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An Evaluation of Sex Offender Residency Restrictions in Michigan and Missouri

March 2014:

Executive Summary:

Sex offender residency restrictions are a specific form of specialized sex offender legislation which prohibits registered sex offenders from residing within a certain distance from places where children congregate, such as schools or daycare centers. Residency restrictions were designed to enhance public safety by neutralizing the risk of recidivism posed by registered sex offenders released into the community (Levenson & Cotter, 2005; Sample, Evans, & Anderson, 2011; Simon, 1998; Socia, 2011). The assumption behind this legislation is that sex offenders choose their victims from the available population of the area in which they reside. Thus , attempts by the criminal justice system to increase the distance between registered sex offenders and potential targets should correspond to a decrease in recidivism among this group (Kang, 2012). Statewide residency restrictions have been adopted in some form by at least thirty states and at the municipal level in several others (Meloy, Miller, & Curtis, 2008).

While empirical research on sex offender residency restrictions has grown, most current work has centered on documenting the unintended consequences of these policies . For instance, several studies have examined the potential for residency restrictions to adversely shape the availability of housing for registered sex offenders. Socia (2011) observed that in Upstate New York the neighborhoods least restricted by residency restrictions – and thus the areas that registered sex offenders would be allowed to live in – were less affordable, had fewer vacancies, and were concentrated in less dense, rural areas compared to restricted neighborhoods. Additionally, researchers have documented the effect of these laws on quality of life outcomes and reintegration (Levenson & Hern, 2007; Mercado, Alvarez, & Levenson, 2008).

To date, there has been little research on the efficacy of residency restrictions in reducing recidivism among registered sex offenders. Very few studies were identified that directly examined the impact of these laws on sex offender recidivism (Blood, Watson, and Stageberg, 2008; Kang, 2012; Nobles, Levenson, and Youstin, 2012; Socia, 2012). Kang (2012) used individual-level data to follow cohorts of sex offenders and non- sex offenders released both before and after the implementation of residency restrictions, no attempt was made to account for selection bias arising either between the sex offender and non – sex offender cohorts. Overall, the research has not substantiated a link between residency restrictions and reduced crime; however, most of the work has examined crime rates and has not used an adequate comparison group. The goal of the current study is to build on extant research and consider the efficacy of residency restrictions enacted in Missouri and Michigan. ..Source.. by Huebner, Beth M. and Bynum, Timothy S, and Rydberg, Jason and Kras, Kimberly and Grommon, Eric and Pleggenkuhle, Breanne

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