Fast Facts About Public Policies and Laws Dealing With Sexual Offending
Fact 1: Laws are most effective when they are evidence-based.
Laws that are developed based on sound research and experiential evidence offer the best options for managing individuals who have sexually offended and keeping communities safe. Laws based on anecdotes and stereotypes are less likely to be effective and may create unintended negative consequences. Most sex offender registry laws and residence restrictions fall into the second category -- they are not based on evidence and they do little to promote public safety.
Fact 2: Mandatory sentencing and one-size-fits-all laws are easy to enact, but do little to solve problems.
It may be simpler to enact laws that treat everyone alike, but mandatory sex offender registration is not cost-effective and does little to promote public safety. Requiring registration for a mandatory number of years based solely on a crime rather than on an individualized assessment of a person’s risk and needs places many low-risk offenders on the registry, subjects them and their families to financial and social hardships, and wastes scarce law enforcement funding for needless monitoring. Communities and taxpayers are better served by investing more resources upfront in assessment to develop customize sanctions for each individual.
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ATSA blog posts
- HR1761: Bad Policy on the Horizon, June 13, 2017
- Q & A with Sandy Jung on “Sexual Violence Risk Prediction in a Police Context”, January 13, 2017
The following citations reflect research, publications, and presentations by current ATSA members.
- Hidden challenges: Sex offenders legislated into homelessness: Levenson (2018)
- Law enforcement perspectives on sex offender registration and notification: Effectiveness, challenges, and policy priorities: Harris, Levenson, Lobanov-Rostovsky, & Walfield (2018)
- Sex offender management policies and evidence-based recommendations for registry reform: Levenson (2018)
- Community protection policies and repeat sexual offenses in Florida: Levenson & Zgoba (2016)
- Commercial sexual exploitation of children and the emergence of safe harbor legislation: Implications for policy and practice: Shields & Letourneau (2015)
- How many sex offenders really live among us? Adjusted counts and population rates in five U.S. states: Ackerman, Levenson, & Harris (2012)
- Professionals' understanding of government strategies for the management of child sexual abusers: McCartan (2012)
- Community protection from sexual violence: Levenson (2011)
- Preventing sexual violence: Can examination of offense location inform sex crime policy?: Colombino, Mercado, Levenson, & Jeglic (2011)
- Sex offender policies in an era of zero tolerance: Levenson (2011)
- Sex offender residence restriction laws: Parental perceptions and public policy: Mancini, Shields, Mears, & Beaver (2010)
- Widening the net: The effects of transitioning to the Adam Walsh Act's federally mandated sex offender classification system: Harris, Lobanov-Rostovsky, & Levenson (2010)
- Restricting sex offender residences: Policy implications: Levenson (2009)
- The impact of specialized sex offender legislation on community reentry: Mercado, Alvarez, & Levenson (2008)
- Is this any way to develop policy?: Miner (2007)
- Myths and facts about sexual offenders: Implications for treatment and public policy: Fortney, Levenson, Brannon, & Baker (2007)
- Social policies designed to prevent sexual violence: The Emperor's new clothes?: Levenson & D’Amora (2007)
- When evidence is ignored: Residential restrictions for sex offenders: Tewksbury & Levenson (2007)
- What we know and do not know about assessing and treating sex offenders: Becker & Murphy (1998)
Additional resources will be listed soon.