U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Sex Offender Notification: Implementation Considerations for States

NCJ Number
Corrections Policy Profiler Volume: 1 Issue: 1 Dated: Fall 1997
E M Grugin
Date Published
6 pages
Public concern over released sex offenders living in the community has led to the passage of legislation requiring sex offenders to register with law enforcement or other public safety agencies.
All 50 States require sex offenders to register and 47 States provide for the release of relevant information on violent sex offenders necessary to maintain public safety. These notification laws, often referred to as Megan's laws, hinge on a determination of risk and differ widely in their scope and application. Educating the public on sex offenders is critical to the notification process, not only to protect individuals and communities from crime but also to protect sex offenders from vigilantism. The mandate for community notification is the result of the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act of 1994 that requires States to create a central registry of sex offenders. Guidelines under this law give States wide discretion in choosing which State agency will disseminate sex offender information. In many States, law enforcement officials play a large role in the notification process. Further, State statutes are increasingly incorporating risk assessment into their notification laws. Risk assessment tools are needed because the crime itself cannot always be used as an indicator of risk. In assessing risk, many States use a tier system to categorize offenders and to determine what information will be released. Once a risk assessment has been made, several methods can be used to release information, such as press releases, direct mailings, agency websites, public notices, and community bulletins. State legislatures have passed Megan's laws with no additional allocation of resources to agencies already operating on a limited budget, and the notification process is time-consuming and burdensome for law enforcement and probation and parole officers whose time is already committed to established job requirements. Legal challenges to the laws have also plagued States since their passage. Considerations applied in the Minnesota Sex Offender Screening Tool are listed, along with risk assessment resources and sources of registration and notification information. 1 figure


No download available