Sex Offender Registration, Notification and Residency Restrictions

Communities have widely adopted sex offender registration, notification and residency restriction laws to reduce the risk of sex crimes. All states, territories and the District of Columbia have passed registration and notification laws.[1] At least 30 states and hundreds of smaller jurisdictions have passed residency restrictions.[2]

Registration and notification laws are meant to help law enforcement monitor convicted offenders and solve crimes, help residents protect themselves and their children, and deter crime. Specific requirements vary between jurisdictions. But all jurisdictions mandate that convicted sex offenders register their addresses with law enforcement and allow the general public to gather some information about nearby offenders. Residency restriction laws forbid convicted sex offenders from living near locations such as schools and daycare centers. These restrictions are based on the assumption that offenders choose their victims from among the people close by.

NIJ supports research projects in several states to learn about the implementation and effects of sex offender registration, notification and residency restriction laws. While these laws are popular, there has been very little evidence of their effectiveness in reducing crime. Studies assess whether these laws discourage reoffenses and first-time offenses and measure unintended consequences, such as effects on judicial decision-making. This research aims to provide valuable information that can inform future public policies for sex offender management.

Final reports

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Notes

[1] Zevitz, Richard G., and Mary Ann Farkas, Sex Offender Community Notification: Assessing the Impact in Wisconsin. Research in Brief, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, December 2001, NCJ 179992.

[2] Meloy, Michelle L., Susan L. Miller, and Kristin M. Curtis, “Making Sense out of Nonsense: The Deconstruction of State-Level Sex Offender Residence Restrictions,” American Journal of Criminal Justice 33 (June 2008): 209-222.

Date Created: August 19, 2014