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Sex Offender Residence Restrictions: Unintended Consequences and Community Reentry

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Many states and hundreds of local municipalities have passed zoning laws prohibiting sex offenders from living within close proximity to schools, parks, playgrounds, day care centers, and other places where children congregate. The purpose of this study was to investigate the positive and negative, intended and unintended consequences of residence restrictions on sex offenders. Results indicate that residence restrictions create housing instability for many offenders and limited accessibility to employment opportunities, social services, and social support. Young adult offenders were especially impacted because residence restrictions limited affordable housing options and often prevented them from living with family members. Implications for policy development and implementation are discussed. The authors extend thanks to Darren Allen of Lynn University for his assistance with data entry, and to Liberty Health Care Corporation for allowing their sex offender treatment programs to participate in data collection.
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SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCE RESTRICTIONS • 59
*
Sex Offender Residence Restrictions:  
Unintended Consequences and
Community Reentry
Jill S. Levenson
Lynn University
Andrea L. Hern
Indiana Sex Offender Monitoring and Management Program
* Abstract
Many states and hundreds of local municipalities have passed zoning laws prohibit-
ing sex offenders from living within close proximity to schools, parks, playgrounds,
day care centers, and other places where children congregate. The purpose of
this
study was to investigate the positive and negative, intended and unintended conse-
quences of residence restrictions on sex offenders. Results indicate that residence
restrictions create housing instability for many offenders and limited accessibility to
employment opportunities, social services, and social support. Young adult offend-
ers were especially impacted because residence restrictions limited affordable hous-
ing options and often prevented them from living with family members. Implications
for policy development and implementation are discussed.
The authors extend thanks to Darren Allen of Lynn University for his assistance with
data entry, and to Liberty Health Care Corporation for allowing their sex offender treat-
ment programs to participate in data collection.
JUSTICE RESEARCH AND POLICY, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2007
© 2007 Justice Research and Statistics Association
Research Note
60 • JUSTICE RESEARCH AND POLICY
SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCE RESTRICTIONS • 61
Sexual violence is a social problem that incites enormous fear and anger in our soci-
ety, and public policies that strive to monitor and restrict sex offenders are becoming
increasingly popular. Since 1994, the Jacob Wetterling Act has required convicted
sex offenders to register their addresses with law enforcement agents to facilitate
better tracking and monitoring of this particular group of criminals. Megan’s Law,
enacted in 1996, modied the Wetterling Act by allowing registry information to be
disclosed to the public. Over time, community residents have become more aware
of sex offenders living among them. As a result, many states and hundreds of local
municipalities have passed zoning laws prohibiting sex offenders from living within
close proximity to schools, parks, playgrounds, day care centers, and other places
where children congregate. The purpose of this study was to examine the experi-
ences and perceptions of sex offenders regarding residence restriction policies.
* Background
Twenty-two states now have laws restricting where sex offenders can live, with
1,000- to 2,000-foot exclusionary zones being most common (National Confer-
ence of State Legislatures, 2006; Nieto & Jung, 2006). Since a series of highly
publicized murders of several young children by convicted sex offenders around
the country in 2005, hundreds of cities and towns nationwide have also passed lo-
cal ordinances, often increasing restricted zones to 2,500 feet. Many of these regu-
lations have allowed a “grandfather clause” for sex offenders who established
residency prior to the passage of the law, and some waive restrictions for juvenile
or statutory offenders. Some localities have made it a crime for landlords to rent
to sex offenders, making it more difcult for them to secure rental properties.
When the constitutionality of residence restrictions has been challenged,
these laws have generally been upheld (Doe v. Miller, 2005; State v. Seering,
2005) and the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to rule on the issue. In Decem-
ber 2006, however, a Superior Court Judge in New Jersey declared a township’s
local ordinance unconstitutional because it violated the state’s “Megan’s Law,”
which prevents sex offender registration status from being used to deny housing
or accommodations (Elwell v. Lower Township, 2006). More challenges are
underway, and currently, a Georgia law banning sex offenders from living or
working within 1,000 feet of school bus stops (with no grandfather clause) has
been granted class action status, and a temporary injunction preventing enforce-
ment of the law is in effect. A similar injunction exists in California after the
overwhelming recent passage of Proposition 83, a comprehensive bill requiring
sex offenders to live at least 2,000 feet from a school or park.
Effects on Recidivism
Little research has been conducted to investigate the impact or effectiveness
of sex offender residence restrictions. An Arkansas study of 170 sex offenders
60 • JUSTICE RESEARCH AND POLICY
SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCE RESTRICTIONS • 61
found that 48% of child molesters lived in close proximity to schools, day care
centers, or parks, compared with 26% of perpetrators convicted of sex crimes
against adults (Walker, Golden, & VanHouten, 2001). Although the study did not
examine recidivism, and the factors contributing to residential placement choices
could not be clearly identied, the authors speculated that some child molesters
might be motivated to purposely live within close access to potential victims.
In Minnesota, a study was undertaken to determine whether residential
proximity to schools and parks was a factor in recidivism (Minnesota Depart-
ment of Corrections, 2003). Researchers tracked 329 “level three” sex offenders
(those considered to be at highest risk for reoffense) who were released from
prison between 1997 and 1999. By March 2002, 13 (4%) of those high risk
offenders had been rearrested for a new sex crime. The circumstances of each
recidivism case were then examined to determine whether the offense was re-
lated to the offender’s residential proximity to a school or park. None of the
new crimes occurred on the grounds of a school or was seemingly related to a
sex offender’s living within close proximity to a school. Two of the offenses did
take place near parks, but in both cases the park areas were several miles away
from the offenders’ homes. The authors concluded that residential proximity to
schools and parks appeared to be unrelated to sex offense recidivism, and ad-
vised that blanket policies restricting where sex offenders can live are unlikely to
benet community safety. They did suggest that case-by-case restrictions might
be an appropriate supervision strategy when based on the risks and needs of
each individual offender.
In Colorado, 130 sex offenders on probation were tracked for 15 months
(Colorado Department of Public Safety, 2004). Fifteen (12%) were rearrested
for new sex crimes, and all were “hands off” offenses (peeping, voyeurism, or
indecent exposure). The researchers used mapping software to examine the sex
offenders’ proximity to schools and daycare centers, and found that recidivists
were randomly located and were not usually living within 1,000 feet of a school.
The authors further found that in densely populated areas, residences that are
not close to a school or childcare center are virtually nonexistent. They conclud-
ed that residence restrictions are unlikely to deter sex offenders from committing
new sex crimes, and that such policies should not be considered a viable strategy
for protecting communities.
Despite the dearth of evidence linking residential proximity to schools and
sex offense recidivism, zoning restrictions are widely popular, partly due to the
belief that sex offenders have extraordinarily high recidivism rates (Levenson,
2006; Levenson, Brannon, Fortney, & Baker, 2007; Quinn, Forsyth, & Mullen-
Quinn, 2004; Sample & Bray, 2006). Research indicates, however, that the ma-
jority of sex offenders are unlikely to be rearrested for new sex crimes following
a conviction. Average recidivism rates range from 5.3% (Bureau of Justice Sta-
tistics, 2003) to 14% (Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon,
2004; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005) over 3- to 5-year follow-up pe
riods,
62 • JUSTICE RESEARCH AND POLICY
SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCE RESTRICTIONS • 63
with slightly higher rates of 24% over 15 years (Harris & Hanson, 2004). Ex-
tensive media attention to sexually motivated abductions of children creates a
perception that violent sex crimes are on the rise, though according to police
reports and victim surveys, sexual assaults of both adults and children are on the
decline (Finkelhor & Jones, 2004; Maguire & Pastore, 2003). Residence restric-
tions are designed to prevent assaults by strangers, despite that such crimes are
relatively rare events (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002) and that in the majority
of sexual assaults, perpetrators are well known to their victims (Bureau of Jus-
tice Statistics, 1997).
Sex Offender Policies and Offender Reintegration
Social stability and support increase the likelihood of successful reintegra-
tion for criminal offenders, and public policies that create obstacles to commu-
nity reentry may compromise public safety (Petersilia, 2003). It has been found
that sex offenders who had a positive support system in their lives had signi-
cantly lower recidivism and fewer rule violations than those who had negative
or no support (Colorado Department of Public Safety, 2004). Sex offenders
who maintained social bonds to communities through stable employment and
family relationships had lower recidivism rates than those without jobs or sig-
nicant others (Kruttschnitt, Uggen, & Shelton, 2000). As well, the stigma of
felony conviction can interfere with the ability to assume prosocial roles across
multiple domains, including employment, education, parenting, and property
ownership (Uggen, Manza, & Behrens, 2004). Uggen et al. emphasized that
self-concept, civic participation, and social resources are an essential link to an
offender’s identity as a conforming citizen and ultimately to his or her desis-
tance from crime. Policies such as residence restrictions can disrupt the stability
of sex offenders and interfere with the potential to develop social bonds, secure
employment, and engage in positive activities, raising concerns that ultimately
they might be counterproductive (Levenson, 2006).
Indeed, a growing body of research indicates that sex offender registra-
tion and community notication can interfere with community reentry and
adjustment (Levenson & Cotter, 2005a; Levenson, D’Amora, & Hern, 2007;
Sample & Streveler, 2003; Tewksbury, 2004; Tewksbury, 2005; Tewksbury
& Lees, 2006; Zevitz, 2006a; Zevitz, Crim, & Farkas, 2000). Between one
third and one half of sex offenders surveyed in Florida, Indiana, and Ken-
tucky reported adverse consequences such as job loss, relationship loss, being
denied a place to live, threats, harassment, or property damage as a result of
public disclosure (Levenson & Cotter, 2005a; Tewksbury, 2004; Tewksbury,
2005). A substantial minority (5-16%) reported being physically assaulted,
and many said that collateral consequences have affected other members
of their households. The majority also reported emotional distress such as
shame, embarrassment, depression, or hopelessness (Levenson & Cotter,
2005a; Tewksbury, 2004; Tewksbury, 2005). In Wisconsin, a majority of
62 • JUSTICE RESEARCH AND POLICY
SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCE RESTRICTIONS • 63
sex offenders reported housing problems (83%), isolation or harassment
(77%), employment instability (57%), and harm to family members (67%)
(Zevitz et al., 2000). Though vigilantism is rare, extreme cases such as arson,
vandalism, and even murder of sex offenders have been documented (Sample
& Streveler, 2003). Because sex offender policies can lead to ostracization
and underemployment for sex offenders, many of them end up living in so-
cially disorganized, economically depressed neighborhoods that have fewer
resources for mobilizing community strategies to deter crime and protect
residents (Mustaine, Tewksbury, & Stengel, 2006; Tewksbury & Mustaine,
2006; Zevitz, 2004; 2006b).
The effects of residence restrictions on sex offenders remains largely un-
known, with only one published study to date. Levenson and Cotter (2005b)
investigated the impact of Florida’s 1,000-foot statewide exclusionary zone on
the reintegration of 135 sex offenders. They found that about one quarter of
offenders were forced to move from a home that they owned or rented, or were
unable to return home following their release from prison. Nearly half (44%)
reported that they were unable to live with supportive family members due to
zoning laws. More than half (57%) found it difcult to secure affordable hous-
ing, and 60% reported emotional distress as a result of housing restrictions.
The authors suggested that residence restrictions have the potential to disrupt
stability and contribute to psychosocial stressors that can lead to dynamic risk
factors (Hanson & Harris, 1998) associated with sex offense recidivism.
Levenson and Cotter (2005b) collected their data in 2004, prior to the
passage of scores of city ordinances in Florida that increased restricted zones
to 2,500 feet (about one-half mile). These newer laws have more severely lim-
ited housing options for sex offenders, especially in major metropolitan areas
(Carlson, 2005; Zandbergen & Hart, 2006). Emerging data generated from
geographical mapping technology conrms that residence restrictions greatly
diminish housing availability. In Orange County, Florida (the Orlando metro-
politan area), researchers found that combined multiple restrictions (schools,
parks, daycare centers, and bus stops) reduced the number of dwellings avail-
able for sex offenders from 137,944 (total number of residential properties in
the county) to 4,233 within 1,000-feet buffer zones and 37 within 2,500-feet
buffer zones (Zandbergen & Hart, 2006).
The purpose of this exploratory study was to better understand the posi-
tive and negative, intended and unintended consequences of residence restric-
tions on sex offenders’ community reintegration. Specic hypotheses were not
proposed, but the study sought to clarity offenders’ experiences and percep-
tions of the impact of residence restrictions on their lives. Indiana’s law went
into effect on July 1, 1999, and prohibits all sex offenders from residing within
1,000 feet of school property for the period of probation, unless the offender
obtains written approval from the court (“Residency requirements for certain
offenders,” 1999).
64 • JUSTICE RESEARCH AND POLICY
SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCE RESTRICTIONS • 65
* Method
Sampling
A purposive sample (N = 148) was drawn from a pool of adult male sex of-
fenders attending four (three urban and one rural) outpatient sex offender coun-
seling centers in Indianapolis, South Bend, and New Albany, Indiana. There
are currently approximately 8,250 registered sex offenders in Indiana. All 200
clients attending treatment at the cooperating facilities were invited to complete
a survey about the impact of sexual offender policies on their community rein-
tegration. Out of 200 surveys administered, 148 were returned, a response rate
of 74%. Clients had been on probation for an average of 24 months (median
18; s.d. 28). Slightly more than half (51%) had been in their current treatment
group for less than one year, 33% had been in treatment for one to two years,
and 16% had been in treatment for over two years.
Instrumentation
A survey was designed by the authors for the purpose of understanding the
impact of residence restrictions on sex offenders. Client demographic data and
infor-
mation regarding offense history were elicited using forced-choice categorical re-
sponses in order to better protect anonymity. Participants were asked to rate three-
point and ve-point Likert scales indicating their degree of agreement with survey
questions, and were also given the opportunity to provide narrative responses.
Data Collection Procedures
Clients were invited to complete the survey during a group therapy session.
Data were collected in November 2005. Respondents were instructed not to
write their names on the survey, and to place the completed questionnaire in a
sealed box with a slot opening. The research was conducted in accordance with
federal guidelines for the ethical treatment of human subjects.
Data Analysis
Descriptive statistics were used to interpret the results of the survey. Data
analyses were conducted using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences, Ver-
sion 14 (SPSS, 2006).
* Results
Demographics of the sample are displayed in Table 1. A minority of sex offend-
ers (18%) indicated that they were forced to move from a home or apartment
that they owned or rented due to residence restrictions, and more than one
quarter (26%) said that they were unable to return to their homes after being
64 • JUSTICE RESEARCH AND POLICY
SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCE RESTRICTIONS • 65
released from prison (see Table 2). More than a third (37%) reported that they
were unable to live with supportive family members. About 30% reported that
a landlord refused to rent to them or to renew their existing lease due to their
being a registered sex offender. Many (38%) have had difculty securing afford-
able housing as a result of restrictions on where they can live.
* Table 1
Demographics of Sample
Characteristic Percentage
Age
Under 25 8%
25–64 86
65 or over 6
Ethnicity
White 80
Black 14
Hispanic 4
Other 2
Marital Status
Currently married 21
Never married 24
Divorced or separated 53
Widowed 1
Characteristic Percentage
Education
High school graduate or GED
38%
Attended college 45
Income
$30,000 per year or less 83
Victims (Index Offense)
Age 12 or under 51
Minor teens 40
Adults 9
Female only 81
Male only 6
Both genders 13
* Table 2
Perceived Consequences of Residence Restrictions
Total N = 148 % Answering
Item Valid (n) Missing (n) Yes
Had to move out of a house that I owned. 139 9 7%
Had to move out of a residence that I rented. 139 9 11
When released from prison, was unable 137 11 26
to return to home or apartment.
Unable to live with supportive family members. 137 11 37
Landlord refused to rent to me because I am a
sex offender.
135 13 22
Landlord refused to renew my lease. 134 14 8
Have found it difcult to nd an affordable place
to live. 136 12 38
Was grandfathered in and did not have to move 132 16 3
from a previously established residence.
(16% I don’t know)
66 • JUSTICE RESEARCH AND POLICY
SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCE RESTRICTIONS • 67
Table 3 describes sex offenders’ perceptions about residence restrictions.
Many (45%) reported experiencing negative affect as a result of housing restric-
tions, including depression, anger, and hopelessness. They reported that they
were forced to live farther away from employment opportunities (37%), social
services and mental health clinics (25%), and supportive family and friends
(45%). The majority (64%) expressed anxiety that they would be unable to nd
a place to live at some point in the future.
Most participants did not appear to nd housing restrictions helpful in
managing their risk to reoffend. Although 26% agreed that zoning laws lim-
ited their access to children, only 19% indicated that such restrictions help to
prevent offending. The majority (74%) reported that if they were motivated
to reoffend, they would be able to nd a way to do so despite laws regulating
where they can live.
Bivariate correlations were used to determine the relationship between of-
fender characteristics and negative consequences of residence restrictions (see
Table 4). Offender age was the only characteristic signicantly related to any
consequences. Specically, younger offenders were more likely to be unable to
Total N = 148
% Agree or
Item Valid (n) Missing (n)
Strongly Agree
Housing restrictions have led to nancial hardship.
136 12 40%
Housing restrictions make me feel hopeless, angry
and/or depressed. 136 12 45
Because of housing restrictions, I live farther away 136 12 37
from employment opportunities.
Because of housing restrictions, I live farther away
136 12 25
from social services and/or mental health treatment.
Because of housing restrictions, I live farther 137 11 45
away from supportive family or friends.
I worry that if I have to move, I will be unable 137 11 64
to nd a place to live.
I am more able to manage my risk factors because
135 13 26
I cannot live near a school, park or playground.
Residence restrictions are successful in limiting 134 14 26
my access to children.
Residence restrictions help me to prevent offending. 135 13 19
If I really wanted to reoffend, I would be able to 133 15 74
do so despite my residence restrictions.
* Table 3
Perceptions About Residence Restrictions
66 • JUSTICE RESEARCH AND POLICY
SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCE RESTRICTIONS • 67
live with supportive family members and to have difculty nding an affordable
place to live. Victim age, length of time on probation, income, and education
were not signicantly related to the experience of negative consequences.
Offender Years of Most Recent Months on
Age Education Income Victim Age
Probation
Had to move out of a house .05 -.03 -.02 -.11 .16
that I owned
Had to move out of a rental -.08 -.15 -.08 -.10 .17
When released from prison, -.01 -.08 -.15 -.15 .03
unable to return home
Unable to live with supportive -.21 * -.12 -.15 -.08 .00
family
Landlord refused to rent to me -.14 .00 .00 .00 .15
Landlord refused to renew lease -.08 .00 .03 .01 -.08
Have found it difcult to nd -.31 ** .00 .00 .04 -.04
an affordable place to live
*p < .05; **p < .01
* Table 4
Correlations Between Offender Characteristics and Negative Consequences
* Discussion
The purpose of this study was to examine sex offenders’ perceptions of the im-
pact of residence restrictions on their reintegration. Housing restrictions appear
to disrupt the stability of sex offenders by forcing them to relocate, sometimes
multiple times, creating transience, nancial hardship, and emotional volatility.
Zoning laws appear to push sex offenders out of major metropolitan areas into
more rural communities where employment, social services, mental health treat-
ment, and social support are less accessible.
Young adult offenders seem to be especially affected by these laws. They
were more likely than older offenders to be unable to live with family members
(presumably parents), probably because their families resided in residential
neighborhoods near schools. Young adults are usually less prepared develop-
mentally and nancially for independence, and indeed, this subgroup of offend-
ers seemed to have particular trouble securing affordable housing. Younger sex
offenders are at higher risk for sexual and general recidivism (Hanson & Bussiere,
68 • JUSTICE RESEARCH AND POLICY
SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCE RESTRICTIONS • 69
1998; Hanson & Thornton, 1999). As well, lifestyle instability increases
risk
(Hanson & Harris, 1998; 2001; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2004). Residence
restrictions, therefore, might exacerbate risk for younger offenders.
Despite the widespread popularity of housing regulations, sex offenders indi-
cate that such regulations offer little value in preventing recidivism. In Indiana, as
in many states, sex offender residence restrictions are quite comprehensive in that
they include rapists, though in some other states (such as Florida and Illinois)
such regulations pertain only to sex offenders with minor victims. In Indiana,
however, the only restricted areas are schools, as compared to Florida, Iowa,
and Georgia, where restricted areas include parks, playgrounds, daycare centers,
bus stops, or other places where children congregate. Because Indiana limits
restricted zones to school property, it is likely that sex offenders living in states
with a greater number of prohibited venues experience even greater disruption.
Why should we be concerned about the perceptions of sex offenders? After
all, they have committed egregious crimes and caused great harm to victims
and their families. Society has an interest in protecting the public from danger-
ous criminals. The implications of this research, however, suggest that it would
behoove our society to consider the cost-benet analysis of housing restrictions.
In the absence of evidence that such policies are effective in preventing sexual
assault, we should consider whether the collateral consequences of these laws on
offenders create more problems than they solve.
An unintended consequence of sex offender zoning laws is that they can
separate offenders from their dependent families and children, or force entire
families to relocate, causing psychological and nancial hardship. Fearing fam-
ily disruption, children or their parents may be less likely to report sexual abuse
by household members, preventing victims from receiving protection and thera-
peutic intervention. These concerns were highlighted by the Iowa County At-
torneys Association, whose membership is composed of prosecutors throughout
Iowa. Their report noted that residence restrictions are imposed on victims and
families with whom offenders have been reunited, causing unnecessary disrup-
tion including loss of school continuity, spousal employment, and community
connections (Iowa County Attorneys Association, 2006).
Importantly, prosecutors in Iowa have reported a reduction in plea agree-
ments due to the lifelong housing restrictions for registered sex offenders. As
a result, many sex offenders will not be criminally adjudicated, allowing them
to remain at large in the community without supervision or treatment (Iowa
County Attorneys Association, 2006). Interestingly, victims’ advocates have
also taken a stand against residence restriction laws, noting their potential to
jeopardize public safety by creating transience and thereby making sex offend-
ers more difcult to track and monitor (California Coalition Against Sexual
Assault, 2006; National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, 2006).
Sex offender risk can uctuate according to environmental and psychoso-
cial conditions (Hanson & Harris, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2004).
68 • JUSTICE RESEARCH AND POLICY
SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCE RESTRICTIONS • 69
Not surprisingly, access to victims has been found to increase the likelihood of
sexual reoffense (Hanson & Harris, 1998). On the other hand, those most likely
to recidivate have been found to have poor social supports, negative social inu-
ences, poor self-management strategies, and negative moods (Hanson & Harris,
1998; 2001). Psychosocial stressors resulting from residence restrictions, such
as transience and instability, are likely to challenge the coping skills of some sex
offenders, potentially increasing their risk. Hanson and Harris (1998) found
that many recidivists experienced an increase in anger and subjective distress
just prior to offending.
Self-report studies have limitations, primarily that the ndings cannot be
corroborated with independent data. Sex offenders may have a vested interest in
portraying residence restrictions as disruptive, since they cause inconvenience.
The ndings in this study were, however, comparable to results from a Florida
survey (Levenson & Cotter, 2005b), suggesting that sex offenders in various
regions of the nation have similar experiences and perceptions.
Because the majority of sex offenders are unlikely to recidivate (Bureau of
Justice Statistics, 2003; Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon,
2005; Harris & Hanson, 2004), overly broad housing restrictions may be un-
necessary and lead to an inefcient distribution of limited resources. Risk factors
for reoffense have been identied through research (Hanson & Bussiere, 1996;
1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2004; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005),
and instruments for assessing the likelihood of sexual reoffense have demon-
strated predictive validity and reliability (Barbaree, Seto, Langton, & Peacock,
2001; Hanson & Thornton, 1999; Levenson, 2004). Such procedures are com-
monly accepted and utilized in civil commitment proceedings and community
notication classication systems, and could be applied to residence restrictions
as well. A more discriminating approach to housing laws could reduce the inci-
dence of negative unintended consequences and increase the likelihood of suc-
cessful community adjustment for many sex offenders.
70 • JUSTICE RESEARCH AND POLICY
SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCE RESTRICTIONS • 71
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... Several studies have focused specifically on ICSOs' perceptions of release and recidivism. Numerous studies across different states (e.g., Florida, Kentucky, Wisconsin, New Jersey) utilized survey data to shed light on what problems ICSOs faced when reentering the community (Mercado et al., 2008;Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Levenson & Hern, 2007). Overall, this body of research has found that ICSOs experience difficulties finding housing, maintaining employment, and enduring harassment or physical attacks upon release. ...
... The most commonly anticipated obstacles reported by ICSOs were schooling and employment. It is not surprising that ICSOs were more concerned than ICGOs regarding the influence of these factors due to the impact of sex offender specific legislation on employment opportunities (e.g., Mercado et al., 2008;Levenson & Hern, 2007) and findings that ICSOs face added barriers when trying to access postsecondary education (Rubenstein et al., 2019). As such, it is likely that ICSOs have accurately anticipated that they will be faced with these barriers when reentering the community. ...
... Additionally, considering that prior research has found that ICSOs frequently lack an understanding of the restrictions they will face on release (Tewksbury & Copes, 2013;Winters et al., 2017) this obstacle will likely impact an even higher percentage of ICSOs than was identified in this study. A lack of understanding regarding restrictions may also explain why so few ICSOs felt that housing would be an obstacle during their reentry, despite findings that restrictions create housing instability which leads to a variety of other collateral consequences (e.g., Levenson & Hern, 2007;Mercado et al., 2008). This suggests that ICSOs may underestimate the difficulties they will experience upon release and supports the need for increased communication regarding restrictions and the reentry process. ...
Article
While there is a wealth of literature on recidivism following release from correctional facilities, it remains unclear whether this desistance process varies across offender types. Specifically, individuals convicted of sexual offenses (ICSOs) may face unique challenges upon return to the community and thus, it is important to explore how ICSOs plans for transitioning to the community and remaining crime free differ from individuals convicted of general (non-sexual) offenses’(ICGOs). To this end, the present mixed-methods study aimed to explore both ICSOs and ICGOs perceptions of reentry and desistance upon release from prison. A sample of male ICGOs (n = 139) and ICSOs (n = 106) nearing release from a maximum-security prison were interviewed about their crimes and expectations upon release. Overall, ICSOs and ICGOs reported similar levels of preparedness for reentry and obstacles to desistence (e.g., negative influences, employment/schooling). However, ICSOs anticipated difficulty complying with restrictions, which may be a result of the unique legislation they are subject to upon release. Overall, this study sheds light on the importance of programming and transition services to prepare those being released from correctional facilities for reentry, particularly those convicted of a sexual offense who may face additional barriers when returning to their communities.
... Residential proximity to schools and daycare centers has not been shown to be a signi cant predictor of recidivism (Zandbergen, Levenson, and Hart 2010), nor do o enders seem particularly likely to make contact with child victims within the Not only is there evidence to suggest that residence restrictions are ine ective at reducing sexual recidivism, further studies have found that residence restrictions limited o enders' access to stable housing, particularly in urban areas Mercado, 2008, 2009). Residence restrictions may drive o enders to live in less centralized areas, which limits the accessibility of protective factors like social services, mental health treatment, employment, and public transportation (Barnes, Dukes, Tewksbury, and De Troye 2008;Chajewski and Mercado 2008;Levenson 2008;Levenson and Hern 2007). In Iowa in 2006, enforcing strict residence restrictions led to an increase in transience among o enders and their families. ...
... Residence restrictions further exacerbate reentry issues, as sex o enders often nd themselves relegated to the outskirts of society-both literally and guratively. Stressors associated with housing instability, di culty nding work, and lack of access to protective factors like therapy and recreation have been implicated in supervisory failures and even further criminal o ending (Levenson and Hern 2007;Barnes et al. 2008;Chajewski and Mercado 2008;Levenson 2008). Civil commitment statutes, which simply lock o enders away inde nitely, may well be e ective in reducing sexual recidivism. ...
Article
The past two decades have been marked by increasing public concern about sex offenders in our community. Specific laws and policies focused on increasing the supervision of sex offenders have since been enacted in an effort to promote community safety and reduce sexual recidivism. However, the effectiveness and value of the techniques utilized to monitor and restrict sex offenders have been called into question. This chapter describes the development of legislation, including registration and community notification laws, residence and mobility restrictions, electronic monitoring, and sexually violent predator (SVP) statutes, as well as examines other community-based supervision methods such as polygraph testing and treatment approaches. Empirical data that sheds light on the success of these monitoring techniques is examined. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the implications of this data for the prevention of sexual violence in our communities.
... For example, 'Jessica's law' in the State of Florida has increased restrictions on the housing of sex offenders, prohibiting them from living near places where children play, study or visit . The effects of this social exclusion have led to further marginalisation and stigmatization, whilst limiting the opportunities for sexual offenders to reintegrate back into the community (Levenson and Hern, 2007). Levenson and Hern (2007) conclude in their study on sex offender re-entry in the US, that sex offenders show the lowest levels of reoffending of all offender types but are housed in areas that provide housing instability and personal vulnerability. ...
... The effects of this social exclusion have led to further marginalisation and stigmatization, whilst limiting the opportunities for sexual offenders to reintegrate back into the community (Levenson and Hern, 2007). Levenson and Hern (2007) conclude in their study on sex offender re-entry in the US, that sex offenders show the lowest levels of reoffending of all offender types but are housed in areas that provide housing instability and personal vulnerability. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Criminology has conventionally focussed on the onset and punishment of crime. Less attention is paid to how offenders reintegrate, exist, cope and move away from crime. However, there is a growing body of research interested in reintegration and desistance from crime. The literature on sex offender reintegration and desistance is limited but emerging, with studies exclusively involving child sex offenders remaining scarce. Therefore, this thesis has been designed to evaluate the reintegration experiences of child sex offenders in a community in England and Wales. Using a qualitative, semi-structured, individual interview approach, data were collected from 10 men (the participants) who had at least one current and at least one previous child sexual offence conviction. The index offences ranged from internet related charges, to rape. Data were additionally obtained from 11 professionals working with child sex offenders in the community. The professionals worked for either the National Probation Service (NPS), the police or Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA). The themes of resettlement, risk management and stigma were discussed, and an illustrative model of child sex offender reintegration was developed. The findings suggest the participants were vulnerable. They shared experiences of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of non-sex offenders, loss, fear, isolation and pressure. They were not afforded the opportunities to reintegrate with success in comparison to other offender types, with internet offenders' opportunities being lessened further. They used a variety of coping methods, including self-risk management, identity passing, avoidance and appropriate offence disclosure. In addition, the illustrative model highlighted how the men were active agents of their reintegration journey, rather than being passive. They shaped and negotiated their way through life in the community as men with child sexual offences in different and interesting ways, whilst being mindful of the stigma associated with this offence type.
... In some states, like Missouri, residence restrictions prohibit individuals with a sexual offense from living and congregating near schools, parks, and other places where children gather (Huebner et al., 2014;Rydberg et al., 2017;Socia, 2011). Research has suggested that residence restrictions often force people to live farther away from work and social services and often preclude residence with supportive family members (Huebner et al., 2021;Levenson & Hern, 2007) as most of the available housing in major metropolitan communities is within a restricted zone (Hughes & Burchfield, 2008). This forced displacement also further intensifies the stigma associated with the criminal label (Huebner et al., 2019), essentially banishing a group of people from places (Burchfield & Mingus, 2008). ...
... Consequently, a neoliberal state views individuals who do not contribute to the market economy as "unproductive" and relegates them to confinement or ostracizes them (O'Malley, 2009;Wacquant, 2009). Specifically, individuals with sexual offense convictions may face employment discrimination (Brown et al., 2007) and live far from employment opportunities as a result of residence restrictions (Levenson & Hern, 2007). ...
Article
Monetary sanctions can expand the scope and depth of punishment. Most research on monetary sanctions has centered on fines and fees assessed by the court, but they are also routinely imposed as part of the probation and parole sentence. In this article, we draw on in‐depth interview data from a sample of individuals under correctional supervision to document the often hidden costs of correctional control. We further consider a subsample of participants convicted of sexual offenses to illustrate the unique way that monetary sanctions are levied on groups of people who are considered more morally culpable and worthy of carceral control. We find that monetary sanctions are regularly assessed and challenging for most participants. The stigma of a sexual offense conviction and economic precarity, particularly among Black members of the sample, further the costs of punishment. We contend that costs associated with a sexual offense are unique because they can continue in perpetuity, govern normative behavior, and are centered on an assumption of continued guilt. We argue that the monetary sanctions levied against convicted persons, especially individuals with sexual offenses, demonstrate the often hidden and expansive nature of carceral control for other marginalized groups.
... Sadly, although restrictions such as residence restrictions and electronic and GPS monitoring are intended to decrease the likelihood of new sexual offending by identified sexual offenders, many have questioned whether iatrogenic effects are occurring. In other words, these risk prevention measures may actually be increasing risk by making it more difficult for released sexual offenders to establish balanced, self-determined lifestyles (see Huebner et al., 2013;Levenson & D'Amora, 2007;Levenson & Hern, 2007;Mercado et al., 2008;Socia, 2011;Willis & Grace, 2008Wilson & McWhinnie, 2013). For example, it is worth noting that having a stable intimate relationship of two years or longer with an age-appropriate partner is itself a protective factor against sexual abuse, while social isolation can elevate risk (Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005;Hanson et al., 2007). ...
... Almost every respondent shared that their registrant family member or loved one had encountered barriers to employment and housing. These collateral consequences of a sex offense conviction are well documented (Tewksbury, 2005;Levenson, 2008;Levenson, University and Hern, 2007;Frenzel et al., 2014) and were therefore not surprising. However, family members also reported that their relationship to someone on the sex offense registry harmed them directly, including lost employment and housing. ...
Article
U.S. policies influence worldwide responses to sexual offending and community control. Individuals in the U.S. convicted of sex offenses experience surveillance and control beyond their sentences, including public registries and residency restrictions. While the targets are the convicted individuals, many registrants have romantic partners, children, and other family members also navigating these restrictions. Findings from a qualitative study using written and interview responses from a hard-to-reach group—family members of registrants (n = 58)—reveal legal and extra-legal surveillance and control beyond the intended target. We argue that family members are “secondary registrants” enduring both the reach of sex offense policies into their personal lives and targeted harms because of their relationship with a convicted individual, including vigilantism and a “sex offender surcharge.” Family members engage in advocacy work to ameliorate sex offense restrictions to counteract their own stigmatization and social exclusion. Conceptually, secondary registration captures the unique and expansive reach of policy, state surveillance, and coercion on registrant family members and raises new concerns about spillover harm. Secondary registration demonstrates an understudied example of the neoliberal penal practice of de-centering the state but with the addition of deep stigmatization and the spread of sovereign and vigilante violence onto families.
... VJP personnel may harbor commonly held beliefs that registered sex offenders can only be safely housed in isolated settings (Mercado et al., 2008;Tewksbury & Lees, 2006). In fact, there is a lack of evidence that residential proximity to schools and parks is linked to sexual recidivism (Duwe et al., 2008;Levenson & Hern, 2007). ...
Article
Full-text available
Though the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides housing, residential treatment, and mental health care to justice involved veterans, those with sexual offenses face daunting obstacles to securing such services, including exclusion from housing programs, and lack of mental health services to treat sexual deviancy disorders. The VA's strategy to date may reflect a large system's caution in systematically addressing a problem that involves a population with an even higher degree of stigma than homelessness. Failure to develop strategies to address this problem reflects the need for a VA system-wide, consistent, and effective approach across relevant domains that incorporate the current state of knowledge and practice. Since 2006, the VA's program serving justice system veterans has been highly effective in serving the reentry veteran population. The challenge of serving veterans with sex offenses can and must be met with a similar level of effectiveness. In this commentary, we propose that the VA, beginning with the Secretary, adopt a "reset" policy and programmatic action agenda to enhance access to housing and treatment for sexual deviancy disorders. We offer specific pathways for implementation. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
Article
In recent decades, the number of individuals on sex offender registries has increased, many of whom are subject to codified residency restrictions that forbid residing within certain geographic locations and therefore limit viable housing options. As a result, many convicted sex offenders struggle with unstable housing and homelessness. While there is a growing body of research concerning residency restrictions and unstable housing among sex offenders, no study, to our knowledge, has explored whether the association between residency restrictions and homelessness is stronger for Black and Hispanic registrants. Using data from the Chicago Sex Offender Registry, this study examined of the relationship between residency restrictions and sex offender homelessness. Registrants subject to residency restrictions had a substantially higher risk of homelessness than their counterparts. Furthermore, residency restriction status and race interacted in their association with homelessness, such that the deleterious impact of residency restrictions was magnified for Black registrants. The results of the analyses demonstrate that Black sex offender registrants disproportionately disadvantaged by residency restrictions and highlight the importance of developing evidence-based monitoring strategies that prevent and end homelessness among convicted sex offenders.
Article
Since the early 1990s, federal and state legislation restricting the residency options of convicted sex offenders has been justified on the basis of protecting vulnerable populations while deterring future criminal opportunities. While many of these policies maintain public support, recent empirical inquiries have begun to question their effectiveness and appropriateness. Using data from registered sex offenders’ residences in three mid-western states, we explore the effect residency restriction laws have on preventing sex offenders from residing within proximal distance to elementary schools. Preliminary results indicate that sex offenders on average do not reside significantly closer or farther away from elementary schools in states with different proximal distance requirements, but that sex offenders reside significantly closer to elementary schools in neighborhoods with lower socioeconomic status. We conclude that residency restriction policies for sex offenders should be reconsidered in light of these results.
Article
Full-text available
Presently, there are no established scales that evaluate change in risk among sexual offenders. The Sex Offender Need Assessment Rating (SONAR) was developed to fill this gap. The SONAR includes five relatively stable factors (intimacy deficits, negative social influences, attitudes tolerant of sex offending, sexual self-regulation, general self-regulation) and four acute factors (substance abuse, negative mood, anger, victim access). The psychometric properties of the scale were examined using data previously collected by Hanson and Harris (1998, 2000). Overall, the scale showed adequate internal consistency and moderate ability to differentiate between recidivists and nonrecidivists (r = 0.43; ROC area of.74). SONAR continued to distinguish between the groups after controlling for well-established risk indicators, such as age, and scores on the Static-99 (Hanson & Thornton, 2000) and the Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (Quinsey, Harris, Rice, & Cormier, 1998).
Article
Full-text available
Presently, there are no established scales that evaluate change in risk among sexual offenders. The Sex Offender Need Assessment Rating (SONAR) was developed to fill this gap. The SONAR includes five relatively stable factors (intimacy deficits, negative social influences, attitudes tolerant of sex offending, sexual self-regulation, general self-regulation) and four acute factors (substance abuse, negative mood, anger, victim access). The psychometric properties of the scale were examined using data previously collected by Hanson and Harris (1998, 2000). Overall, the scale showed adequate internal consistency and moderate ability to differentiate between recidivists and nonrecidivists (r = .43; ROC area of .74). SONAR continued to distinguish between the groups after controlling for well-established risk indicators, such as age, and scores on the Static-99 (Hanson & Thornton, 2000) and the Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (Quinsey, Harris, Rice, & Cormier, 1998).
Article
Full-text available
Sex offender registration and community notification requirements are universally applied to all sex offenders irrespective of their type. In this way, these policies treat sex offenders as a homogenous group, assuming that they exhibit similar reoffending patterns regardless of the age of their victims or the nature of their crimes. In this article, the authors highlight the assumption of homogeneity underlying sex offender laws and reviewit in light of current empirical evidence. They also offer a case study of recidivism rates for sex offenders in Illinois. The authors find that sex offenders are not the homogenous group that our policies assume, and they discuss the implication of this finding for the application of sex offender laws.
Article
Full-text available
Increasing attention is being given to the issue of desistance or cessation in adult criminal careers. We contribute to this research by considering how informal and formal social controls affect recidivism among 556 sex offenders placed on probation in 1992. We conduct an event history analysis of reoffense, based on the predictions of Sampson and Laub's and Gottfredson and Hirschi's control theories. We build on these perspectives by examining how informal social controls condition the effects of formal social controls generally and across offense types. We find less recidivism among offenders with stable job histories, particularly among those in court-ordered sex offender treatment. The results add both to theoretical formulations concerning desistance and recidivism and to policy formulations directed at growing prison populations.
Article
Every year, hundreds of thousands of jailed Americans leave prison and return to society. Largely uneducated, unskilled, often without family support, and with the stigma of a prison record hanging over them, many, if not most, will experience serious social and psychological problems after release. Fewer than one in three prisoners receive substance abuse or mental health treatment while incarcerated, and each year fewer and fewer participate in the dwindling number of vocational or educational pre-release programs, leaving many all but unemployable. Not surprisingly, the great majority is rearrested, most within six months of their release. As long as there have been prisons, society has struggled with how best to help prisoners reintegrate once released. But the current situation is unprecedented. As a result of the quadrupling of the American prison population in the last quarter century, the number of returning offenders dwarfs anything in America's history. A crisis looms, and the criminal justice and social welfare system is wholly unprepared to confront it. Drawing on dozens of interviews with inmates, former prisoners, and prison officials, the book shows us how the current system is failing, and failing badly. Unwilling merely to sound the alarm, it explores the harsh realities of prisoner re-entry and offers specific solutions to prepare inmates for release, reduce recidivism, and restore them to full citizenship, while never losing sight of the demands of public safety. As the number of ex-convicts in America continues to grow, their systemic marginalization threatens the very society their imprisonment was meant to protect.
This study investigated the effectiveness of Megan’s law in reducing recidivism among convicted sex offenders. The policy of making such offenders more visible to the public through officially notifying communities when they are returned to society is based on the premise that warning potential victims increases the public’s ability to protect itself against future victimization. The community would be better protected because those undergoing extensive notification will know that they are being watched and thus will be deterred from reoffending. Effectiveness was assessed by examining rates of return to prison for conditionally free offenders under correctional control. The study used a four‐and‐a‐half‐year follow‐up period and covered all those in one state who had undergone high level notification from September 1997 to July 1999. Their recidivism patterns were matched with a similar sample in the same state who, while meeting the state’s criteria for public notification, were not dealt with in this way. The results show that, after controlling for relevant demographic and criminal history variables, extensive community notification had no direct effect on the likelihood or unlikelihood of recommitment to prison. No significant differences were found between the high level and low level notification groups in their post‐release behavior culminating in rearrest and return to prison.
Drawing on observational data of the residential locations of a sample of convicted sex offenders in Seminole County, Florida, this study explores the residential proximity of sex offenders to places potential child victims congregate and the neighborhood conditions/structures present in such communities. Analysis draws on routine activities theory and incorporates objective measurements of neighborhood disorganization and negative attributes. Results suggest that sex offenders are only moderately likely to reside in close proximity to child congregation locations and the neighborhoods of sex offenders' residences are only fairly disorganized. Additionally, only about one‐half of the sample subject to restrictions on residential locations is in compliance. The utility of incorporating measures of community conditions/structures to routine activities theory is somewhat beneficial for the study of sex offenders.