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Sex Offender Residence Restrictions: Sensible Crime Policy or Flawed Logic?

NCJ Number
221434
Journal
Federal Probation Volume: 71 Issue: 3 Dated: December 2007 Pages: 2-9
Author(s)
Jill Levenson Ph.D.; Kristen Zgoba Ph.D.; Richard Tewksbury Ph.D.
Date Published
December 2007
Length
8 pages
Annotation
This paper reviews research relevant to the effectiveness and impact of residence restrictions for sex offenders and draws implications for practice and policy.
Abstract
Although 22 States now have laws that restrict where sex offenders can live, with 1,000 to 2,500-foot exclusionary zones being most common, research on the effects of sex-offender residence restrictions is limited. Only one study (Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2007) has specifically examined the relationship between residence restrictions and reoffending. That study was prospective, because no such law was in place where the study was conducted (Minnesota). There is a growing body of evidence, however, that residence restrictions have unintended consequences for sex offenders and communities. These adverse effects include homelessness for sex offenders; transience; lack of accessibility to social support, employment, and rehabilitative services; registry invalidity; and the clustering of sex offenders in poor, rural, or socially disorganized neighborhoods. Residence laws are often based on erroneous assumptions about sex-offender high reoffending rates and the belief that most sex offenders target strangers for victimization. In addition, they are rarely coupled with the administration of proven risk-assessment instruments and procedures. In the absence of evidence that residence restrictions are effective in achieving their intended goal of improved community safety, their unintended adverse effects may outweigh their benefits. It is crucial that research be conducted to determine whether residence restriction laws are effective. 84 references