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


September 2011:

This research was performed under a grant from the Department of Justice ( Award no. 2010-IJ-CX-0004 ) which alone says something. Further I strongly suggest folks read the Acknowledgments section within the paper, and Dr Socia's final thoughts reproduced following this abstract.

Residence restrictions are one of the most recent, and most controversial, public policies seeking to protect community members from registered sex offenders (RSOs) reentering society following incarceration. Residence restriction policies prohibit RSOs from living within a given distance of certain places where children might gather (e.g., schools, daycares, parks, and playgrounds). In doing so, the expectation is that RSOs will have a harder time finding and approaching young children whom they can sexually assault, thus driving sexual recidivism rates down. These policies, first passed in 1995 at the state level and in 2005 at the county and local level, have become extremely popular throughout the United States, but without proof that they are effective. To date, the research on these policies has been extremely limited, and has largely focused on the unintended consequences that these policies cause for RSOs, typically as a result of reduced housing options.

This study addresses this lack of research by examining four issues: 1) the characteristics of counties passing these policies, 2) the efficacy of county residence restrictions to reduce sex crime rates in New York State, 3) whether these policies are associated with the spatial distribution (i.e., clustering or dispersion) of RSO residences in upstate New York neighborhoods, and 4) whether this spatial distribution is in turn associated with differences in county-level recidivistic sex crime rates. In doing so, this study draws on a number of diverse literatures, including the diffusion of policy innovations, incapacitation and deterrence theories, reentry and rehabilitation research, and the conceptualization and measurement of the spatial distribution of ex-offender residences.

Results indicate that political competition is very influential in passing a county residence restriction and that a nearby residence restriction may dissuade others from passing their own policies. Further, while these restrictions do not reduce recidivistic sex crimes, they may generally deter some individuals who are not yet RSOs from sexually victimizing adults. Finally, results indicate that while a residence restriction is in some cases associated with the within and between-neighborhood spatial distribution of RSOs, there is no indirect effect on recidivistic sex crime rates. ..To read the full paper: by Dr Kelly M. Socia

Dr Socia's comments and final thoughts at the end of this paper:

A final policy implication is that while residence restrictions can influence the spatial distribution of RSOs within neighborhoods, this develops slowly over time, and does not appear to have an indirect influence on rates of recidivistic sex crimes. Thus, while these policies may be effective either at removing RSOs from certain neighborhoods and/or at clustering RSOs into specific areas, this does not appear to ultimately result in the increased safety of residents.

Final Thoughts
This study has examined a number of issues related to sex offender residence restrictions and generated a number of interesting and perhaps surprising conclusions. However, even if the results of this study are widely distributed among academics and policymakers, and/or this call for more research is heeded by future researchers, these results will only be valuable to the extent that they are used by policymakers to make sound policy decisions.

It is not enough to produce yet another research article or (extremely impressive) dissertation highlighting the significant and non-significant associations between two variables in a model, hypothesizing about intended and unintended consequences on community members, or otherwise damming the effectiveness of a certain policy through the use of statistical evidence. Instead, connections between researchers and policymakers must be forged and strengthened, and policymakers must have the courage to stand before their constituents and propose effective policies that are based on sound research, even if this does not help them win voter support or ensure their reelection.

Without these actions, the tangible implications of this study (and most other academic research) will remain unused and largely irrelevant, and the recommendations and warnings for policymakers and community members will remain unheeded.

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