Sex Offender Residency Laws Under Attack

The trend towards adopting laws restricting where sex offenders may live may be slowing down as more legal challenges are filed and cities and states are finding they are not the panacea once thought.

From the Kansas Department of Corrections, here are "Twenty Findings of Research on Residential Restrictions for Sex Offenders and the Iowa Experience with Similar Policies."

Just a few:

  • Housing restrictions appear to be based largely on three myths that are repeatedly propagated by the media: 1) all sex offenders reoffend; 2) treatment does not work; and 3) the concept of “stranger danger.” Research does not support these myths, but there is research to suggest that such policies may ultimately be counterproductive.
  • Research shows that there is no correlation between residency restrictions and reducing sex offenses against children or improving the safety of children.

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    Sex Offenders (1.00 / 2) (#1)
    by HeadScratcher on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 01:51:17 PM EST
    Once release from prison they should live with their criminal defense attorney and their family and friends.

    In other words, I have a hard time mustering any sympathy for sex offenders (or any other violent criminal for that matter).

    There are far too many innocent people who deserve our help and support.

    The law enforcement angle is the only one I care about...

    Violent? (none / 0) (#4)
    by 1980Ford on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 03:45:40 PM EST
    "In other words, I have a hard time mustering any sympathy for sex offenders (or any other violent criminal for that matter)."


    Appeal to Fear


    Begging the Question

    Biased Sample

    Poisoning the Well

    Post Hoc

    Hasty Generalization

    In short, it's a not very smart statement.


    who are sex offenders (none / 0) (#13)
    by zaitztheunconvicted on Tue Dec 19, 2006 at 11:00:55 AM EST
    Lets see here:

    In the same category you have

    violent rapists;

    someone--perhaps a homeless person--who was masturbating in his vehicle and was observed by a passerby

    someone who had a 15-y-o friend and they had sexual contact

    someone who was 15 or 16 who had a 15-y-o friend who gave him or her oral sex

    a person who viewed "child pornography" on a computer at the public library, although such pornography might be simply nudes

    a dad who took photos of his daughter nude or topless with her consent

    a 16-year-old who took a nude photo of his gf, also 16-y-o, and who was then convicted of possessing child pornography

    photographers who offered to give some free photos to some 16 or 15 year old females if they posed topless

    a San Diego security guard who unwisely felt up some teenage girls and will probably die in prison given the length of his sentence


    And these are the people (serious felons, mind you) you are suggesting we should be afraid of and should lock away for years and nearly banish to some desert or mountain area?


    other (none / 0) (#18)
    by LawKiller on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 03:40:24 PM EST
    you forgot about someone was drinking and peed in the bushes because of impaired judgement

    If that's your interest (none / 0) (#15)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Dec 19, 2006 at 06:24:32 PM EST
    you are on the wrong site. This site is intended to promote the rights of those accused of crime.

    otoh, (none / 0) (#2)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 02:27:14 PM EST
    three myths that are repeatedly propagated by the media: 1) all sex offenders reoffend

    1. sure, probably not all sex offenders re-offend. Trouble is, we really don't know how many actually do or don't, all we do know is how many are re-charged and re-convicted - an entirely different and much less relevant set of data.

    2. Assuming our sexual identities/desires are hard-wired (vis a vis the "gay" vs. "straight" debate), all sex-offenders will certainly want to satisfy their desires/re-offend, it's having the self-control to deny their desires that is the question.

    3. Stranger danger. Probably one of the reasons there is support for this is because they don't want offenders to be able to become anything more than but a stranger.

    iow, if the offenders live across town instead of across the street from a school, they'll probably have less of an opportunity to develop a relationship with a student/child such that they're no longer strangers.

    Conservatives are more likely to... (none / 0) (#7)
    by 1980Ford on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 04:17:29 PM EST
    Sniper doctors or blow up buildings, and we cannot prove that those posting here will not do the same.

    Some states see the difference between hard-wired and and opportunists. The hard-wired are rare, for example pedophiles who are only interested in boys. They are the most likely to reoffend. Of all offenders, incest perpetrators are the least likely to reoffend.

    You may be right about stranger danger, but one of the reasons the SCOTUS has ruled against banishment is because it burdens some other community or state with the banishing community's problems. Not to mention how selfish it is. Imagine a father pushing a child back so he can get in the life boat with his daughter. The ship? The Titanic, of course.

    An interesting case that touches on the subject of banishment is United States v. Ju Toy, 198 U.S. 253 (1905) in the dissenting opinion of Justice Brewer.


    Two points (none / 0) (#9)
    by LarryE on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 06:05:45 PM EST
    all we do know is how many are re-charged and re-convicted - an entirely different and much less relevant set of data

    Different yes, but not less relevant. In the event of any crime, someone with a prior record of it is assuredly going to be near the top of the list of suspects. A re-offender is thus more likely to be caught than a first-time offender. So data about charges and convictions regarding later episodes can provide insight into the likelihood of sex offenders being multiple offenders. It's not conclusive, of course, but it's hardly "much less relevant."

    Assuming our sexual identities/desires are hard-wired

    The difference between "homosexual" and "heterosexual" is, in the real sense of the word, basic. I know of no evidence that the urges to sexual offenses are similarly "hard-wired" - which means they can be changed with help and the desire to do so.


    LarryE (none / 0) (#10)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 07:00:36 PM EST
    A re-offender is thus more likely to be caught than a first-time offender

    Several studies support the hypothesis that sexual offense recidivism rates are underreported. Marshall and Barbaree (1990) compared official records of a sample of sex offenders with "unofficial" sources of data. They found that the number of subsequent sex offenses revealed through unofficial sources was 2.4 times higher than the number that was recorded in official reports. In addition, research using information generated through polygraph examinations on a sample of imprisoned sex offenders with fewer than two known victims (on average), found that these offenders actually had an average of 110 victims and 318 offenses (Ahlmeyer, Heil, McKee, and English, 2000). Another polygraph study found a sample of imprisoned sex offenders to have extensive criminal histories, committing sex crimes for an average of 16 years before being caught (Ahlmeyer, English, and Simons 1999).

    Yes, re-conviction rates are "much less relevant" - and much lower - than actual re-offense rates.

    The difference between "homosexual" and "heterosexual" is, in the real sense of the word, basic. I know of no evidence that the urges to sexual offenses are similarly "hard-wired" - which means they can be changed with help and the desire to do so.

    I'm less sure about "hard-wired" but one guy looks at a two year-old girl and gets a chubby and another guy looks at a 32 year-old man and gets a chubby. The first can be "changed with help and the desire to do so" and the second can't? Interesting...

    Late (none / 0) (#16)
    by LarryE on Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 06:27:13 PM EST
    This is late and I doubt it will be seen, but having been away and having not seen this until now, it couldn't be sooner. And I feel compelled to offer some response.

    re-conviction rates are "much less relevant" - and much lower - than actual re-offense rates.

    The issue was not re-conviction v. re-offense rates, it was conviction v. re-conviction rates. I'm fully prepared to accept that re-offense rates are higher than re-conviction rates - but offense rates are also higher than initial conviction rates. The argument was that since re-offenders are more likely to get caught, a low rate of re-convictions would not be "much less relevant" to the question of the likelihood of someone being a re-offender. Your comparison did not address that and so is irrelevant.

    In fact, even your own data rebuts the claim you did make. Even if we are to accept lie detector tests as providing accurate results, itself an at best questionable proposition, by your own claimed sources, while re-offense rates are 2.4 times higher than reported, initial offense rates are 100-300 times greater than initial convictions. Which would seem to indicate that once caught, offenders are far less likely to continue offending after release.

    (I also harbor serious doubts about the reliability of the numbers claimed: The fact that both citations using a highly dubious methodology had the same person as lead researcher - that assuming the standard practice of listing the lead researcher first - makes me very suspicious of researcher bias. But even, again, leaving those doubts aside, my argument stands.)

    I'm less sure about "hard-wired"

    The term "hard-wired" was used in the comment to which I was replying.

    one guy looks at a two year-old girl and gets a chubby and another guy looks at a 32 year-old man and gets a chubby. The first can be "changed with help and the desire to do so" and the second can't?

    Yes. Because best available knowledge is that there is a significant biological aspect to the second but not to the first. Your ignorance is not an argument.


    And neither is innuendo.


    sex offenders (none / 0) (#3)
    by diogenes on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 02:47:41 PM EST
    Of course most convicted sex offenders have little money and can only afford to live in poor neighborhoods, so the rich would be comfortably insulated from the consequences should this theory about residence not mattering be wrong.  Again, if the researchers invited convicted sex offenders to move into their neighborhoods, into a group home perhaps, then this would convince more people.

    Also, there is a difference between a law that says that convicted sex offenders cannot live within one mile of any children and one that says that they cannot live within one hundred yards of a playground.

    Really? (none / 0) (#5)
    by squeaky on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 04:06:46 PM EST
    Of course most convicted sex offenders have little money and can only afford to live in poor neighborhoods.....

    Hard to believe that this is true. If it true how do you account for it?


    What's the definition? (none / 0) (#6)
    by Pete Guither on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 04:10:46 PM EST
    How can anyone make blanket comments about sex offenders (or blanket regulations) when there is no clear definition?  What does the term "sex offenders" mean?  This is particularly outrageous since there are many so-called "sex offender" crimes that are non-predatory.

    Everybody, even the heinous, needs a home (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 05:01:59 PM EST
    Of course, nobody wants to live next to a convicted child molester.  Heck, I don't want to live next to a police officer, but everybody has to live somewhere. Freedom means not choosing your neighbors....whoever moves in moves in.

    These registries just force all convicted sex offenders into one area anyway, placing an undue burden on certain communities.  I say better to let the chips fall where they may, if you will.  

    As far as I'm concerned, once your sentence is up and your released you've got a clean slate.  No matter the crime.  Granted, this may be dangerous but comes with the "free" territory....all imo.


    constitutionality (none / 0) (#12)
    by zaitztheunconvicted on Tue Dec 19, 2006 at 10:51:44 AM EST
    the research showing that residency restrictions don't reduce rates of crimes against the kids or sex crimes in general should be used to undermine the constitutionality of the "punishment," which is now shown to serve no useful societal purpose and which has positively damaging effects on the offenders you are hoping to rehabilitate.

    Also, it doesn't seem right to me to call these people "sex offenders" as a general rule.  We don't call former thieves thieves, former liars liars.  If a person has done an evil thing and not renounced his evil deed, then, you can call him a liar, thief, rapist, sex offender, whatever.  However, those who have renounced evil deeds should be given the benefit of the doubt, it seems to me, in terms of how we designate them.

    Paul was a former persecutor of the Christians.  The Romans were persecutors of Christians, then later persecutors of Jews and "heretics."

    If you compare the punishments in the Bible with those specified in other ancient societies, one thing we find is that other ancient societies with potentially greater injustice had punishments for crimes that were far greater in harm to the perpetrator than the crime itself was.  The idea of the punishment fitting the crime is one that should be considered when it comes to these residency laws.  Many "violators" swept up in them have had no criminal behavior other than sexual activity with a friend who was 15.  Society is more the criminal than these "criminals."

    This is a law enforcement issue (none / 0) (#14)
    by sexoffender on Tue Dec 19, 2006 at 05:31:11 PM EST
    I am a convicted sex offender. I do not live in the USA so you can all relax.

    Headscratcher is only concerned about sex offenders as a law enforcement issue. This is fair enough. It is also why sex offender residency restrictions in Iowa are under attack. Those supporting the change include the law enforcement community.

    Residency restrictions force sex offenders out of communities where they are known and often where they have friends, family and jobs. They are forced into living on the periphery of society where they are separated from accountability / support networks which informally supervise them and facilitate their rehabilitation.

    Residency restrictions in Iowa and elsewhere in the USA have led to many sex offenders living in low cost motels or becoming homeless. Without permanent addresses and being forced to constantly move on makes it more difficult for law enforcement and probation services to supervise them. It has undermined programmes designed to support their rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society. In so doing these measures have led to a decrease in public safety.

    The increasing complexity of sex offender supervision provisions leads to law enforcement officers being overstretched, with considerable resources being devoted to tracking former offenders who are at no more risk of re-offending than any member of the population selected at random. Consequently they have fewer resources to devote to tracking high risk dangerous predatory offenders. Fewer resources are also available for public education about sex offenders and for training parents and children how to protect themselves and to educating the community in general about the nature of sexual offending and its consequences - strategies that are far more likely to lead to a decrease the rates of sexual offending and to produce a safer society.

    The constant upping of the level of severity of punitive measures taken against former sex offenders has led to an decrease in compliance among ex-offenders in observing regulations designed to keep them under supervision. Law enforcement agencies do not have and never will have the resources to enforce these and ex-offenders are completely alienated by them. Recidivism rates for sex offenders increase simply because more and more of them are no longer in compliance with sex offender registry legislation.

    Contrast this with Ireland (where I come from) and the UK where 97% of ex-offenders comply with registration requirements.

    Time and time again independent studies have shown that the majority of sex offenders do not re-offend. This is true across all countries and jurisdictions. Except for murderers they are the only category of offender that this is true of. In the case of murder the low rate of recidivism may be explained by the length of sentence they serve but this is not the case with sex offenders. Well designed rehabilitation programmes significantly reduce recidivism rates further.

    While the terms 'sex offender' and 'paedophile' have become synonymous in most peoples minds the  majority of sex offenders are not paedophiles. Remember that many offenders have adult victims. Even among child molesters and those convicted of downloading child pornography the majority are    
    not paedophiles. 'Sexual offenses' are a rag bag and what is classified as a sexual offense varies from one jurisdiction to another and changes over time. The only thing that all sex offenders have in common is that they have committed a 'sexual offense'.

    All the resources devoted to ostracizing former sex offenders  have taken attention away from the uncomfortable truths about where the danger to children lies. According to the USA's Justice Department just over 100 of the 60,000 to 70,000 reports of sexual assault filed each year involve an abduction by a stranger. Less than 10 per cent of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by a stranger. Most sexual abuse of children takes place in the child's home. Almost half of all child murders in the USA are perpetrated by the child's mother!

    Contrast the treatment of sex offenders (many of whom are not violent - the 20 year old who has sex with his 16 year old girl friend or the man downloading child pornography)with other categories of violent offender. We know that violent (nonsexual) domestic abuse can have a devastating effect on children. We know that, in contrast to sex offenders, violent domestic abusers have high recidivism rates. Yet police are often reluctant to intervene in domestic abuse situations and while there is a sex offenders' registry there is no way for a woman to check whether her new date has a history of violence towards his partner or children. And there is no movement to create such a registry.

    However most people do not want to base public policy towards the treatment of convicted sex offenders on the evidence. They do not believe that most sex offenders do not re-offend because they do not want to. Most people do not want to see sex offenders successfully rehabilitated, they want to see us re-offend. Every time a sex offender re-offends is satisfies their prejudices, self righteousness and simple black and white morality. It helps them to feel good about themselves that they are not a total degenerate like me. Either that or the idea that no punishment is ever enough for some one convict4ed of a sexual offense is more important than the long run protection of children - and I believe that there is a real argument to be put forward for that case; but if that is their argument then they should be honest about it.

    SEX OFFENDER (none / 0) (#17)
    by thesandman22 on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 02:25:07 PM EST

    Laws of no use (none / 0) (#19)
    by LawKiller on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 03:41:49 PM EST
    Public notification of offenders will never protect any child. The list of offenders that the police have will never protect any children. The ONLY thing it can do is produce an instant list of suspects AFTER the child is already abducted. Does a person living 1 foot outside the restricted area make anyone any safer? Do you think they wont go somewhere else? There are no laws anyway that say an offender cant enter a school. How does residentcy laws prevent anyone from doing anything? Will someone inside the area who lived there before the law started make any decision to offend or not just because of where their house is located.   Anyone who urinated outside because of stupid judgement while intoxicated is subject to the same laws as a criminal who raped a 2 year old baby. These laws must end now. Laws must be enacted to seriously punish repeat and violent offenders, not people who have mooned a bus, dove in a lake nude, or streaked across a sports field.

    what is trolling on this site mean? (none / 0) (#20)
    by LawKiller on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 03:49:32 PM EST
    do you know