Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sex Offender Residence Restrictions: Sensible Crime Policy or Flawed Logic?

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Jill Levenson, Ph.D., Lynn University
Kristen Zgoba, Ph.D., New Jersey Department of Corrections
Richard Tewksbury, Ph.D., University of Louisville

SEXUAL VIOLENCE is a social problem that inspires immense fear and wrath in our society. As such, public policies designed to monitor and restrict sex offenders are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. 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 these particular criminals. Megan’s Law, enacted in 1996, modified the Jacob Wetterling Act by allowing registry information to be disclosed to the public. These laws were the initial stepping stones and evolved from registration to notification and now include housing restrictions. As a result of this progression, at least 22 states and hundreds of local municipalities in the U.S. have passed laws prohibiting sex offenders from living within close proximity (usually 1,000 to 2,500 feet) to schools, parks, playgrounds, day care centers, and other places where children congregate (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2006; Nieto & Jung, 2006).

The effectiveness of residence restrictions policies on sex crime prevention is largely unknown because empirical investigations of this topic are virtually absent in the literature. While there is wide consensus on the need for improved community safety from sex offenders, there is considerable debate as to whether current criminal justice responses intended to reduce sexual offending are successful (Edwards & Hensley, 2001; Levenson, 2003; Levenson & D’Amora, 2007; Petersilia, 2003; Prentky, 1996; Welchans, 2005; Zgoba, 2004). Hampering the ability of stakeholders to make informed decisions is the complete lack of empirical data on the effects of residence restrictions on rates of sexual offending and recidivism. Yet, sex offender housing laws have enjoyed overwhelming support as they have swept across the United States.

Review of Relevant Literature

Twenty-two states now have laws restricting where sex offenders can live, with 1,000 to 2,500-foot exclusionary zones being most common (National Conference 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 local ordinances, often increasing restricted zones to 2,500 feet. Some of these regulations have allowed a “grandfather clause” for sex offenders who established residency prior to the passage of the law, and some (but not all) waive restrictions for juvenile or statutory offenders. Some localities have made it a crime for landlords to rent to sex offenders, making it more difficult for them to secure rental properties.

When the constitutionality of residence restrictions has been challenged, these laws have generally been upheld (State v. Seering, 2005; Doe v. Miller, 2005), and the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to rule on the issue. However, the legal status of such laws has not been firmly and consistently established. 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 enforcement of the law is in effect (Tewksbury, in press). A judge in California ruled after the overwhelming recent passage of Proposition 83, a comprehensive bill requiring sex offenders to live 2,000 feet from a school or park, that the law could not be retroactive. Two judges in New Jersey have declared township ordinances unconstitutional because they 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; G.H. v. Galloway Township, 2007). A Kentucky judge ruled that retroactive housing laws applied to those who established residences before the law took effect violate ex post facto protections (Commonwealth v. Baker, et al., 2007). He opined that residence restrictions are clearly punitive and that to argue otherwise is intellectually dishonest. He added that such laws are “minimal at best and completely illusory at worst” (p. 26) and that they “appear to be little more than a political placebo, offering false comfort to pacify the public’s fear” (p. 27).

Effects on Recidivism

No research has yet been conducted to measure the efficacy of existing residence laws, but one study investigated the potential for sex offender residence restrictions to prevent repeat sex crimes (Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2007). Though no statewide residence law exists in Minnesota, researchers analyzed the patterns of 224 sex offenders released from Minnesota correctional facilities who sexually recidivated between 1990 and 2005. The results showed that not one of the 224 cases likely would have been deterred by residence restrictions. A minority of the 224 offenders initiated contact with their victims in public places. Instead, nearly two-thirds victimized family members or gained access to their victims through another adult, such as a spouse, girlfriend, co-worker, friend, or acquaintance. Only 27 offenders established contact with their victims within one mile of their residence at the time of the offense. Of the 16 juvenile victims with whom contact was established within one mile of the offender’s home, none of these relationships were cultivated near a school, park or playground.

These results indicated that the prevailing factor in sexual recidivism is not residential proximity but rather social or relationship proximity. Even when offenders established direct contact with unknown victims, they were unlikely to do so close to where they lived. Based on these findings, the authors concluded that the potential deterrent effects of a residence restriction law would likely be “marginal” at best because the types of offenses it is designed to prevent are exceptionally rare (Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2007).

The Relationship between Proximity and Recidivism

In an Arkansas study of 170 sex offenders, it was found that 48 percent of child molesters lived within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center, or park, compared with 26 percent of perpetrators convicted of sex crimes against adults (Walker, Golden, & VanHouten, 2001). Citing routine activities theory, the authors speculated that child molesters might be motivated to purposely live within close access to potential victims. The study did not track recidivism, however, and did not establish that proximity to schools was correlated with reoffending. In fact, the factors contributing to residence selection could not be clearly identified. Other scholars have argued that sex offenders’ housing arrangements are most strongly determined by economic conditions, not because they seek to live near potential victims (Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2006). Rapists who target adult victims have been found to often commit sex crimes within a short radius from where they live (Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2007; Warren, Reboussin, Hazelwood, Cummings, Gibbs, & Trumbetta, 1998).

In Minnesota, an earlier study was undertaken to determine whether residential proximity to schools and parks played a role in recidivism (Minnesota Department 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, thirteen (4 percent) of those high-risk offenders had been rearrested for a new sex crime. The circumstances of each recidivism case were then scrutinized to determine whether the offense was related 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 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 advised that blanket policies restricting where sex offenders can live are unlikely to benefit community safety. They did suggest that restrictions might be an appropriate supervision strategy when assessing the risks and needs of each individual offender on a case-by-case basis.

In Colorado, 130 sex offenders on probation were tracked for 15 months in order to assess recidivism (Colorado Department of Public Safety, 2004). Fifteen (12 percent) were rearrested for new sex crimes, and all were non-contact offenses (peeping, voyeurism, or indecent exposure). The researchers mapped the sex offenders’ proximity to schools and daycare centers, and found that recidivists were randomly located throughout the area and did not live closer to such venues than non-recidivists. They concluded that residence restrictions are unlikely to deter sex offenders from recommitting sex crimes, and that such policies should not be considered a feasible strategy for protecting children. In sum, no evidence exists to support the hypothesis that sex offenders who live within closer proximity to schools, parks, and playgrounds have an increased likelihood of sexually recidivating. There is also no research as yet that establishes residence restrictions as a viable strategy for reducing sex crimes, preventing recidivism, or protecting children.

Criminal Re-entry, Housing Instability, and Recidivism

Convicted felons returning to communities are confronted with the (often quite daunting) challenge of locating and sustaining affordable housing (La Vigne, Visher, & Castro, 2004; Petersilia, 2003; Travis, 2005). Imprisoned offenders have been separated from their families and communities and consequently, after incarceration, they often find themselves without support systems, fiscal resources, housing, employment opportunities, and transportation. Obstacles to employment can create financial instability, and affordable lodging is often scarce, especially since laws prohibit felons from obtaining subsidized housing (Petersilia, 2003; Travis, 2005). The basic needs of offenders attempting to re-enter society have frequently been ignored, causing some scholars to warn of dire consequences of such neglect: “Housing is the linchpin that holds the reintegration process together. Without a stable residence, continuity in substance abuse and mental health treatment is compromised… in the end, a polity that does not concern itself with the housing needs of returning prisoners finds that it has done so at the expense of its own public safety” (Bradley, Oliver, Richardson, & Slayter, 2001, p. 7).

Housing instability and criminal recidivism are clearly linked, and numerous studies have documented the relationship. Residential instability was found to be a robust predictor of reoffending among Georgia criminals; the likelihood of re-arrest increased by 25 percent each time a parolee moved (Meredith, Speir, Johnson, & Hull, 2003). Released offenders temporarily residing in New York shelters were at increased risk for drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment, and absconding from probation or parole (Nelson, Deess, & Allen, 1999). Unstable living arrangements were identified as the strongest predictor of absconding in a sample of over 4,000 parolees in California (Williams, McShane, & Dolny, 2000), and in a national sample (n = 2,030), probationers who moved multiple times during their period of supervision were almost twice as likely to have had a disciplinary hearing (Schulenberg, 2007). Offenders themselves have identified housing as the most essential factor in their community adjustment and reintegration (La Vigne et al., 2004).

Housing and property ownership lead to the development of social bonds, which facilitate crime desistance through engagement in prosocial activities and self-perception of a non-deviant identity (Laub & Sampson, 2001). Community connections and healthy interpersonal relationships create social and psychological reinforcements to the offender’s investment in conformity and crime deterrence. Employment and relationships, especially marriage, are reliable predictors of desistance from crime (Laub & Sampson, 2001). Lifestyle instability has been associated with both general and sexual recidivism (Andrews & Bonta, 2003; Hanson & Harris, 1998) and sex offenders with constructive support systems have fewer violations and new offenses than those who have negative or no support (Colorado Department of Public Safety, 2004). Thus, unstable housing and the ensuing disengagement from family and community appear to increase the likelihood of recidivism for criminal offenders.

Housing Availability

Residence laws severely limit housing options for sex offenders, especially in major metropolitan areas (Carlson, 2005; Zandbergen & Hart, 2006). Using geographical information system (GIS) mapping technology in Orange County, Florida, researchers found that 95 percent of over 137,000 residences were located within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, daycare centers, or school bus stops, and virtually all housing was within 2,500 feet of such venues. The number of dwellings available for sex offenders outside 1,000-feet buffer zones was 4,233 and only 37 properties existed beyond 2,500-feet buffer zones. When considering the constraint categories individually, bus stops were by far the most restrictive (99.6 percent of properties were within 2,500 feet). Of course, these statistics represent all existing properties and it is likely that only a fraction are available for rent or purchase at any point in time (Zandbergen & Hart, 2006). Furthermore, in Colorado, researchers found that in densely populated areas, residences that are not within 1,000 feet of a school or childcare center are virtually nonexistent (Colorado Department of Public Safety, 2004).

When residence restrictions are enacted, the effects quickly become apparent. Within six months of the implementation of Iowa’s 2,000-foot law, thousands of sex offenders became homeless or transient, making them more difficult to track and monitor. The number of registered sex offenders in Iowa who could not be located more than doubled, damaging the reliability and validity of the sex offender registry (Rood, 2006).

Other Unintended Consequences of Residence Restrictions

A growing body of research indicates that sex offender registration and community notification can interfere in multiple ways with community re-entry and adjustment (Levenson & Cotter, 2005b; Levenson, D’Amora, & Hern, 2007b; Sample & Streveler, 2003; Tewksbury, 2004; Tewksbury, 2005; Tewksbury & Lees, 2006; 2007; Zevitz, 2006a; Zevitz & Farkas, 2000a). Sex offenders surveyed in Florida, Indiana, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Kansas and Kentucky reported adverse consequences such as unemployment, relationship loss, denial of housing, threats, harassment, physical assault, or property damage as a result of public disclosure (Levenson & Cotter, 2005b; Levenson et al., 2007b; Tewksbury, 2004; Tewksbury, 2005; Tewksbury & Lees, 2006; 2007; Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2007; Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b). The majority of sex offenders also reported psychological symptoms such as shame, embarrassment, depression, or hopelessness (Levenson & Cotter, 2005b; Levenson et al., 2007b; Tewksbury & Lees, 2007). Though vigilantism is rare, extreme cases such as arson, vandalism, and even murder of sex offenders have been documented (Sample & Streveler, 2003). Because public identification can lead to social exclusion and underemployment for sex offenders, many of them end up living in socially disorganized, economically deprived neighborhoods that have fewer resources for deterring crime and protecting residents (Mustaine, Tewksbury, & Stengel, 2006; Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2006; Zevitz, 2004; 2006b).

The impact of residence restrictions on sex offenders remains largely unknown. Only two studies have been published to date, and two others are forthcoming. Levenson and Cotter (2005a) 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 percent) reported that they were unable to live with supportive family members due to zoning laws. More than half (57 percent) found it difficult to secure affordable housing, and 60 percent 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 which can lead to dynamic risk factors (Hanson & Harris, 1998) associated with sex offense recidivism.

Levenson and Cotter (2005a) 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). Since that time, for example, 26 of the 30 independent cities in Broward County, FL (the greater Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area) have passed local sex offender zoning laws. A more recent study of 109 sex offenders in Broward found that 39 percent reported becoming homeless or living with someone else for two or more days, and 22 percent said they were forced to relocate more than two times (Levenson, in press). Almost half reported that a landlord refused to rent to them, and 13 percent said they had spent time in jail due to a residence violation. Age was inversely correlated with an increase in adverse consequences, and larger buffer zones were associated with transience, homelessness, and reduced employment opportunities.

In Oklahoma and Kansas, 62 percent of a sample of registered sex offenders has moved since registering, with 54 percent of those subject to a residence restriction law being forced to move (Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2007). When sex offenders move it is typically to neighborhoods with higher levels of social disorganization (Mustaine et al., 2006). In Indiana, 26 percent of sex offenders surveyed were unable to return to their homes after being released from prison, 37 percent were unable to live with family, and almost one-third reported that a landlord refused to rent to them or to renew a lease (Levenson & Hern, 2007). Many (38 percent) said that affordable housing was less accessible as a result of restrictions on where they could live, and that they were forced farther away from employment, social services, and mental health treatment. Young adults were particularly affected, and age was significantly inversely correlated with being unable to live with family and having difficulties securing affordable housing (Levenson & Hern, 2007).

Iowa prosecutors and victim advocates took proactive steps and publicly denounced residence restrictions, asserting that they create more problems than they solve (Iowa County Attorneys Association, 2006; NAESV, 2006). Prosecutors observed that the number of plea bargains dropped, causing some cases to go unadjudicated, leaving victims at risk and perpetrators without treatment or punishment (Iowa County Attorneys Association, 2006). Victim advocates cautioned that residential transience makes it more difficult to track the whereabouts of sex offenders and to supervise their activities.

Social stability and support increase the likelihood of successful reintegration for criminal offenders, and public policies that create obstacles to community re-entry may compromise public safety (Petersilia, 2003). It has been found that sex offenders who had a positive support system had significantly 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 significant others (Kruttschnitt, Uggen, & Shelton, 2000). It is well established that the stigma of felony conviction can impede the ability to engage in prosocial roles across domains such as employment, education, parenting, and property ownership (Tewksbury & Lees, 2007; Uggen, Manza, & Behrens, 2004). Uggen et al. (2004) underscored that self-concept, civic participation, and social resources are essential to an offender’s identity as a conforming citizen and therefore to his or her desistance 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 such laws might be ultimately counter-productive (Levenson, 2006; Tewksbury & Lees, 2006).

Premises Underlying Sex Offender Residence Policies

Sex offender policies have not often incorporated empirical data into their development and implementation (Levenson & D’Amora, 2007; Zgoba, 2004). Despite the lack of evidence linking sex offense recidivism with residential proximity to schools, zoning restrictions are widely popular, partly due to the (unsupported) popular belief that sex offenders have extraordinarily high recidivism rates (Levenson, 2006; Levenson, Brannon, Fortney, & Baker, 2007a; Quinn, Forsyth, & Mullen-Quinn, 2004; Sample & Bray, 2006). Extensive media attention to sexually motivated abductions of children creates a perception that violent sex crimes are on the rise, even in an era of consistently declining trends. According to child protection data, police reports, and victim surveys, sexual assault rates for both adults and children have dropped substantially since the early 1990s (Finkelhor & Jones, 2004; Maguire & Pastore, 2003).

Residence restrictions are intended to prevent recidivistic predatory offenses, yet in practice they target only a fraction of sex crimes. The assumption that children are at great risk posed by sex offenders lurking in schoolyards or playgrounds is not supported by data (Zgoba, 2004). Most sexually abused children are victimized by someone they know and trust, and only about 7 percent of sex crimes against minors are perpetrated by strangers (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002a). According to the vast majority of empirical research, most child sexual abuse is perpetrated by family members or close acquaintances. About 40 percent of sexual assaults take place in a victim’s own home, and 20 percent take place in the home of a friend, neighbor or relative (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997).

Another assumption fueling sex offender laws is that rehabilitation is futile and that sex offenders cannot be cured. Of course, the goal of treatment for those diagnosed with disorders like pedophilia is not to “cure” them but to assist them to learn to change their thinking and control their behavior. While it is not realistic to expect any medical or mental health treatment to be 100 percent effective for all patients, research has shown that many sex offenders benefit from psychological interventions. A meta-analysis involving 9,454 sex offenders determined that treated offenders had a lower recidivism rate (10 percent) than untreated offenders (17 percent) (Hanson, Gordon, Harris, Marques, Murphy, Quinsey, & Seto, 2002). A separate study also found a 40 percent reduction in recidivism following treatment (Losel & Schmucker, 2005). Treatment failure has been correlated with increased recidivism (Hanson & Bussiere, 1998). Other studies have not shown significantly lower rates for offenders who participated in treatment programs (Hanson, Broom, & Stephenson, 2004; Marques, Wiederanders, Day, Nelson, & van Ommeren, 2005; Zgoba & Simon, 2005), but Marques et al. did conclude that those who successfully completed therapy goals reoffended less often than those who did not “get it” (p. 97).

Residential restriction laws are typically predicated on the perception that a vast proportion of sex offenders will repeat their crimes. However, recidivism rates are much lower than commonly believed (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003; Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005; Sample & Bray, 2003). The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that of 9,691 sex offenders released from prison in 1994, 5.3 percent were rearrested for a new sex crime within a 3-year follow-up period. Other researchers found, in a series of international studies involving nearly 30,000 sex offenders, that 14 percent of all sex offenders, 13 percent of child molesters, and 20 percent of rapists were rearrested for a new sex crime within 4 to 6 years (Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005). Though official recidivism rates are likely to underestimate true crime rates, it is clear that the majority of sex offenders do not go on to be re-arrested for new sex crimes and their rates are quite lower than non-sexual recidivism rates. Harris and Hanson (2004) concluded: “After 15 years, 73 percent of sexual offenders had not been charged with, or convicted of, another sexual offence. The sample was sufficiently large that very strong contradictory evidence is necessary to substantially change these recidivism estimates” (p. 17).

Another belief on which residential restriction laws are based is that sex offenders are more likely to reoffend than other types of criminals. In fact, sex offenders are rearrested for ongoing criminal behavior much less often than non-sex offenders (Hanson, Scott, & Steffy, 1995; Sample & Bray, 2003; 2006). The U.S. Department of Justice found much higher rates of recidivism for crimes such as burglary (74 percent), larceny (75 percent), auto theft (70 percent), and drunk driving (51 percent) (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002b). Other studies have demonstrated that sex offenders are rearrested at lower rates for their crime of choice than other types of criminals (Sample & Bray, 2003). In other words, robbers are more likely to be rearrested for robbery, burglars are more likely to repeat crimes of burglary, and those who have committed nonsexual assault are more likely to do so again (Sample & Bray, 2003). Although sex offenders may be more likely than other criminals to “specialize,” offenders with no prior convictions for sexual assault were responsible for 87 percent of new sex crimes committed by released felons (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003). Since the majority of sex offenders do not go on to be rearrested for new sex crimes (Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005; Harris & Hanson, 2004), assessing risk and applying restrictive policies to those offenders most likely to pose a threat would be more efficient and becomes of paramount importance.

Risk Assessment

Indisputably, some sex offenders are quite dangerous and pose a threat to reoffend. In reality, sex offenders demonstrate a wide range of offense patterns and re-offense risk. Follow-up studies have found that pedophiles who molest boys and rapists of adult women are the most likely sex offenders to recidivate (Harris & Hanson, 2004; Prentky, Lee, Knight, & Cerce, 1997). It should be noted that the majority of persons convicted of a sex crime are not diagnosed with pedophilia (Kingston, Firestone, Moulden, & Bradford, 2007; Maletzky & Steinhauser, 2002; Seto & Lalumière, 2001). Risk varies depending on the extent of sexual deviance, offender age, criminal history, and victim preferences (Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005; Harris & Hanson, 2004; Quinsey, Harris, Rice, & Cormier, 1998). Sex offenders with multiple arrests are more likely to reoffend than those who have committed only one sex crime (Hanson, 1997; Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Thornton, 1999). Those who comply with probation and treatment have lower reoffense rates than those who violate the conditions of their release (Hanson & Harris, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2004). Sex offenders who target strangers are more dangerous than those with victims inside their own family (Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Thornton, 1999; Harris & Hanson, 2004). Sex offense recidivism appears to decline with age (Hanson, 2002), and the longer that offenders remain offense-free in the community, the less likely they are to re-offend sexually (Harris & Hanson, 2004).

Factors correlated with recidivism have been used to develop actuarial risk assessment instruments that estimate the probability of sexual reoffense based on the actual recidivism rates of other convicted sex offenders with similar characteristics (Epperson, Kaul, Huot, Hesselton, Alexander, & Goldman, 1999; Hanson, 1997; Hanson & Thornton, 1999; Quinsey et al., 1998). Though they cannot predict with certainty that an individual offender will act in a specific way, risk assessment instruments estimate, with moderate accuracy, the likelihood of reoffending, and are therefore useful for screening offenders into relative risk categories (Barbaree, Seto, Langton, & Peacock, 2001; Hanson, 1997; Hanson & Thornton, 1999; Harris, Rice, Quinsey, Lalumiere, Boer, & Lang, 2003; Quinsey et al., 1998). These procedures are similar to the ways in which insurance companies assess risk and assign premiums, and how doctors evaluate a patient’s risk for developing a medical illness. Similar methods are also used in making classification decisions in prisons and parole or release decisions. Risk assessment allows us to identify the sex offenders most likely to reoffend, and to apply the most intensive interventions to those who need the greatest level of supervision, treatment, and restriction. Unfortunately, most policy initiatives have not incorporated risk assessment strategies into their implementation, instead being applied broadly to all sex offenders.

Summary

In sum, the empirical research on sex offender residence restrictions is extremely limited. Only one study (Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2007) has specifically examined the empirical relationship between residence restrictions and recidivism, and that study was prospective because no such law was in place. No true empirical evaluations of existing residence laws have been completed to date. There is a growing body of evidence, however, that residence restrictions create unintended consequences for sex offenders and communities. These adverse effects include: homelessness; transience; inaccessibility to social support, employment, and rehabilitative services; registry invalidity; and clustering of sex offenders in poor, rural, or socially disorganized neighborhoods. Residence laws are often predicated on erroneous assumptions of high recidivism rates and “stranger danger,” and they have infrequently incorporated empirically derived risk assessment. As a result, the community reintegration of lower-risk, non-violent, and statutory offenders may be unnecessarily impeded. So, in the absence of evidence that residence restrictions are effective in achieving goals of improved community safety, their unintended effects may outweigh their benefits. Therefore, it is crucial to determine whether these laws are indeed efficacious methods for controlling sex offense recidivism and preventing sexual violence.

Implications for Practice and Policy

The benefits of residence restrictions to community safety have yet to be empirically established. Residence restrictions and their consequences are apt to challenge the coping skills of many sex offenders when they face transience and instability as a result of these laws. Precarious living arrangements have the potential to exacerbate dynamic risk factors associated with reoffense, such as lifestyle instability, substance abuse, negative moods, and lack of social support (Hanson & Harris, 1998; 2001). Probation officers and community corrections officials should be cognizant of the stressors created by housing problems and be prepared to assist offenders with case management services. Officers should also collaborate closely with clinical treatment providers when possible in order to coordinate treatment and supervision plans that identify offense patterns, mitigate risk factors, and accommodate psychosocial needs. Attention to dynamic risk factors, which may be aggravated by negative environmental conditions, should be an integral part of ongoing assessment, management, and service planning.

Crime policies that interfere with successful re-entry are unlikely to be in the public’s best interest. The stigma of felony conviction creates challenges for all criminal offenders, but in particular, registered sex offenders face tremendous discrimination even when they are behaving in a law-abiding and productive fashion (Levenson & Cotter, 2005b; Levenson et al., 2007b; Tewksbury, 2004; Tewksbury, 2005; Tewksbury & Lees, 2006; 2007; Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b). Sanctions that disrupt stability are contrary to what we might define as “best practice” according to decades of empirical research identifying factors associated with crime desistance (Laub & Sampson, 2001; Maruna, 2001). Most prisoners seek shelter with family members after their release (Travis, 2005), but residence restrictions can eliminate many housing options for sex offenders. Prohibitions on where they can live can increase transience, disrupt stability and social support, and exacerbate the conditions correlated with reoffending (Andrews & Bonta, 2003; Hanson & Harris, 1998). By ostracizing, segregating, and stigmatizing criminal offenders, we leave them with few opportunities to conform to mainstream values and affiliate with law-abiding citizens (Braithwaite, 1989; Sherman, 1993; Uggen, Manza, & Behrens, 2004). As Maruna et al. pointed out, “if society is unwilling to take a chance on an individual who is trying to make an effort toward desistance, then these obstacles might lead to further recidivism” (Maruna, LeBel, Mitchell, & Naples, 2004, p. 2).

Politicians and neighborhood residents are unlikely to be sympathetic to the challenges these restrictions create for sex offenders. Some sex offenders do indeed pose a serious threat, and communities have a legitimate interest in protecting children from sexual abuse. From a public safety standpoint, however, it is more efficient to establish policies that do not inadvertently contribute, even indirectly, to the risk for reoffense or barriers to reintegration. Policymakers are encouraged to consider a range of available options for building safer communities and to endorse those that are most likely to achieve their stated goals without creating undue obstacles to offender re-entry. For instance, sex offender policies should incorporate empirically derived risk assessment and apply the most intensive and restrictive management strategies to high-risk offenders. Treatment should be part of any comprehensive strategy for preventing repeat sexual violence. Polygraph examination should be enlisted as a method for assessing the past patterns of sex offenders and verifying their compliance with supervision and treatment plans. Collaborative approaches such as containment models (English, Jones, Patrick, & Pasini-Hill, 2003), in which treatment providers, supervising officers, and polygraph examiners work together to manage the risk of registered sex offenders, should be emphasized as a paradigm for community protection.

Criminal justice policy should be grounded in empirical evidence, but sex offender policies in particular have not incorporated available research into their formation and implementation (Levenson & D'Amora, 2007; Zgoba, 2004). Social scientists and criminal justice professionals have a responsibility to assist lawmakers to respond effectively to the problem of sexual violence. It is crucial that sex offender legislation be informed by scientific data and designed to maximize the potential for community safety, while minimizing collateral consequences for offenders and communities.


Ex-Felon disenfranchisement in US election




ME - AUGUSTA: Police seek clues in homicide

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10/18/2008

BY BETTY ADAMS - Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- Police asked for the public's help as they spent Friday investigating the homicide of Michael A. Roderick, 52, of Augusta.

Roderick was found dead Thursday in the Eastern Avenue home he occupied for more than 25 years. Maine State Police and Augusta police were at Roderick's home Thursday night and Friday collecting evidence.

Roderick was divorced in 1995. Police said he lived alone and was disabled after a 1981 fall at work. He most recently had worked as a worm digger and kept a boat on the coast, police and neighbors said.

Roderick's family members own neighboring properties in the Eastern Avenue and Lynn Road area. His mother, Rita Roderick, and one of his brothers, said they did not want to talk when contacted on Friday.

Maine State Police spokesman Steve McCausland said Roderick was found dead after 7 p.m. Thursday by a friend who came to visit.

Roderick's body was taken to the State Medical Examiner's Office in Augusta and an autopsy was conducted Friday.

"We know what the cause is," McCausland said. "We're not releasing the details."

McCausland said Roderick likely was killed during the day Thursday.

On Friday, yellow tape cordoned off the 11/2-story brown clapboard house and large detached garage as police cars lined the long, private dirt driveway off Eastern Avenue and several members of a state police evidence team worked outside.

McCausland said investigators worked until 3 a.m. Friday, then returned to the house about 8 a.m. to continue the investigation, he said.

Augusta police Lt. Keith Brann asked that anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area between 7 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday call Augusta police at 626-2370.

In particular, they said they believe motorists stopped for roadwork on Eastern Avenue on Thursday may have seen a person or a vehicle leaving Roderick's dirt driveway, just east of Lynn Road.

"Even the most minute thing might be important," Brann said.

Court records show Roderick was convicted in 1996 in Augusta District Court of three misdemeanor offenses: two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of unlawful sexual contact. A docket report indicates all the offenses occurred on Nov. 1, 1995.

He appealed the convictions to Kennebec County Superior Court, but they were upheld. He served his 60-day jail sentence in three-day increments during a period of 20 weeks.

The conviction put him on the state's Sex Offender Registry for a 10-year period. He came off the listing several years ago, according to McCausland.

Roderick was the third homicide victim in Augusta this year.

Audrey Lou Benn, 72, was found strangled in her Augusta apartment on Feb. 22; a neighbor in her apartment building, Raymond Clark, is charged with her murder.

Naomi Buzzell, 60 was beaten to death in her Augusta home on April 8. A former boyfriend, Albert Violette, 63, was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound behind his Somerville home. Police classified the case a domestic violence murder and suicide.

Betty Adams - 621-5631 - badams@centralmaine.com


CO - Flier falsely calls resident sex offender

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10/18/2008

By NICK BONHAM - THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN

Puebloan, 67, goes door-to-door to clear his name, reputation with neighbors.

Reputation is a hard thing to restore.

One Puebloan is trying, however, after his neighborhood was plastered with fliers last week falsely stating he was a child sex offender.

"I was very fortunate that most of my neighbors that I talked to thought it was a bunch of crap," the 67-year-old man who preferred not to be identified said Friday. "My wife and I went door-to-door to tell people that I am not a sexual offender. I wanted to make sure that people who have children in the neighborhood knew it was a bunch of crap."
- Why should this man have to do this?  The "Neighborhood Watch" person who distributed the fliers should be forced by a court of law to do this and clear the mans name they falsely labeled a sex offender.

As many as 25 fliers were distributed in the victim's neighborhood between midnight Oct. 6 and 4:30 a.m. Oct. 7, according to police.

The fliers were distributed under the guise of a neighborhood watch group. It stated that the victim was charged with sexual assault on a child and stressed children's safety. "Remember there is no cure for these people," the flier said. "Help each other by watching your neighbor's children . . . Protect the Children!"
- Yes, there is no cure, but, like other problems, like drugs, alcohol, sex addiction, etc, they can be given therapy and treated, and given the right tools to change their ways.

The flier also referenced a national sex offender database, but listed the wrong Web site for familywatchdog.com.

The victim's name isn't listed on the aforementioned Web site, or on any official sex offender lists, according to police. A father of two grown children, three grown stepchildren and 10 grandchildren, police found the man has no criminal history.

"If you want accurate information, you go to your local law enforcement. Some of these Web sites are not accurate or up to date," said Detective Pat Heine, a member of the police department's Neighborhood Watch program and crime prevention unit.

"If people choose to put a generic flier out about a so-called sex offender, they need to know there are libel laws. This is so destructive. It's destructive to the family, destructive to the individual, it's destructive to the neighborhood."

The victim said he's offering a reward for information about the incident. Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers at 542-7867.

"I'm a good neighbor and I intend to stay that way," the man said. "I wish I knew what the reason behind this was."

An accurate and free list of neighborhood sex offenders may be obtained at the police record division or sheriff's office, Heine said.

They also can be accessed on the Web sites of the Pueblo Police Department, Pueblo County Sheriff's Department and Colorado Bureau of Investigation.


VT - It's election time, bust out the sex offender issues - 2 Dems, 2 GOPs vie for Springfield House seats

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See my comments at the site.  The election time usual, bust out the sex offender (scapegoat) issues!

10/18/2008

By Josh O'Gorman Herald Staff

SPRINGFIELD — Two incumbent Democrats and two Republican challengers are squaring off this November for the two Springfield seats in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Alice Emmons, D-Springfield, and Cynthia Martin, D-Springfield, are facing Paul Gibbs, Jr. and John Stettner for the two Windsor-2 seats that represent Springfield.

Emmons, 53, who is completing her 13th term in the House, said she has been instrumental in bringing $56 million to Springfield, including the Southern State Correctional Facility. She is chairwoman of the Committee on Corrections and Institutions, which oversees construction of state office buildings as well as state parks.

Her committee also oversees capital expenditures and bond issues, and she said the economic crisis will be the chief focus of the Legislature in January. If the credit market dries up, Emmons said, it will be more difficult for the state to get bonds for road and bridge improvements.

"If we don't have the dollars to do the work, it will fall back on the municipalities," she said.

Emmons is one of two state representatives sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee to review the state's sex offender policies following the death of Brooke Bennett. In addition to reviewing where the failures occurred leading to Brooke's death, they are also considering new policies, like better training for parole officers who are supervising sex offenders, Emmons said.
- A panel of experts deemed the man who killed Brooke, not a threat, and he was a known sex offender, and on the registry.  So you see, no matter how many "feel good" laws you pass, it still will not protect everyone from someone intent on committing a crime.  No one will see this though, because they are all blinded by hatred.  And until people face this reality, nothing will be done to help solve the problem, which is based on prevention, not vindictive punishment, and no treatment.

Emmons said she was also concerned about how nearly $55 million in budget cuts will affect fuel assistance for low-income Vermonters this winter.

Emmons said she would review safety and reliability studies of Vermont Yankee before deciding how she would vote on a 20-year relicensing application for the power plant.

"We need to look at the reports and balance that with the needs of the state and the rates people will pay if the plant isn't relicensed," she said. "It's a decision that I hope will be based on the many factors in play."

Emmons said she supported legislation later vetoed by Gov. James Douglas that would have forced Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Nuclear to fully fund the power plant's decommissioning fund.

In 2007, Douglas appointed Martin to the Windsor 1-2 seat after the death of her husband Clint Martin, who had just been elected to his third term.

During her last term, Martin, 68, served as clerk on the Fish, Wildlife and Natural Resources Committee and recently helped pass legislation that places groundwater in the public trust.

Martin said she is most concerned with exploring alternative sources of energy — most notably solar, wind and geothermal.

Like Emmons, Martin voted for legislation that would have compelled Entergy to fully fund Vermont Yankee's decommissioning fund.

"I was hugely disappointed the governor vetoed that bill," Martin said.

Stettner, 45, is a house husband and home-school parent for his daughter Moira, 9, and his son Armando, 2.

Stettner said he had written several political letters published in the Springfield Reporter and when he was asked to run for the Windsor 1-2 seat by the Springfield Republican Committee, he was reminded of a quote by Abigail Adams, "We have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them."

Stettner said he would like to completely reform the education system from top-to-bottom, from dismantling the Federal Department of Education to allowing home-school parents the same line-item tax deduction allowed for every other teacher.

Stettner said school funding should be a local issue, rather than a state or federal one.

"If parents had to write a check to send their kids to school, they would pay a lot closer attention to what's going on in the classroom," he said.

Stettner said he has not had a chance to tour Vermont Yankee and is withholding judgment on its relicensing application, but said he does support nuclear power.

"There is only one clean source of energy on the planet, and that is nuclear," Stettner said. "Barring some disastrous revelation about Vermont Yankee, I would vote for its relicensing."

Stettner said convicted sex offenders should receive the death penalty.
- Well sir, if the crime doesn't involve a murder, then you are wrong.  I personally do not believe in the death penalty.  You cannot justify murder with more murder!

"I think the loss of capital punishment has made crime worse," he said.

Gibbs, 73, graduated from Springfield High School in 1955 and enlisted in the U.S. Army the following year. Gibbs retired as master sergeant in 1981.

"I'd like to lower property taxes and get them back to the way things were in the past," Gibbs said. "The government is too big for itself."
- I agree with this statement, they need to stay out of our lives, and work on protecting this country and help solve the homeless, hunger, poverty, etc, issues.

Like Stettner, Gibbs would like to see school funding come from the town, not the state.

"The way school funding goes, they're robbing the rich to benefit poor towns," he said.
- So why shouldn't the rich pay?  They have more money than they need!  So it sounds like you are OK with making the rich, richer and the poor, more poor!  The rich should pay more taxes, and the poor should pay less taxes.  My lord, why shouldn't we "rob the rich" to help the needy?  Sounds like Robin Hood, and sounds like a plan to me!

Gibbs said he supports mandatory minimums for convicted sex offenders and would also like to see a return to what he called "traditional moral values."
- Traditional moral values?  Give me a break!  Hypocrisy, it's the American way!  Using "mandatory minimums," and "moral values" in the same sentence, just shows how ignorant you are, IMO!

"I believe this country is going down the tubes in terms of morality," he said. "I think we need to make some changes and get morality back in our lives."
- Yeah, yeah!  We've heard that a million times.  So what do you expect to do? I don't see you volunteering any answers, just saying what sounds good!

Gibbs said if elected to the House, he would oppose gay marriage and would seek to outlaw abortion.

Contact Josh O'Gorman at josh.ogorman@rutlandherald.com.


CA - Actor Andy Dick pleads guilty to battery in Murrieta incident

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Of course he doesn't get charged with a sex crime, he's a celebrity, and we all know, money talks!

10/17/2008

By JULISSA McKINNON - The Press-Enterprise

Comedian-actor Andy Dick pleaded guilty Friday morning to two misdemeanor charges of battery and possession of marijuana.

Dick's guilty plea in Riverside County Superior Court at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta was a result of an agreement struck with prosecutors.

Dick will serve three years of probation and pay about $700 in fines.

Murrieta police arrested Dick, 42, on July 16 outside the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant after witnesses, describing him as extremely intoxicated, said he urinated in the parking lot and later pulled down a 17-year-old girl's shirt and bra.

Upon searching him police reported finding marijuana and a tablet of the prescription anti-anxiety drug Xanax in Dick's pants.

As a result of his plea deal, the two additional charges of possession of Xanax without a prescription and public intoxication were dropped, said Jess Walsh of the Riverside County district attorney's office.

Dick, who lives in Woodland Hills, was not present for the sentencing.

His attorney, Steve Harmon, said it's not required for defendants of misdemeanor crimes to present themselves before the judge as long as their attorney is there.

For the first year of his probation Dick will not be allowed to consume alcohol, Walsh said.

The court is requiring him to wear an ankle bracelet called a SCRAM, Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor.

The bracelet measures the alcohol in a person's system through their sweat on an hourly basis, according to the Website for Alcohol Monitoring Systems Inc., the company that makes and monitors SCRAM bracelets.

The bracelet will monitor Dick daily and every night the results will be downloaded to the private monitoring company, Walsh said.

If there are any signs of alcohol or drug use, that information will then be passed along to law enforcement, he said.

Harmon said in no way did the courts appear to show Dick preferential treatment because of his celebrity status.
- This is BS!  Then why mention it?

Dick's comedic fame can be traced to his 2001 creation of "The Andy Dick Show" on MTV and myriad appearances on sitcoms and reality TV programs.

"Mr. Dick is glad to have the case over with," Harmon said, adding that both sides saw a plea deal as the "most appropriate way" to end the case.
- I am sure he is, he could've been labeled a sex offender for life, so he got off, as expected, with a slap on the wrist!

Reach Julissa McKinnon at 951-375-3730 or jmckinnon@PE.com