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Sex Offender Registration and Notification: Research Finds Limited Effects in New Jersey

NCJ Number
Kristen Zgoba Ph.D.; Karen Bachar
Date Published
April 2009
4 pages

This study examined the impact of New Jersey’s “Megan’s Law,” which requires sex offenders to register with local police within a specified time after release from prison, with notification to the public and past victims as determined by the level of risk the offender poses.


The data analysis shows that sex offense rates in New Jersey have been consistently declining since 1985, with the greatest rate of decline occurring prior to the passage and implementation of Megan’s Law. Megan’s law did not reduce the number of rearrests for sex offenses or have any observable effect on the time between a sex offenders release from prison and rearrest for a new offense of any type. The bulk of sex offenses and re-offenses committed both before and after Megan’s Law was enacted continued to be child molestation and incest. In these cases, victim and offender knew each other. Neither was there a reduction in the number of victims of sex offenses after the passage of Megan’s Law. Cost estimates show that New Jersey spent $555,565 to implement the law in 1995. In 2006, the estimated cost of implementing the law was approximately $3.9 million, based on data received from 15 of New Jersey’s 21 counties. In phase 1 of the study, researchers used a pre-post research design to determine trends in the rates of sexual offenses reported by law enforcement agencies in New Jersey’s 21 counties. Phase 2 of the study used a sample of 550 sex offenders arrested and released from custody before and after the law’s implementation, in order to examine differences in reoffense rates and time period between release and rearrest. Phase 3 of the study assessed costs associated with the law’s implementation and current operation. 2 notes