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The Effect of Megan’s Law on Sex Offender Reintegration

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Abstract

The purpose of this study is to better understand the positive and negative, intended and unintended, consequences of community notification on sex offenders’ rehabilitation and reintegration. A sample of 183 convicted male sex offenders from Florida completed the survey. Overall, about one third of participants had experienced dire events, such as the loss of a job or home, threats or harassment, or property damage. Physical assaultwas a relatively rare occurrence. The majority identified negative effects, such as stress, isolation, loss of relationships, fear, shame, embarrassment, and hopelessness. Some participants noted positive effects of Megan’s Law, including motivation to prevent reoffense and increased honesty with friends and family. Fewsex offenders believed that communities are safer because of Megan’s Law, and more than half reported that the information posted about them on Florida’s Internet registry was incorrect. Implications for practice and policy are discussed.
Megan’s Law and its Impact
on Community Re-Entry
for Sex Offenders
Jill S. Levenson Ph.D.,
*
David A. D’Amora M.S., LPC, CFC
y
and Andrea L. Hern M.A
z
Community notification, known as ‘‘Megan’s Law,’’ pro-
vides the public with information about known sex offen-
ders in an effort to assist parents and potential victims to
protect themselves from dangerous predators. The pur-
pose of this study was to explore the impact of community
notification on the lives of registered sex offenders.
Two hundred and thirty-nine sex offenders in Connecticut
and Indiana were surveyed. The negative consequences
that occurred with the greatest frequency included job
loss, threats and harassment, property damage, and suf-
fering of household members. A minority of sex offenders
reported housing disruption or physical violence following
community notification. The majority experienced psy-
chosocial distress such as depression, shame, and hope-
lessness. Recommendations are made for community
notification policies that rely on empirically derived risk
assessment classification systems in order to better inform
the public about sex offenders’ danger while minimizing
the obstacles that interfere with successful community
reintegration. Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
In 1994 the United States Congress passed legislation requiring states to develop
registries listing the addresses of sexual offenders ( Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against
Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, 1994). The law was named
for an 11-year-old boy who was abducted in Minnesota in 1989 and whose case
remains unsolved. Speculating that a previously convicted sex offender was
perhaps responsible for the crime, Jacob’s parents advocated for policies that
would enable law enforcement agencies to track the whereabouts of known sex
offenders and therefore enhance the ability to more quickly apprehend suspects.
In 1996, after the murder of Megan Kanka by a known sex offender in New Jersey,
Behavioral Sciences and the Law
Behav. Sci. Law (in press)
Published online in Wiley InterScience
(www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/bsl.770
*
Correspondence to: Jill S. Levenson, Ph.D., Lynn University, College of Arts and Sciences, 3601 North
Military Trail, Boca Raton, FL 33431, U.S.A. E-mail: jlevenson@lynn.edu
y
Center for the Treatment of Problem Sexual Behavior, Middletown, CT, U.S.A.
z
Indiana Sex Offender Monitoring and Management Program, Indianapolis, IN, U.S.A.
Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
the Wetterling Act was amended to allow the dissemination of sex offender registry
information directly to the public. Community notification, known as ‘‘Megan’s
Law,’’ provides neighborhood residents with information about convicted sex
offendersinanefforttoassistparentsand potential victims to protect themselves
from dangerous predators. The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of
community notification on the lives of registered sex offenders.
BACKGROUND
Registration and notification were originally designed as distinct policies with
different goals, but Internet access has now rendered them virtually interchange-
able. In the first several years of community notification, popular mechanisms for
distributing information to the public included press releases, informational
flyers, and community meetings in which law enforcement officers advised
citizens when sex offenders moved within close proximity (Levenson, 2003;
Levenson & Cotter, 2005; Matson & Lieb, 1996; Zevitz, Crim, & Farkas, 2000b).
In 2003, all 50 states were mandated to make their registries available online,
allowing for the easy and immediate retrieval of information about sex offenders
living nearby. Now, publicly accessible registries appear to be the most common
method of notification. About half of the states use classification systems and
implement differential disclosure of information according to the level of threat
posed by the offender to the community. Other states employ broad notification,
publishing information about all registeredsexoffenderswithoutanassessment
of risk (Matson & Lieb, 1996).
Effectiveness of Community Notification in Reducing Recidivism
Little research has been conducted to determine whether registration or
notification laws reduce sex offense recidivism or protect children from abuse
(Welchans, 2005). Of the few studies that have been published, most have found
no significant reduction in recidivism due to community notification. When the
recidivism rates of 90 high risk sex offenders in Washington were compared with
90 similar offenders released prior to the enactment of notification policies, no
statistically significant differences between the two groups were found (Schram &
Milloy, 1995). Offenders subjected to community notification, were, however,
apprehended more quickly than offenders in the comparison group. Similarly, in
Iowa, 223 sex offenders who were subject to sex offender registration were
followed for an average of 4.3 years, and their sex offense recidivism rates were
compared with a control group of 201 sex offenders who were not required to
register because they were released into the community prior to the passage of the
law (Adkins, Huff, & Stageberg, 2000). Only 3% of registered Iowa sex offenders
were convicted of a new sex crime, compared with 3.5% of unregistered sex
offenders. The findings were not statistically significant. In Wisconsin, no
statistically significant differences were found between 47 high-risk sex offenders
subject to community notification (19% recidivism) and 166 high-risk sex
Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Behav. Sci. Law (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/bsl
J. S. Levenson et al.
offenders about whom the public was not notified (12% recidivism) (Zevitz,
2006b). A time-series analysis examined the effect of registration and notification
laws in ten states and found no systematic reduction in sex crime rates after the
implementation of registration and notification policies (Walker, Maddan,
Vasquez, VanHouten, & Ervin-McLarty, 2005).
One longitudinal analysis did conclude that felony sex offense recidivism rates in
Washington declined significantly following implementation of notification policies
when compared with the pre-notification rate (Washington State Institute for Public
Policy, 2005). Although the authors noted a 70% drop in recidivism, the absolute
rates of recidivism were quite low both before and after the enactment of notification
laws: 5% and less than 1% respectively. The authors concluded that notification may
have contributed to the reduction in recidivism rates, but they acknowledged that
other possible explanations (e.g. more severe sentencing guidelines which removed
high risk offenders from the sampling frame, or other recently enacted law
enforcement policies) were excluded from the study design. Because Washington
uses risk assessment procedures and reserves its most aggressive community
notification for its highest-risk offenders, these findings may not generalize to states
with broad notification policies.
The accuracy of sex offender registries can affect their ability to provide a valuable
service to the public. In Massachusetts, it was discovered that the whereabouts of
49% of registered sex offenders were unknown (Mullvihill, Wisniewski, Meyers, &
Wells, 2003). In Kentucky, as many as 25% of sex offenders’ registered addresses
were found to be incorrect (Tewksbury, 2002). It was learned that nearly half of the
sex offenders on Florida’s registry were not living at their registered address or were
dead or incarcerated (Payne, 2005). In Florida, over 50% of sex offenders surveyed
reported registry inaccuracies, though it was unclear which pieces of information
were thought to be invalid, or how significant the errors were (Levenson & Cotter,
2005). These reports call into question the capacity for state officials to continuously
update sex offender databases quickly enough to maintain an accurate flow of
information to the public.
In sum, thus far there is little empirical evidence that notifying communities about
the presence of sex offenders results in enhanced community safety or that it aids in
the prevention of child sexual abuse. An additional concern is the ability of state
registries to maintain up-to-date records that can be helpful in prevention efforts.
Public Perceptions
Most citizens are familiar with Megan’s Law and support the policy as an
important public safety measure (Levenson, Brannon, Fortney, & Baker, 2007;
Proctor, Badzinski, & Johnson, 2002). The majority of 193 individuals surveyed in
Florida indicated that they believe that most sex offenders will reoffend and therefore
community residents should be told about all sex offenders living amongst them
(Levenson et al., 2007). Though this data suggests that concerned citizens feel safer as a
result of knowing where sex offenders live, other surveys have found that notification can
increase anxiety because few strategies are concurrently offered for protecting oneself
from sex offenders (Caputo, 2001; Caputo & Brodsky, 2004; Zevitz et al., 2000b;
Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Behav. Sci. Law (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/bsl
Impact of Megan’s law
Zevitz, 2004). A large majority of mental health professionals have expressed doubt that
registration and notification can be successful in preventing child sexual abuse, and even
speculated that such laws create a false sense of security for parents (Malesky & Keim,
2001). Nonetheless, public notification laws are widely supported.
Legal Issues
Legal scholars have debated the constitutionality of public notification, citing
concerns about privacy rights, ex post facto punishment, and the potential for adverse
consequences (LaFond, 2005; Lotke, 1997; Petrunik, 2003; Quinn, Forsyth, &
Mullen-Quinn, 2004; Winick, 1998; Wright, 2003). A legal challenge to
Connecticut’s notification law argued that sex offenders should not be placed on
an Internet registry without first holding a hearing to determine their danger to the
community (Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. Doe, 2003). An Alaska case
contended that registration and notification of sex offenders sentenced before the
passage of the law constituted ex post facto punishment (Smith v. Doe, 2003). In both
cases, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of community
notification and, in particular, the Connecticut ruling paved the way for broad
dissemination of registry information to the public.
Collateral Consequences
An emerging area of research has investigated the impact of registration and
notification on sex offenders (Lees & Tewksbury, 2006; Levenson & Cotter, 2005;
Tewksbury, 2004, 2005; Zevitz, Crim, & Farkas, 2000a). About one-third to
one-half of sex offenders in Florida and Kentucky reported adverse events such as
the loss of a job or home, threats, harassment, or property damage as a result of
public disclosure (Levenson & Cotter, 2005; Tewksbury, 2005). A substantial
minority (5–16%) reported being physically assaulted after being publicly identified
as sex offenders, and about 19% of sex offenders reported that negative effects had
been experienced by other members of their households (Levenson & Cotter, 2005;
Tewksbury, 2005). In Wisconsin, many sex offenders reported housing problems
(83%), isolation or harassment (77%), employment instability (57%), and harm to
family members (67%) (Zevitz et al., 2000a). A study of female sex offenders in
Indiana and Kentucky revealed that 42% reported job loss, 32% reported housing
disruption, 40% indicated a loss of social relationships, 34% had been harassed, and
10% had been assaulted (Tewksbury, 2004). As the time listed on a sex offender
registry increased, these female offenders were more likely to experience adverse
consequences.
The collateral consequences of community notification are important to
investigate because they may potentially exacerbate risk factors for recidivism such
as lifestyle instability, negative moods, and lack of positive social support (Hanson &
Harris, 1998, 2001). Housing, social stability, and employment have been noted to
be important factors in facilitating successful community re-entry for criminal
Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Behav. Sci. Law (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/bsl
J. S. Levenson et al.
offenders (Andrews & Bonta, 2003; Colorado Department of Public Safety, 2004;
Kruttschnitt, Uggen, & Shelton, 2000; Uggen, 2002; Uggen, Manza, & Behrens,
2004; Zevitz, 2006b). Policies such as community notification appear to create
obstacles to reintegration, which may ultimately undermine goals related to public
protection.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND HYPOTHESES
The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of community notification on
sex offenders in Indiana and Connecticut in order to better understand the intended
and unanticipated consequences of such laws on sex offenders adjustment and
reintegration. It was hypothesized that a majority of participants in both states would
report negative consequences of Megan’s Law, and that a minority of participants
would endorse positive effects resulting from notification. Connecticut and Indiana
were chosen because both states have broad notification policies that apply to all sex
offenders. Neither state has a classification system differentiating between low risk
and high risk individuals. A multi-state study provides the ability to compare the
results of the two states to examine differences in diverse regions of the country. It
was hypothesized that community notification would have similar effects in both
states. Surveying sex offenders in two states also contributes to the emerging national
picture of the impact of Megan’s Law. It was expected that this study would add to
the small but growing body of literature regarding the collateral consequences of sex
offender notification by clarifying offenders’ experiences and perceptions of the
impact of community notification on their lives.
METHOD
Participants
The sample (N ¼ 239) was drawn from a pool of registered sex offenders attending
outpatient sex offender counseling centers across Indiana (n ¼ 148) and Connecticut
(n ¼ 91). In Indiana, data were collected from sex offenders in treatment programs in
Indianapolis, Mishawaka, and New Albany. In Connecticut the treatment programs
were located in Norwalk, New Haven, and Stamford. All of the geographical areas
are urban and ethnically diverse with the exception of New Albany, IN, which is a
rural town located 115 miles from Indianapolis. Clients attending treatment at the
facilities were invited to complete a survey about the impact of sexual offender
policies on their community reintegration. We acknowledge that treatment samples
may represent only one subgroup of registered sex offenders. However, sex offenders
are a difficult population to reach due to their concerns about anonymity and their
distrust of what they perceive to be an oppressive society. Most attempts to randomly
select sex offenders for survey research have resulted in small sample sizes (see, e.g.,
Tewksbury, 2004; Tewksbury & Lees, 2006; Zevitz et al., 2000a). Out of 200
surveys we administered in Indiana, 148 were returned, a response rate of 74%.
Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Behav. Sci. Law (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/bsl
Impact of Megan’s law
In Connecticut, all 91 clients invited to participate agreed to do so. The
demographics of the sample are described in Table 1.
Connecticut requires lifetime registration for repeat offenders and for those
convicted of ‘‘sexually violent offenses’’ or crimes involving victims younger than
13 years of age, and ten years registration for other types of sex crime. Connecticut
limits dissemination of registry information to law enforcement only if public
access is not deemed necessary for public safety or may reveal the identity of the
victim; most sex offenders are listed on the state’s Internet registry. Indiana’s law
requires lifetime registration for repeat offenders, those who victimize children
under 12 years of age, and those who use force or threat of force or cause serious
bodily injury or death. All other sex offenders in Indiana are required to register for
10 years. All sex offenders in Indiana are listed on the state’s publicly accessible
Internet registry.
Instrumentation and Variables
The survey was a replication of that used by Levenson and Cotter (2005), which
was designed to elicit an understanding of the impact of community notification
on sex offenders. Client demographic data and information regarding offense
history were obtained using forced-choice categorical responses in order to better
protect anonymity. Participants were asked to rate dichotomous (yes/no),
three-point, and five-point Likert scales indicating their degree of agreement with
Table 1. Demographics of sample
Percentage
Age Under 25 10%
25–64 85%
65 or over 5%
Ethnicity White 65%
Black 22%
Hispanic 9%
Other 3%
Marital status Currently married 28%
Never married 30%
Divorced or separated 40%
Widowed 2%
Education High school graduate or GED 37%
Attended some college 29%
College graduate 14%
Income $30,000 per year or less 82%
Victims Age 12 or under 30%
Minor teens 41%
Adults 13%
Victims of multiple age groups 17%
Female only 84%
Male only 6%
Both genders 10%
Relation to victims Extrafamilial only 54%
Relatives only 31%
Victims inside and outside the family 14%
Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Behav. Sci. Law (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/bsl
J. S. Levenson et al.
survey questions. Questions were asked exactly as they are described in the
corresponding tables.
The questions were conceptualized to capture a range of potential effects of
community notification identified in previous research (Levenson & Cotter, 2005;
Tewksbury, 2004, 2005; Zevitz et al., 2000a). First, participants were asked about
practical consequences, which measured the variables of job loss, housing
disruption, harassment, physical assault, property damage, and suffering of
offenders’ family members. Next, participants were asked to report on the
psychosocial effects of notification, including stress, isolation, disruption to social
relationships, fear for one’s safety, shame and embarrassment, and hopelessness.
Finally, the positive effects of Megan’s Law were reflected in variables such as
willingness to manage risk, motivation to prevent reoffense, restricted access to
victims, increased honesty, others’ support for recovery efforts, and community
safety. Participants were also asked questions about their perceptions of the fairness
and accuracy of public notification.
Respondents were given the opportunity to provide narrative responses, which
were categorized according to emerging themes.
Data Collection Procedures
Clients were invited to complete the survey during a group therapy session.
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. Data were collected in
December 2005. The research was approved by an Institutional Review Board and
was conducted in accordance with federal guidelines for the ethical treatment of
human subjects. Data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social
Sciences, Version 14 (SPSS, 2006).
RESULTS
Participants were asked to identify the strategies by which community notification
took place in their jurisdictions. Only a small proportion were aware of active
procedures such as flyers being posted (3%), door-to-door notification by police
(8%), neighborhood meetings (5%), press releases (10%), or automated phone calls
(8%). The only significant difference between states was the use of automated phone
calls (X
2
(1, N ¼ 239) ¼ 13.618, p < .01). No respondents in Connecticut reported
that automated phone calls are utilized, but 20 offenders in Indiana were aware of
this strategy in their communities.
The negative consequences that occurred with the greatest frequency included
job loss, threats and harassment, property damage, and suffering of household
members (see Table 2). A minority of sex offenders reported having to move from a
home following community notification. Physical assaults were experienced by 10%
of the sample. The only significant difference between states was that offenders in
Connecticut were more likely to be forced to move from a rental property after a
landlord found out about the sex offender’s status (X
2
(1, N ¼ 239) ¼ 9.54, p < .05).
There was only one significant difference between rapists and child molesters
Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Behav. Sci. Law (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/bsl
Impact of Megan’s law
regarding the negative consequences: child molesters were more likely than rapists to
be forced to move from a rental property by a landlord following community
notification (X
2
(1, N ¼ 238) ¼ 4.85, p < .01). The length of time on probation was
significantly correlated (r ¼ .21; p < .01) only with the likelihood of being physically
assaulted or injured.
The majority of sex offenders reported experiencing psychosocial distress related
to public disclosure, such as isolation, shame, embarrassment, and hopelessness.
Nearly half expressed that they were afraid for their safety because their sex offender
status was known to others (see Table 3).
The participants were also asked to identify positive effects of Megan’s Law (see
Table 4). Nearly three-quarters agreed that that community notification inspired
motivation to prevent reoffense. Though almost one-third agreed that they are more
willing to manage their risk factors as a result of public disclosure, the majority did
not believe that registration and notification helped to prevent offending, that they
have less access to children due to public scrutiny, or that citizens are safer because
they know where sex offenders live.
Table 2. Practical consequences of Megan’s Law
N Total
reporting
‘‘yes’’
%inCT
reporting
‘‘yes’’
%inIN
reporting
‘‘yes’’
I’ve lost a job because a boss or co-workers have found out. 237 21% 23% 19%
I’ve had to move out of an apartment or house that I rented
because a landlord found out.
*
239 10% 18% 5%
I’ve had to move out of an apartment or house that I rented
because a neighbor found out.
239 8% 9% 7%
I’ve had to move out of a home that I own because a neighbor
found out.
236 3% 3% 3%
I’ve been threatened or harassed by neighbors. 239 21% 22% 20%
I’ve been physically assaulted or injured. 238 10% 12% 8%
My property has been damaged. 239 18% 20% 17%
A person who lives with me has been threatened, harassed,
assaulted, injured or suffered property damage.
239 16% 14% 18%
*
p < .01, indicates a significant difference between states.
Table 3. Psychosocial impact of Megan’s Law
N Agree or
strongly agree
Megan’s Law makes my recovery more difficult by causing stress
in my life.
239 62%
I feel alone and isolated because of Megan’s Law. 239 54%
I have lost friends or close relationships because of Megan’s Law. 236 50%
I am afraid for my safety because of Megan’s Law. 235 46%
Shame and embarrassment due to Megan’s Law keep me from
engaging in activities.
236 58%
I have less hope for the future now that I will be a registered sex
offender.
238 55%
Sometimes Megan’s Law makes me feel hopeless‘‘no one believes
I can change, so why even try?’’
239 44%
Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Behav. Sci. Law (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/bsl
J. S. Levenson et al.
Only 10% of sex offenders surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that they presented
a risk to reoffend, and 33% agreed or strongly agreed that it was fair for the public to
know about their risk. About 52% said they agreed or strongly agreed that the
information listed about them on the Internet registry was correct; 38% said they did
not know and 10% disagreed or strongly disagreed that the information was correct.
However, only 25% agreed or strongly agreed with this statement: ‘‘the information
listed on the Internet registry helps the public to know how to protect themselves
from me.’’
Respondents were also asked to provide narrative responses to tell us about the
ways in which Megan’s Law affected their lives. Several communicated difficulties
securing employment due to their sex offender status. A large number of respondents
lamented the loss of job opportunities, saying ‘‘[Megan’s Law] keeps me from
pursuing my music career,’’ ‘‘...holds me back from a great future,’’ and ‘‘I am
unable to resume my prior career.’’ Several related that they were unable to live with
or visit with their minor children or grandchildren, although this may have been
more a function of probation restrictions than community notification. However,
some noted that it was difficult to be involved in their children’s lives or activities
because of public awareness about their offenses.
Another common theme was what one offender referred to as ‘‘increased
discrimination,’’ with others describing sentiments such as ‘‘people regard me as
an inferior person,’’ ‘‘this law has a negative impact on my family,’’ ‘‘I am
reluctant to make friends,’’ ‘‘I rarely leave my apartment for fear that I will be
assaulted,’’ and ‘‘there is so much stress from the pressure of being identified.’’
Themes of anxiety and depression emerged as well: ‘‘I experience constant
worry,’’ ‘‘I’ve contemplated suicide,’’ ‘‘I am alienated,’’ ‘‘I have a general sense of
aloneness and sadness,’’ and ‘‘[notification] lowers my self-esteem.’’ Some
offenders seemed to feel little motivation in their lives due to the loss of privacy and
a lack of intimate relationships. Difficulties understanding how to comply with
complex registration laws and ‘‘remembering to always notify the authorities of
changes’’ also were common.
Some participants described positive effects of Megan’s Law. One offender
noted ‘‘my life is more meaningful because I try harder to be a good person.’’
Table 4. Positive consequences of Megan’s Law
N Agree or
strongly agree
I am more willing to manage my risk factors because neighbors are
watching me.
236 31%
I am more motivated to prevent reoffense to prove to others that
I am not a bad person.
233 74%
I think that registration and notification help me prevent offending. 237 22%
I have less access to potential victims because neighbors keep children
or others away.
232 20%
Megan’s Law has helped me be more honest with people. 236 32%
I find that most people who know that I am a sex offender are supportive
of my recovery.
239 58%
Communities are safer when people know where sex offenders live. 238 34%
Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Behav. Sci. Law (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/bsl
Impact of Megan’s law
Several others agreed that Megan’s Law helped them to take responsibility for
their behavior and to be more honest, reporting that as a result they were
‘‘changing for the better.’’ Many indicated that they were motivated to not
reoffend as a result of public disclosure.
Finally, sex offenders offered their suggestions for improvement of Megan’s Law.
Common themes included ‘‘all sex offenders are not the same,’’ with suggestions for
‘‘case by case’’ risk assessment and a classification system by which high risk
offenders could be distinguished from lower risk offenders. As well, some
participants were concerned that the public should ‘‘know the true facts, not
media hype,’’ and understand that ‘‘we are not monsters.’’ Others emphasized that
‘‘sex offenders can change’’ and suggested that those who have completed treatment
should be exempt from community notification.
DISCUSSION
We hypothesized that a majority of sex offenders surveyed in Indiana and
Connecticut would experience negative consequences of Megan’s Law in both
practical and psychosocial domains. Less than one-quarter of sex offenders in both
states identified practical consequences such as job loss, housing disruption,
harassment, physical assault, property damage, and suffering of offenders’ family
members, with job loss and harassment occurring most frequently. Only one
significant difference between states was found, suggesting that the effect of Megan’s
Law on sex offenders is similar in diverse regions of the nation. Offenders in Indiana
were more likely than those in Connecticut to experience eviction by a landlord, but
child molesters in both states were more likely to be evicted than rapists. This finding
suggests that landlords are concerned about liability, and that when the presence of a
sex offender (especially a child molester) becomes known, they are inclined to
remove the threat rather than take a chance of being found culpable should a
reoffense occur.
This sample of sex offenders reported a lower frequency of adverse events than
those in other states. For instance, in Florida, 27% reported job loss, 15–20%
related housing disruption, 33% described threats and harassment, and 21%
experienced property damage (Levenson & Cotter, 2005). In Kentucky, sex offenders
reported substantially higher frequencies of job loss (43%), housing problems (45%),
and harassment (47%) (Tewksbury, 2005). In Wisconsin, the overwhelming majority
of sex offenders reported such events (Zevitz et al., 2000a). The current sample
reported a higher number of physical attacks than sex offenders in Florida (5%) and
Wisconsin (3%), but a lower frequency than those in Kentucky (16%).
Some possible explanations for the differences between samples will be
considered. First, it is possible that citizens in Kentucky, a more rural, conservative,
‘‘bible-belt’’ state, are less tolerant of sex offenders than citizens in the major
metropolitan areas of Florida, Connecticut, and Indiana where crime is more
commonplace and perhaps people become somewhat desensitized to the presence of
criminals. Second, it is possible that as Internet registries become the mainstream
method of community notification the ‘‘mob mentality’’ of more aggressive
notification strategies is diminished. For example, as individuals independently
Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Behav. Sci. Law (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/bsl
J. S. Levenson et al.
search their state registries and identify sex offenders living nearby, they may file that
information away in their minds without necessarily sharing it with others. However,
when a community meeting is held, or flyers are distributed to many neighbors at
once, the opportunity for discourse may be greater and a shared hysteria may
emerge, making it more likely that a group of individuals would seek to initiate
action.
Our hypothesis that a majority of sex offenders would report experiencing
negative psychosocial consequences was supported by the data. Similar to findings in
Florida, Kentucky, and Wisconsin (Levenson & Cotter, 2005; Tewksbury, 2005;
Zevitz et al., 2000a), most sex offenders did report stress, isolation, disruption to
social relationships, fear for one’s safety, shame and embarrassment, and
hopelessness. Finally, as hypothesized, a minority of participants endorsed the
positive effects of Megan’s Law such as willingness to manage risk, restricted access
to victims, increased honesty, and a belief that notification enhances community
safety.
Surprisingly few of these sex offenders were aware of active community
notification tactics taking place within their neighborhoods. Comparatively higher
proportions of sex offenders surveyed in Florida (Levenson & Cotter, 2005)
described notification procedures such as flyers (30%), door-to-door warnings
(28%), and press releases (18%). One possible explanation for this observed
difference might be that as Internet access has become more commonplace, and as
states are now required to post registry information online, more costly and
time-consuming methods of notifying the public are on the decline. On the other
hand, implementation of notification is left up to the states, so different strategies
simply might be utilized in Indiana and Connecticut compared with Florida. If,
however, our findings do reflect a declining trend in aggressive notification strategies,
people living in impoverished communities might have less access to sex offender
registry information than those living in more affluent neighborhoods. Residents in
low income areas may be less able to afford computers and Internet access. Sex
offenders have been found to be more likely to live in economically deprived and
socially disorganized communities (Mustaine, Tewksbury, & Stengel, 2006;
Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2006; Zevitz, 2004, 2006a). Therefore, communities
most likely to house sex offenders might ironically be the same communities with
limited access to public notification.
Implications for Practice and Policy
Mental health professionals should be mindful of the stress created by public
disclosure and attend to dynamic risk factors, which fluctuate according to
environmental conditions, as an integral part of ongoing assessment and treatment
planning. Although risk assessment and community management are important
(English, Pullen, & Jones, 1998), treatment professionals have a primary duty to
promote the recovery of the offender (Glaser, 2003; McCulloch & Kelly, 2007).
Treatment practitioners play a crucial role in the psychological and social
rehabilitation of offenders, which is ultimately in society’s best interest.
Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Behav. Sci. Law (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/bsl
Impact of Megan’s law
The social stigma and shame of sex offender registration can preclude or
discourage participation in prosocial roles and activities, including employment,
education, parenting, and property ownership (Uggen et al., 2004). Uggen et al.
(2004) asserted that self-concept, civic participation, and one’s perceived identity as
a conforming and engaged citizen are related to criminal offenders’ desistance from
crime. Citizenship is not only a legal status, but also a symbolic one that emphasizes
an individual’s connection to the rights, responsibilities, roles, and resources that
society offers (Rowe, Kloos, Chinman, Davidson, & Cross, 2001; Uggen, Manza, &
Thompson, 2006). The marginalization and social exclusion of sex offenders
reduces their citizenship potential and may in turn diminish their investment in
mainstream social values and increase their resentment toward society (Uggen et al.,
2006). Rowe et al. (2001) underscored that it is in a society’s best interest to restore
the functioning of disengaged citizens to as high a level as possible, increasing the
potential for all individuals to be assets rather than threats to their communities.
It has been noted that the practical, legal, and social consequences of crime are
more severe for sex offenders than for other criminals (Lees & Tewksbury, 2006;
Uggen et al., 2006). Hardships related to housing and employment, social stigma, a
sense of vulnerability, and relationship problems should be recognized as factors that
can facilitate recidivism (Lees & Tewksbury, 2006). Conversely, employment, social
bonds, and stability increase the likelihood of successful reintegration for criminal
offenders (Kruttschnitt et al., 2000; Petersilia, 2003; Uggen, 2002; Uggen et al.,
2004). Therefore, social policies that ostracize and disrupt the stability of sex
offenders are unlikely to be in the best interest of public safety.
The vast majority of sex crimes against children are committed by relatives,
friends, and acquaintances (Berliner, Schram, Miller, & Milloy, 1995; Bureau of
Justice Statistics, 2002). Community notification laws were passed in response to
abductions of children by strangers, but such events are extremely rare and are
therefore specious cases on which to base broad public policy (Levenson, 2007;
Levenson & D’Amora, 2007; Zgoba, 2004). Despite commonly held beliefs to the
contrary, it is well established that the majority of convicted sex offenders are not
rearrested for new sex crimes (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003; Hanson & Bussiere,
1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005; Harris & Hanson, 2004) and that sex
offenders reoffend at lower rates than other criminals (Bureau of Justice Statistics,
2003; Sample & Bray, 2003, 2006). Some sex offenders, however, are more
dangerous than others, and risk assessment instruments have been developed that
use empirically derived factors to estimate the likelihood of recidivism (Hanson &
Thornton, 1999, 2000; Hare, 1991; Quinsey, Harris, Rice, & Cormier, 1998). The
Iowa registration and recidivism study analyzed the relationship between risk
assessment scores and recidivism rates for both the registry and pre-registry groups,
and found larger proportions of recidivistic sex offenders as risk assessment scores
increased (Adkins et al., 2000). This suggests that empirically based risk assessment
can indeed assist in identifying the registered sex offenders who are more likely to
reoffend, and would be useful in alerting citizens about the most dangerous sex
offenders. Such practices would also result in more efficient distribution of fiscal
resources by reserving the most intensive and restrictive interventions for higher risk
offenders. Finally, differential disclosure according to risk would minimize the
collateral consequences experienced by lower risk sex offenders and their families
with little probability of compromising public safety.
Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Behav. Sci. Law (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/bsl
J. S. Levenson et al.
Limitations
This study was limited by its reliance on self-reported data from sex offenders, as we
had no opportunity to corroborate their responses with objective information. As
well, self-selection bias might imply that those who volunteered to participate in the
study were those who had negative opinions that they wanted to ‘‘vent.’’ The
responses were not overwhelmingly negative, however, suggesting that participants
attempted to answer questions fairly and thoughtfully. Another limitation of this
research design is that treatment samples might differ in important ways from
offenders not in therapy and therefore might not fully represent the population of
registered sex offenders. Treatment settings might also introduce bias, as they are
potentially coercive environments, which could influence results. The surveys were
administered in a way that protected anonymity, and participants were clearly
advised that their involvement was completely voluntary, but nonetheless some
clients might have felt compelled to comply or to answer in a perceived desired
direction.
Conclusions
More research is needed to better understand the costs and benefits of community
notification to offenders and society. Sex offender policies have been developed and
implemented with little discussion about the research by which they should be
informed, or the potential unintended consequences for offenders, their families,
and communities. These policies enjoy widespread support despite the absence of
evidence indicating that they achieve their stated goals (Levenson et al., 2007). As
Tewksbury (2004) observed, sex offenders often experience ‘‘collateral con-
sequences that have serious deleterious effects on their social, economic, and
physical well-being’’ (p.33). Others have concurred that the social and economic
marginalization of criminals, especially sex offenders, contradicts the principles
empirically associated with successful community reintegration (Tewksbury, 2004;
Uggen et al., 2004, 2006).
Broad notification policies are more likely to undermine the stability of sex
offenders than to provide the sweeping protection they intend to achieve. Defiance
theory postulates that criminal sanctions produce desistance from crime only when
offenders perceive sanctions as fair and when they have strong bonds to their
communities (Sherman, 1993). Our sample indicated that Megan’s Law is
experienced by sex offenders as unfair and that it disrupts ties to community. As
well, they indicated that the law has little deterrence effect. The potential for
Megan’s Law to sabotage offender reintegration should therefore be stalwartly
considered, as it might render these laws counterproductive and ultimately not in the
best interest of public safety.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors are grateful to Darren Allen for completing the data entry for this study
while a graduate research assistant at Lynn University.
Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Behav. Sci. Law (in press)
DOI: 10.1002/bsl
Impact of Megan’s law
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Supplementary resource (1)

... Convicted sex offenders who are obligated to register and cooperate with public notification procedures under SORN laws, their family members, and their support partners commonly experience negative outcomes that result from such policies. These collateral consequences include stigmatization (Connor, 2019a;Evans & Cubellis, 2015;Robbers, 2009;Tewksbury, 2005Tewksbury, , 2012Tewksbury & Lees, 2006a), ostracism (Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b), harassment (Connor, 2019a;Frenzel, Bowen, Spraitz, Bowers, & Phaneuf, 2014;Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Mercado, Alvarez, & Levenson, 2008;Tewksbury, 2004Tewksbury, , 2005Tewksbury & Lees, 2006a;Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2009;Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b), threats (Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Mercado et al., 2008;Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b), vigilante attacks (Frenzel et al., 2014;Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Mercado et al., 2008;Tewksbury & Lees, 2006a;Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b), persistent feelings of vulnerability (Tewksbury & Lees, 2006a;Tewksbury & Lees, 2007), heightened levels of stress (Bailey & Sample, 2017;Mercado et al., 2008;Robbers, 2009;Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2009), relationship loss (Connor, 2019a;Frenzel et al., 2014;Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Mercado et al., 2008;Tewksbury, 2004Tewksbury, , 2005Tewksbury & Connor, 2012;Tewksbury & Lees, 2006b;, relationship deterioration (Connor, 2019a;Farkas & Miller, 2007;Tewksbury, 2004Tewksbury, , 2005Tewksbury & Connor, 2012), and withdraw from community involvement (Bailey & Klein, 2018;Robbers, 2009). These harmful ramifications for RSOs are expanded upon below, as described by Connor (2016). ...
... Convicted sex offenders who are obligated to register and cooperate with public notification procedures under SORN laws, their family members, and their support partners commonly experience negative outcomes that result from such policies. These collateral consequences include stigmatization (Connor, 2019a;Evans & Cubellis, 2015;Robbers, 2009;Tewksbury, 2005Tewksbury, , 2012Tewksbury & Lees, 2006a), ostracism (Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b), harassment (Connor, 2019a;Frenzel, Bowen, Spraitz, Bowers, & Phaneuf, 2014;Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Mercado, Alvarez, & Levenson, 2008;Tewksbury, 2004Tewksbury, , 2005Tewksbury & Lees, 2006a;Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2009;Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b), threats (Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Mercado et al., 2008;Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b), vigilante attacks (Frenzel et al., 2014;Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Mercado et al., 2008;Tewksbury & Lees, 2006a;Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b), persistent feelings of vulnerability (Tewksbury & Lees, 2006a;Tewksbury & Lees, 2007), heightened levels of stress (Bailey & Sample, 2017;Mercado et al., 2008;Robbers, 2009;Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2009), relationship loss (Connor, 2019a;Frenzel et al., 2014;Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Mercado et al., 2008;Tewksbury, 2004Tewksbury, , 2005Tewksbury & Connor, 2012;Tewksbury & Lees, 2006b;, relationship deterioration (Connor, 2019a;Farkas & Miller, 2007;Tewksbury, 2004Tewksbury, , 2005Tewksbury & Connor, 2012), and withdraw from community involvement (Bailey & Klein, 2018;Robbers, 2009). These harmful ramifications for RSOs are expanded upon below, as described by Connor (2016). ...
... Convicted sex offenders who are obligated to register and cooperate with public notification procedures under SORN laws, their family members, and their support partners commonly experience negative outcomes that result from such policies. These collateral consequences include stigmatization (Connor, 2019a;Evans & Cubellis, 2015;Robbers, 2009;Tewksbury, 2005Tewksbury, , 2012Tewksbury & Lees, 2006a), ostracism (Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b), harassment (Connor, 2019a;Frenzel, Bowen, Spraitz, Bowers, & Phaneuf, 2014;Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Mercado, Alvarez, & Levenson, 2008;Tewksbury, 2004Tewksbury, , 2005Tewksbury & Lees, 2006a;Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2009;Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b), threats (Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Mercado et al., 2008;Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b), vigilante attacks (Frenzel et al., 2014;Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Mercado et al., 2008;Tewksbury & Lees, 2006a;Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b), persistent feelings of vulnerability (Tewksbury & Lees, 2006a;Tewksbury & Lees, 2007), heightened levels of stress (Bailey & Sample, 2017;Mercado et al., 2008;Robbers, 2009;Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2009), relationship loss (Connor, 2019a;Frenzel et al., 2014;Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Mercado et al., 2008;Tewksbury, 2004Tewksbury, , 2005Tewksbury & Connor, 2012;Tewksbury & Lees, 2006b;, relationship deterioration (Connor, 2019a;Farkas & Miller, 2007;Tewksbury, 2004Tewksbury, , 2005Tewksbury & Connor, 2012), and withdraw from community involvement (Bailey & Klein, 2018;Robbers, 2009). These harmful ramifications for RSOs are expanded upon below, as described by Connor (2016). ...
... Collateral consequences affecting those convicted of sexual offenses, as defined in the current study, include socially-imposed (rather than court-sanctioned) barriers to employment, housing, and financial opportunities, as well as social exclusion, psychological turmoil, isolation, and interpersonal and romantic difficulties (Levenson et al., 2007;Levenson & Cotter, 2005). In addition, collateral consequences also encompass victimisation of family members of individuals convicted of a sexual offence, who may experience secondary housing and employment difficulties, or harassment related to their relative's sexual offender status, as well as engage in self-blame (Evans et al., 2021;Levenson & Tewksbury, 2009;Zevitz & Farkas, 2000). ...
... In contrast to the immediate and automatic direct consequences of conviction, arguably inclusive of formal consequences, collateral consequences should reflect the unintended penalties associated with the sheer fact of conviction rather than punishment handed down directly from the courts (Edwards & Hensley, 2001;Kruttschnitt et al., 2000;Logan, 2013;Pinard, 2006). Social sanctions that comprise informal collateral consequences include, but are not limited to, sociallyimposed (e.g. by neighbours, community members, family, and/or friends) barriers to employment (Brown et al., 2007), housing (Chajewski & Mercado, 2009;Zgoba et al., 2009), and financial opportunities, inclusive as well of social exclusion, psychological turmoil (Jeglic et al., 2012), isolation, and interpersonal and romantic difficulties (Levenson et al., 2007;Levenson & Cotter, 2005). ...
... Examples of such socially-imposed barriers experienced by individuals convicted of a sexual offence include denial of employment or housing based on landlord or realtor discretion, denial of entry into public spaces, refusal of service, rude treatment, harassment of the individual and related family members or friends, vigilantism, and denial of participation in charitable or volunteer-based activities (e.g. church groups, community meetings; Lasher & McGrath, 2012;Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Robbers, 2009;Tewksbury, 2005). Key factors in preventing recidivism, however, include civic engagement, civic identity, and community involvement (Bazemore & Stinchcomb, 2004;Travis, 2005), each of which can be implicated by the aforementioned consequences. ...
Article
The relationship between collateral consequences and recidivism among individuals who sexually offend continues to be proffered in the literature, yet empirical evidence of these links has yet to be established. This exploratory study investigated the correlational and predictive relationships between social and psychological collateral consequences and overall recidivism, sexual recidivism specifically, and probation/parole/registry violations among a sample of 180 registrants. Results revealed significant relationships between demographic indicators (age, years registered, education), social and psychological collateral consequences, overall recidivism, and sexual recidivism and violations. Results of the hierarchical logistic regressions indicated that neither social nor psychological collateral consequences significantly improved model fit for overall recidivism or sexual recidivism. Social collateral consequences, however, predicted an individual’s likelihood to accrue probation, parole, or registry violations post-offence. Practical implications are discussed within the context of building an empirical basis for the potential contributory effects of the registry on recidivism, via collateral consequences.
... In the United States, sex offender registration allows for the monitoring and tracking of offenders after being released into the community as was established as part of the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act of 1994 following the disappearance. These laws mandate individuals convicted of sexual offenses to register with local law enforcement agencies upon release, thus making it easier to locate known individuals convicted of sexual offenses in the event of a missing child (Jacob Wetterling Act, 1994;Levenson & Cotter, 2005;McPherson, 2016). The registry provides information such as the person's name and location (Sex Offender Registration & Notification Act, 2006). ...
... Megan's Law was passed, wherein registration laws were expanded to mandate public disclosure of information about registered sex offenders when required to protect the public following the sexual assault and murder of Megan Kanka by an individual who was released from prison for sexual offending (Megan's Law; Levenson & Cotter, 2005;McPherson, 2016). Megan's Law, also known as community notification, requires each state to provide public notification and information about individuals convicted of sexual offenses living in the community (Find Law, 2019). ...
... Some states and jurisdictions have expanded the restrictions on registered individuals convicted of sexual offenses by placing limitations on where these individuals can live and loiter. Multiple states and specific counties have residence restriction laws that prohibit individuals convicted of sexual offenses from living (and/or loitering) anywhere between 500 and 2500 feet from schools, parks, day cares and/or other places where children gather (Levenson et al., 2015;Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Norman-Eady, 2007;Tewksbury & Connor, 2014). ...
Article
Sex offender laws were designed to decrease sexual violence. The current mixed methods study examined attitudes and opinions of parole and probation officers who have supervised individuals convicted of sexual offenses (n = 361) regarding sex offender legislation and how these policies can be most effective in preventing recidivism. About half of the officers reported that registration and notification, sexually violent predator and Halloween laws were largely effective in preventing sexual victimization. Conversely, they perceived residence restriction laws and the tier system to be largely ineffective. A consistent theme that emerged from the qualitative responses was a movement away from blanket approaches towards a case-specific approach, tailoring the laws to individuals based upon their needs and risk level.
... Theoretically and empirically, researchers have found that the misconceptions presented above lead to new policies and legislation, and this has serious, unintentional implications for recidivism rates (e.g., Bonnar-Kidd, 2010;LeBel et al., 2008;Levenson & Cotter, 2005a, 2005bMaruna, 2001;Willis et al., 2010). When an offender is deemed high-risk to reoffend and/or incapable of rehabilitation, long-term incarceration is often used. ...
... Policies and legislation, such as notification, registration, and residency restrictions, have negative collateral consequences when sex offenders are reintegrating into the community. Levenson and Cotter (2005a) examined the effect of Megan's Law on 183 male sex offenders. Approximately 14.5% reported losing their job because their employer found out they were a sex offender, and approximately 10.9% of sex offenders had to move to a new location because their landlord found out they were a sex offender. ...
... Specifically, 1, 2, and 3 indicated attitudes and beliefs were supportive of policies and practices related to rehabilitative approaches, 4 being neither agree nor disagree, and 5, 6, and 7 were indicative of more punitive attitudes and beliefs. Survey items were adapted from the Attitudes toward the Treatment of Sex Offenders Scale (Wnuk et al., 2006), Sex Offender Knowledge Quiz (Rosselli & Jeglic, 2017), the Community Notification Survey (Levenson & Cotter, 2005a), and Community Attitudes toward Sex Offenders scale (Church et al., 2010). Item content was not changed, but rather, to reduce the risk of survey fatigue, the number of items was reduced and items that were not related to the aims of the study were removed. ...
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Public perceptions regarding a sex offender’s likelihood to reoffend and the efficacy of sex offender policies and practices is often inconsistent with the extant literature in academia. Thus, there is a critical need to better understand what influences those beliefs regarding sex offender policies and practices. We collected data from 284 residents from government defined rural counties and sought to examine: (1) the sources that were most influential in shaping their beliefs regarding sex offender policies and practices; (2) what characteristics the ‘influential sources’ had; and (3) the residents’ emotional response when they think about ‘sex offenders’. The majority of participants were supportive of registration, community notification, and use of the polygraph. Further, the results suggest that ‘academics and peer review articles’ rarely influence beliefs. Rather, ‘personal experiences’ and the emotions ‘rage’ and ‘sadness’ (but not anger or disgust) may be important in influencing rural residents’ beliefs regarding sex offender treatment, castration, execution, and misconceptions regarding juveniles with a sex offense. We conclude by discussing: (1) potential factors that may affect why academics are not perceived as influential sources; and (2) possibilities for how scientists can influence rural residents’ beliefs by utilizing personal experiences and anecdotal information that may spark emotion.
... SORN policies restrict registered individuals in where they can live and travel, what types of events they can attend, and what types of technology/internet access they can have inside their homes-all of which will affect the partner if they wish to cohabitate or travel with the registered individual. Registration also results in a decreased likelihood of accessing educational resources, obtaining and maintaining gainful employment, and achieving financial stability (Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Prescott, 2012;Tewksbury, 2005;Tewksbury & Lees, 2006). Registered individuals often fear harassment, judgment, and vandalism enacted by members of their community, and may experience these things directly (Farkas & Miller, 2008;Tewksbury & Lees, 2006). ...
... Since their inception, SORN policies have been criticized for lack of effectiveness in decreasing sexual recidivism (Freeman, 2012;Letourneau et al., 2010;Socia, 2012;Zevitz, 2006), inconsistencies in data and tier classification (Robertiello & Terry, 2007), substantial financial and resource costliness (Pittman & Nguyen, 2011), and collateral consequences (e.g., difficulty obtaining a job, social ostracism, loss of housing) for registered individuals that can impede successful reintegration and rehabilitation (Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Prescott, 2012;Tewksbury, 2005;Tewksbury & Lees, 2006 Policy debates and evidence presented for reform tend to focus on the impact of policies on the registered individuals themselves. Importantly, the negative effects resulting from SORN policies may extend to individuals close to registered individuals, such as their children and partners (Levenson & Tewksbury, 2009). ...
... SORN policies restrict registered individuals in where they can live and travel, what types of events they can attend, and what types of technology/internet access they can have inside their homes-all of which will affect the partner if they wish to cohabitate or travel with the registered individual. Registration also results in a decreased likelihood of accessing educational resources, obtaining and maintaining gainful employment, and achieving financial stability (Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Prescott, 2012;Tewksbury, 2005;Tewksbury & Lees, 2006). Registered individuals often fear harassment, judgment, and vandalism enacted by members of their community, and may experience these things directly (Farkas & Miller, 2008;Tewksbury & Lees, 2006). ...
... Since their inception, SORN policies have been criticized for lack of effectiveness in decreasing sexual recidivism (Freeman, 2012;Letourneau et al., 2010;Socia, 2012;Zevitz, 2006), inconsistencies in data and tier classification (Robertiello & Terry, 2007), substantial financial and resource costliness (Pittman & Nguyen, 2011), and collateral consequences (e.g., difficulty obtaining a job, social ostracism, loss of housing) for registered individuals that can impede successful reintegration and rehabilitation (Levenson & Cotter, 2005;Prescott, 2012;Tewksbury, 2005;Tewksbury & Lees, 2006 Policy debates and evidence presented for reform tend to focus on the impact of policies on the registered individuals themselves. Importantly, the negative effects resulting from SORN policies may extend to individuals close to registered individuals, such as their children and partners (Levenson & Tewksbury, 2009). ...
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Sex offense registration and notification (SORN) policies can contribute to stigma and negative consequences for partners of registered individuals. The present study utilized a self-report questionnaire to ask these partners what they would say to policymakers if given the opportunity. A thematic analysis of the responses revealed three themes which highlight the distinct issues related to registries, describe direct consequences experienced by the partners, and propose changes to existing policy. This study provides valuable insight into the experiences of a hard-to-reach population and can help generate critical discussion around the sweeping impacts SORN policies have on individuals they were not intended to reach. Implications for qualitative criminology and policy are discussed.
... Nevertheless, among the men who decided to move after a sexual conviction, there was a strong inclination to head toward "new" judicial municipalities-rather than already visited ones-to commit their next crime(s). This result suggests that a proportion of individuals may be looking for enhanced privacy in a virgin environment after being officially labelled as a "sexual offender" (Levenson & Cotter, 2005b). Moreover, the criminal career of most men is not a linear trajectory of unrelenting illegal activities. ...
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... Within the offender sample, there was a substantial aversion toward sex offender registration for child pornography offenses. Prior research has shown that, in addition to the shaming associated with registration, individuals convicted of sexual offenses experienced job loss, property loss, and physical threats as a result of registries (Levenson & Cotter, 2005), which provides a basis for the lack of support shown. While the broad public support for registration makes removing it politically difficult, limiting registration to a subset of those convicted of CSEM offenses or making registration data private are potential options to explore. ...
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Identifying the self-perceptions of child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) consumers compared to a reference population of non-consumers is critical in establishing distorted cognitions that may not be elucidated when comparison is made with groups who have committed other offenses. This exploratory work utilizes a quantitative approach toward identifying how individuals previously convicted of child pornography offenses view CSEM and CSEM offending, using a group of non-offenders as a baseline. The target group was selected based on their inclusion in two sex offender registries for child pornography offenses (n = 78). A reference group of non-offenders (n = 254) was gender-matched from a subset of a prior study evaluating the public perceptions of CSEM. Both groups were adults located within the United States and were asked questions using an online survey about their general perceptions of CSEM, their endorsement of CSEM beliefs, and their opinions related to the legality of various forms of CSEM and associated laws and sentencing guidelines. The study found that CSEM consumers more accurately assessed risks associated with CSEM offending, but that they exhibited potential minimization-based cognitive distortions related to severity and victimization and more strongly endorsed child erotica and virtual child pornography being legal. Additionally, they endorsed treatment over prison, and were strongly opposed to sex offender registration for child pornography offenses. The results provide potential treatment targets, including behavioral areas that may be pathways to CSEM offending.
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Monografia neprináša právnu analýzu problematiky sexuálneho zneužívania detí (hoci na viacerých miestach odkazuje na relevantné legislatívne aspekty a ponúka tiež stručný právny predhovor), ale kladie si za cieľ sprístupniť aktuálne vedecké poznatky, bez zohľadnenia ktorých môže byť aj právne uchopenie problematiky náchylnejšie na omyly. V prvej kapitole autorka približuje skutočnosť, že definície a chápanie sexuálneho zneužívania detí sa v epidemiologických štúdiách, politických a práv¬nych dokumentoch rôznia. Analyzujúc tieto rozdiely a opierajúc sa o poznatky zo sociálnych vied, práva, vývinovej psychológie a etymológie, ponúka konceptuálny model sexuálneho zneužívania detí, v ktorom sú identifikované kľúčové komponenty tohto fenoménu. Úvodná kapitola prináša aj údaje o prevalencii sexuálneho zneužívania detí a o faktoroch, ktoré sa podieľajú na latencii tohto fenoménu. Dotýka sa tiež problematiky výskytu krivých obvinení ako aj obvinení zo sexuálneho zneužívania detí v kontexte poručenských sporov po rozchode alebo rozvode rodičovského páru. Druhá kapitola sumarizuje kľúčové vedecké poznatky o mužoch, ženách i mladistvých osobách, ktoré sa dopúšťajú sexuálneho zneužívania detí. Zdôrazňuje skutočnosť, že nie všetci páchatelia sexuálneho zneužívania detí sú sexuálne deviantní a teda negatívny nález pri sexuologickom znaleckom vyšetrení nemožno chápať ako dôkaz, že osoba skutok spáchať nemohla. Kapitola prehľadne sumarizuje aj teórie vysvetľujúce sexuálne delikventné správanie a detailne približuje grooming (manipuláciu) ako súčasť konania a uvažovania páchateľov. Pozornosť venuje aj významu a kľúčovým komponentom intervencií voči páchateľom (vrátane terapeutických intervencií, probačného dohľadu a ochranných opatrení). Tretia kapitola monografie je zameraná na obete sexuálneho zneužívania detí. Okrem ich profilu približuje následky primárnej viktimizácie, fenomén tzv. kontraintuitívnych reakcií na primárnu viktimizáciu, poukazuje na riziko a časté podoby sekundárnej viktimizácie obetí a problematiku vyhodnocovania všeobecnej a špecifickej vierohodnosti obetí. Štvrtá kapitola sa sústredí na problematiku výsluchu detí – suspektných obetí sexuálneho zneužívania. Sumarizuje aktuálne vedecké poznatky o pamäti a výpovedi obetí sexuálneho zneužívania, objasňuje základné podmienky výsluchu detskej obete, opisuje postup výsluchu detskej obete a načrtáva stratégie na vysporiadanie sa so situáciami, kedy detské obete pri výsluchu neodhaľujú svoje zážitky. Záverečná, piata kapitola upriamuje pozornosť na ľudský faktor a s ním späté riziká zlyhania v procese zhromažďovania a posudzovania dôkazov v prípadoch podozrení zo sexuálneho zneužívania detí. V tomto ohľade poukazuje na riziko predsudkov a kognitívnych skreslení u profesionálov, na prvky zabezpečujúce efektivitu výcviku profesionálov realizujúcich výsluchy poškodených, a napokon aj na potrebu reflektovania a prevencie sprostredkovanej (sekundárnej) traumatizácie profesionálov. V prílohe publikácie zároveň čitatelia a čitateľky nájdu prehľadne štruktúrovaný návod na vedenie výsluchu u detí, u ktorých je podozrenie že sa stali obeťami sexuálneho zneužívania detí. Ide o slovenský preklad tzv. NICHD protokolu, ktorý je vo svete považovaný za zlatý štandard vo vedení takéhoto výsluchu.
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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).
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This meta-analytic review examined the effectiveness of psychological treatment for sex offenders by summarizing data from 43 studies (combined n = 9,454). Averaged across all studies, the sexual offence recidivism rate was lower for the treatment groups (12.3%) than the comparison groups (16.8%, 38 studies, un-weighted average). A similar pattern was found for general recidivism, although the overall rates were predictably higher (treatment 27.9%, comparison 39.2%, 30 studies). Current treatments (cognitive-behavioral, k = 13; systemic, k = 2) were associated with reductions in both sexual recidivism (from 17.4 to 9.9%) and general recidivism (from 51 to 32%). Older forms of treatment (operating prior to 1980) appeared to have little effect. Future directions for improving the quality of sex offender treatment outcome evaluations are discussed.
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