Archive for January 9, 2009

Study: Residence Restrictions and ReOffending

January 9, 2009 Comments off

Levenson, J. S., & Zandbergen, P. & Hart, T (2009) An empirical analysis:
Residential proximity to schools and daycare centers: Influence on sex offense recidivism.(PDF file)

Study Background and Purpose
Residential restrictions for sex offenders have become increasingly popular despite a lack of empirical data demonstrating that offenders’ proximity to schools or daycare centers contributes to recidivism. Using a matched sample of recidivists and non-recidivists from Florida (n-300), we investigated whether sex offenders who lived closer to schools or daycare centers were more likely to reoffend sexually than those who lived farther away.

No significant differences were found in the distances that recidivists and non-recidivists lived from schools and daycare centers. We compared the proportions of recidivists and non-recidivists who lived within common buffer zones. Offenders who lived within 1000, 1500 or 2500 feet of schools or daycare centers were no more likely to reoffend sexually than those who lived farther away. There was a virtually non-existent correlation between reoffending and proximity to schools or daycare centers.

Sex Offenders and Disintegrative Shaming

January 9, 2009 Comments off

International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology,
Vol. 53, No. 1, 5-28 (2009)
Sage Publications (registration required to view full text)

Lifers on the Outside: Sex Offenders and Disintegrative Shaming
Monica L. P. Robbers, Marymount University, Arlington, Virginia

This article examines the effects of labeling though informal and formal sanctions on sex offender reintegration, using qualitative analysis from a probability sample of 153 registered sex offenders in four counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It also provides an overview of sex offender legislation and literature. Results of the study indicate that the majority of respondents experienced negative treatment because of their status as a sex offender. Results also indicate that formal and informal sanctions are stifling opportunities for sex offenders to be fully reintegrated into society and that treatment programs are not as effective as they could be. Implications for sex offender policy and further research are discussed.

from Sex Offender Statistics

Registering Harm: A briefing book on the Adam Walsh Act

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Justice Policy Institute- Registering Harm: A briefing book on the Adam Walsh Act

Congress passed the Adam Walsh Act, a federal law that requires states to include children as young as age 14 on registries — often for the rest of their lives — in an attempt to protect our children from sexual violence. But the Adam Walsh Act won’t keep our children safe. Instead, this law will consume valuable law enforcement resources, needlessly target children and families, and undermine the very purpose of the juvenile justice system. Thankfully, states can opt out of compliance with this law, and make smart investments in programs and policies that will actually protect our children and our communities.

Why expanding registries won’t protect our children.

Congress’ well-intentioned effort to protect our children by expanding sex offender registries won’t work because registries fail to recognize the complex realities of sexual offending. A large percentage of sex offenses are committed by people known to the victim — including family members. A U.S. Department of Justice study shows that, among youth who were victims of sexual violence, almost half (49 percent) of youth under age six and 42 percent of children ages six to 11 in the study were sexually assaulted by a family member. Overall, the study concluded that 34 percent of youth victims (0–17 years old) were sexually assaulted by a family member and 59 percent were assaulted by acquaintances. In other words, only 7 percent of youth victims in this study were assaulted by strangers. Since most people who commit sex offenses are “first-time offenders,” meaning that they have never been convicted of a sex offense, the majority of people committing sex offenses would not already be on the registry. Having a registry can therefore create a false sense of security within families and communities, who might rely on the registry to identify people who may be a threat to their safety.
Being on a registry can hinder a person’s ability to access rehabilitative services needed to lead a productive life and engage in appropriate, legal behavior. Registries can impede access to employment, housing and education, which have been shown to be an integral part of the re-entry process and a necessity for young people who are trying to turn their lives around. Instead of funding preventative programs, registries burden our already over-taxed law enforcement resources and create public safety hazards.

The Adam Walsh Act consumes resources that should be spent on programs proven to protect our children and communities The Adam Walsh Act requires states to register more people and keep track of them for even longer periods of time, without the availability of substantial additional federal funding. All states currently have some form of registry and community notification, but fully implementing AWA poses significant financial and logistical challenges. As an unfunded mandate, the AWA provides little federal funding for implementation and stands to cost states more than they will receive in federal funding. AWA requires states to participate in a national registry and to disseminate the registry widely throughout communities. States that intend to comply with AWA should be prepared to finance new software and technology costs to fully implement the registry.

The Adam Walsh Act needlessly targets children and families

In the push to target people that may actually pose a significant danger to the public, youth convicted of sex offenses have been swept up in legislation that publicly brands them as sexual predators. Research has shown, however, that juvenile sexual offending is very different from adult sexual offending, and that youth are not committing the majority of sex offenses.

The Adam Walsh Act compromises public safety

Reliance on registries creates the illusion that parents can protect their children from sexual violence simply by checking an online database. A survey of mental health professionals found that 70 percent of those surveyed felt that “a listing of sex offenders on the web would create a false sense of security for parents who might feel that they can protect their children simply by checking a web site.” Despite registry requirements and stiff penalties for not registering, registries are often inaccurate and out of date. The result is misdirected apprehension and the alienation of people who live at an address listed on the database, but who have never been convicted of any crime.

In every state, the first-year cost of implementing the Adam Walsh Act outweighs the cost of losing 10 percent of the state’s Byrne grant money. The Justice Policy Institute calculated estimates of the potential costs of coming into compliance with Title I of the Adam Walsh Act based on the fiscal impact drafted by one state. States that complete individual, comprehensive analyses based on their unique statutory and law enforcement characteristics may arrive at different figures. Regardless of individual state differences in statutes, technology, and law enforcement resources, the added staff and technology needed to come into full compliance with the AWA is sure to exceed the Byrne funds that would be lost by not complying.

In the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission’s Fiscal Impact Statement for Proposed Legislation, Senate Bill No. 590 – ID# 08-0244808, the state found that implementing a registry and notification system that would be in compliance with the Adam Walsh Act would cost $12,497,267 in the first year of implementation.

Justice Policy Institute: Cost for states to comply with AWA

Court strikes down federal sex offender law

January 9, 2009 Comments off

GoogleNews/AP : Court strikes down federal sex offender (civil commitment) law.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Congress overstepped its authority when it enacted a law allowing the federal government to hold sex offenders in custody indefinitely beyond the end of their prison terms, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The law allowing civil commitment of “sexually dangerous” federal inmates intrudes on police powers that the Constitution reserves for states, many of which have their own similar statutes, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.

Civil commitment power “is among the most severe wielded by any government,” Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote. “The Framers, distrustful of such authority, reposed such broad powers in the states, limiting the national government to specific and enumerated powers.”

In upholding a decision by U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt of Raleigh, N.C., the 4th Circuit became the first federal appeals court to rule on an issue that has divided courts nationwide. A judge in Minnesota reached the same conclusion as Britt, while courts in Hawaii, Oklahoma and Massachusetts upheld the measure.

Thursday’s ruling is binding only in the states included in the 4th Circuit: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Maryland.

U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Charles Miller said it was too early to comment on what steps the government might take next. The department could appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court or seek a rehearing before the full federal appeals court.

Elizabeth Luck, a spokeswoman for the federal public defender’s office in Raleigh, declined to comment. The public defender represented five inmates who challenged the law after they were kept in custody beyond the end of their sentences at the federal prison hospital in Butner, N.C.

Civil commitment was authorized by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which also establishes a national sex offender registry, increases punishments for some federal crimes against children and strengthens child pornography protections. Those provisions are not affected by the ruling.

The appeals court found no merit in the government’s argument that it had constitutional authority to enact the civil commitment law under the Commerce Clause, ruling that “sexual dangerousness does not substantially affect interstate commerce.” The government also relied on a clause authorizing Congress to enact “all laws which shall be necessary and proper” for executing federal powers, but the court said that applies only to powers enumerated by the Constitution.

“Congress’s perceived need for the sort of civil commitment statute at issue here does not create constitutional power where none exists,” Motz wrote. “Congress must instead seek alternative, constitutional means of achieving what may well be commendable objectives.”

Motz was joined in the opinion by Judge G. Steven Agee and visiting U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris.