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States Examine Residency Restrictions for Individuals Convicted of Sex Crimes January 22, 2008

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

In the past decade, more than 20 states and hundreds of municipalities across the nation have enacted laws restricting where sex offenders may reside. Most of these laws prohibit sex offenders from living within 500 to 2,500 feet of schools, childcare centers, playgrounds, and other places frequented by children. The purpose of these laws is to decrease opportunities for sex offenders to have contact with vulnerable populations, which lawmakers believe will ultimately reduce the risk of child sexual abuse and sexual assault.

Opponents of residency restriction laws, however, raise questions about their effectiveness in preventing further criminal activity, pointing to studies that show no effect on recidivism (for example, see “Level III Sex Offenders: Residential Placement Issues” from the Minnesota Department of Corrections). They also highlight the unintended consequences of such restrictions, such as greater difficulty monitoring sex offenders who are under community supervision. Residency restrictions often leave many neighborhoods and housing complexes off-limits to registered sex offenders, leading some of these individuals to become homeless and/or transient and making them less likely to report to their parole or probation officers.

In response to these concerns, some state legislatures are re-evaluating their residency restriction laws. Other states have seen challenges to the constitutionality of these laws:

Residency restrictions are among many issues relating to persons convicted of sexual crimes that policymakers, criminal justice officials, advocates, and others are currently discussing in the states. To view examples of recently enacted laws concerning sex offenders, see the Reentry Policy Council’s 2006-2007 legislation roundup.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center, which coordinates the Reentry Policy Council, has received funding support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, to develop a policy guide which will help policymakers and practitioners make thoughtful, informed decisions when examining housing options for adults who have been released to the community after serving time for committing sex crimes. For more information on this project, click here.

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