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Transient Sex Offenders and Residence Restrictions in Florida

July 2013 Florida:

Executive Summary:
The purpose of this study was to better understand the phenomenon of transient sex offenders in the context of residence restriction laws in Florida. The entire population of registered sex offenders living in the community in Florida was studied (n = 23,523). Higher proportions of transient (homeless) sex offenders were found in counties with a larger number of restrictions, vast territory covered by local laws, wide-distance buffer zones, bus stop restrictions, higher population density, and expensive housing costs.

Together, these factors create a perfect storm for elevated levels of sex offender transience. Broward and Miami-Dade Counties together are home to 13.2% of the state's community sex offenders, but 37% of the state's transients. Sex offenders are more likely than the general population to become homeless.

Transients were more likely than non-transients to have a history of failing to register. Few transients abscond, but when they do, they are more likely to abscond from registration than probation. Because housing instability is a risk factor for recidivism and undermines effective monitoring of sex offenders, lawmakers should recognize that transience is an unintended negative consequence of these laws and reconsider residence restrictions as a sex offender management policy.

Sex offender residence restrictions (SORR) laws prohibit registered sex offenders (RSO) from living within close proximity (usually 1,000 to 2,500 feet) of places where children congregate. Despite their popularity, there is no evidence that sex offenders who live closer to schools or daycare centers reoffend more frequently than those who live farther away (Zandbergen, Levenson, & Hart, 2010), or that residential restrictions serve to reduce sexual recidivism (Blood, Watson, & Stageberg, 2008; Duwe, Donnay, & Tewksbury, 2008; Nobles, Levenson, & Youstin, 2009; Socia, 2012).

These well-intended laws result in limited housing options for sex offenders in many metropolitan areas, and their unintended consequences include transience, homelessness, and housing instability. This exploratory study is the first to specifically identify and examine factors associated with sex offender transience. ..See Press Release.. by Levenson, Ackerman, Socia & Harris

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