Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sex Offender Boundaries Deemed Ineffective Prohibiting sex offenders from living near schools sounds like a good idea, but such residency restrictions may make it harder to supervise offenders — and without preventing new sex crimes.

Spurred by the visceral public reaction to violent crimes committed against children, lawmakers have introduced an array of strategies designed to control sex offenders and prevent them from committing new sex crimes, including longer prison sentences and parole terms, civil commitment of sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences but are judged to pose a continuing threat, and GPS monitoring of released sex offenders.

Increasingly common are residency restrictions on certain types of released sex offenders, barring them from living within a certain distance (typically 1,000 to 2,000 feet) of a school, playground or other area where children gather

But residency restrictions for sex offenders not only don't seem to be working as promised, there's some indication that by hindering smarter practices they help increase the danger of molestation. And despite their popularity with lawmakers and the public, they have not been universally embraced, even by those in the law enforcement community. A January 2007 resolution passed by the American Correctional Association declares, "There is no evidence to support the efficacy of broadly applied residential restrictions on sex offenders." A 2006 statement issued by the Iowa County Attorneys Association on that state's residency restriction requirements takes a similar view, asserting, "There is no demonstrated protective effect of the residency requirement that justifies the huge draining of scarce law enforcement resources in the effort to enforce the restriction."

A new study, "Does Residential Proximity Matter? A Geographic Analysis of Sex Offense Recidivism," which contains a detailed analysis of 224 sex offenders....(read study here PDF)

The study concluded, "Placing restrictions on the location of correctionally supervised sex offender residences may not deter the sex offender from re-offending and should not be considered as a method to control sexual-offending recidivism."

In analyzing re-offense rates among 130 sex offenders on probation, the Colorado report found, "When controlling for risk, sex offenders living in SLAs had the second-lowest number of criminal, technical and total violations (high-risk offenders in jail had the lowest number of violations)." A technical violation is one that contravenes the terms of either the offender's probation or his treatment and can include such behavior as possession of pornography or "having a sexual relationship with a vulnerable person (for example, dating a woman who has small children)."