We now have added "Informational Posts" which are tidbits of information that may come in handy at some point.

Residency Restrictions: What’s Geography Got to Do with It?

May 2009:

During the summer of 2006 as the election season was heating up, Proposition 83, called Jessica’s Law, was on the California ballot. This proposition increased penalties for specific sex offenses,1 stipulated that all sex offenders had to wear global positioning system (GPS) anklets, and created a 2,000-foot residency restriction for all sex offenders around schools and parks where children “regularly gather.”

As the crime analyst for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, I was asked to create a variety of maps and spatial analyses to educate policymakers, law enforcement, and community organizations interested in understanding the consequences of Jessica’s Law. I worked with geographic information system (GIS) experts to determine the percentage of registered sex offenders living in zones that would be excluded by Jessica’s Law and find out which areas would not be excluded. Many jurisdictions across the country have been using geographic techniques to examine the effects of sex offender residency restriction laws, and the practice can help tell communities how restrictions will affect recidivism. Problematically, many of these studies have suggested that residency restrictions hamper offenders’ reentry process and make it more likely that they will not get treatment and will reoffend.

Our analysis of Jessica’s Law worked to provide realistic estimates of land availability for sex offender residency if the law passed. Much of the “available” land was open space or other nonresidential property, so we added land use and tax parcel data2 to create a better estimate of what land was available. To educate the San Diego community, we used the results of this analysis and a series of maps that showed the areas that would and would not be available for sex offender residency once the law went into effect.3

San Diego’s case study illustrates how using mapping and spatial analysis can help jurisdictions understand the effects of sex offender residency restrictions.4 Jurisdictions across the United States have used GIS to identify sex offender housing, analyze offenders and their movements, and allocate resources to supervise offenders and hold them accountable for their actions. GIS and global positioning systems can identify potential housing locations and analyze offenders’ whereabouts at all times of the day.

This issue of Geography & Public Safety discusses the Minnesota Department of Corrections’ geographic study of sex offender recidivism, the Pinellas County (Florida) Sheriff’s Department’s use of GIS and GPS, and a spatial analysis technique being piloted using California Department of Corrections data. In addition to the efforts completed by the jurisdictions reporting in this bulletin, Texas,5 Iowa,6 and Colorado7 have been significant players in the debate over residency restrictions.

Much like the studies discussed in this bulletin, a number of published papers and web sites include important information about the geography of sex offender residency restrictions (see “Resources” on pg. 14). In addition, a recently published special issue of the Criminal Justice Policy Review was dedicated to the subject.8 Although most research findings imply that the effects of residency restrictions are negative, many states and local jurisdictions continue to implement new laws.

The California court system is still debating the residency restriction aspect of Jessica’s Law. In December 2008, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Sex Offender Management Board released a report on the effect of Jessica’s Law on the increasing homelessness of offenders. The report contributed valuable information to the debate about the negative aspects of sex offender residency restriction laws.9 More and more frequently, jurisdictions are seeing value in studying the geography of the residency restrictions. We hope that in the future these geographic studies will have a greater effect on the legislative process.

For the remainder of this paper: by Julie Wartell, San Diego County District Attorney’s Office

It never ceases to amaze me how folks that do research such as this can overlook the obvious. Notice my highlights above. Then consider this, with sex offender housing, is "available land" the issue -OR- is "available afordable housing" the real issue?

Housing costs money which one derives from employment, which sex offender laws have virtually made sex offenders unemployable. Is "available land the real issue" researchers?

With that said, there are several very good parts to this research, temper them with my notes.


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