Using a retrospective quasi-experimental design, this study examined whether community notification (informing communities where released sex offenders will be living), which is a requirement of the Federal "Megan's Law," had a deterrent effect in Minnesota.
The study found that broad community notification regarding where sex offenders were living significantly reduced the risk for sex offenders' rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration for another sex offense compared with two control groups. The findings were mixed, however, for sex offenders' reoffending with nonsexual crimes. The authors offer some cautions, however, about the limited and potentially adverse effects of broad community notification for sex offenders. First, it is not clear that it impacts nonsexual recidivism, which composes approximately 75 percent of the reoffending of sex offenders. Second, it threatens to produce numerous adverse consequences for sex offenders in their effort to reenter the community successfully, as it has made them targets for enduring harassment, property damage, loss of jobs, and loss of housing. The authors suggest a more promising, and perhaps less costly, approach, using Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) in helping sex offenders reintegrate into society. A recent evaluation of COSA in Canada, where it originated, found that participating sex offenders were significantly less likely to engage in both sexual and nonsexual offending. The current study compared the recidivism rates of 155 level 3 ("high public risk") sex offenders released from Minnesota prisons between 1997 and 2002 who were subject to broad community notification with 2 separate control groups. One control group consisted of 125 sex offenders released 7 years preceding the community notification law, but who would have been subject to the law. The second control group consisted of 155 sex offenders released prior to the community notification law but whose low level of risk would not have made them subject to community notification. 13 tables and 23 references