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Sex Offender Registries: A Content Analysis

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Policy Review Volume: 24 Issue: 6 Dated: November 2013 Pages: 695-715
Mary P. Brewster; Philip A. DeLong; Joseph T. Moloney
Date Published
November 2013
21 pages
This study examined the content of the registries after the deadline for implementation of the Adam Walsh Act (AWA).
A handful of highly publicized sexual assault cases served as the impetus for the passage of sex offender legislation, culminating in the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (2006), which called for the registration of convicted sex offenders in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. The publicly accessible online registries have been the center of sex offender controversy in recent years, yet few researchers have analyzed the content of the registries. This study examined the content of the registries after the deadline for implementation of the Adam Walsh Act (AWA). An analysis of the 51 online registries was conducted to identify prevalent characteristics, search features, listing profile details, and rates of sex offenders. The most common search features included searching by name, zip code, city or town, county, and address. Nearly all registries also provide disclaimers (98 percent) and warnings (92 percent). Thirty registries (58.8 percent) allowed users to plot an offender's address through a mapping option. Most sites also provided numerous case-specific characteristics including various personal details about sex offenders such as appearance, specific offense information, victim information, and place of employment. Overall, the sites varied greatly from State to State and many offered additional features not required by the AWA. However, as of December 2011 only 15 States had substantially complied with AWA mandates (National Conference of State Legislatures). Abstract published by arrangement with Sage Journals.