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When Evidence Is Ignored: Residential Restrictions for Sex Offenders

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 69 Issue: 6 Dated: December 2007 Pages: 54-57
Richard Tewksbury; Jill Levenson
Date Published
December 2007
4 pages
This article presents residential restrictions for registered sex offenders as an example of how ex-offender reintegration and public safety are jeopardized by the failure of policymakers to rely on research evidence in establishing crime prevention policy.
Although one-half of the States and hundreds of municipalities have enacted laws that impose restrictions on where registered sex offenders may live, there are no empirical data that indicate residential restrictions reduce reoffending by sex offenders. A 2004 Colorado study found that those sex offenders who did repeat sex offenses were randomly located and did not live closer to schools and parks than convicted sex offenders who did not reoffend. In Minnesota, a 2003 study failed to find a link between sex offenders living close to schools and their reoffending. A subsequent Minnesota study concluded that "there is very little support for the notion that residency restriction laws would lower the incidence of sexual recidivism, particularly among child molesters," and that "rather than lowering sexual recidivism, housing restrictions may work against this goal by fostering conditions that exacerbate [problems with] sex offenders' reintegration." Reinforcing this view, a California Research Bureau report that was prepared for the Assembly Public Safety Committee determined that "there is little research regarding the effectiveness of restricting the housing locations available to sex offenders, but the few studies available find they have no impact on reoffense rates." It is the responsibility of corrections professionals--through both rigorous empirical evaluation and the sharing of knowledge based on experience--to identify correctional practices and policies that work to achieve goals of public safety and those that impede such goals. 14 notes