes that the overall body of work that has analyzed the impacts of the policies of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORN) on registered sex offenders (RSOs) is indeterminate in its findings, largely because these research studies have one or more methodological flaws that render their findings unreliable, invalid, or of little to no applicability to individuals not included in the research itself. These flaws are discussed in detail. This research review concluded that no study provided reliable and valid empirical support for claims that SORN policies have had adverse effects on RSOs. Although SORN policies may have had adverse effects on RSOs, the reviewed research has not provided evidence of an association between SORN policies and studied impacts. The research weaknesses reviewed pertain to the misuse of statistical methods, the potential for bias, lack of comparison groups, and non-probability sampling. In addition to general research methodological flaws, this research issues related to claimed impacts on sex offender employment and finances, claimed impacts on sex offender housing, sex offender perceptions of SORN policies and residency restrictions, claimed impacts to sex offender physical and psychological well-being, claimed impacts on families of sex offenders, and claimed impacts on juvenile sex offenders. 9 tables, 59 references, and a 33 listing for a selected bibliography