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Sex Offender Community Notification by Peter Finn

February 1997 National:
.This Research in Action presents the findings of a 1996 telephone survey by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) of 13 criminal justice system practitioners in eight States regarding practices related to implementing State legislation that mandates or authorizes informing local communities about the presence of a sexual offender. ..more.. : by Peter Finn
P-13-14: Harming offenders. Commentators have expressed concern that harassment of offenders has occurred as a result of community notification.27 By contrast, most practitioners contacted for this review reported that notification has led to little or no harassment in their jurisdictions.

According to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy evaluation study director, harassment in Washington State has not been nearly as severe or as frequent as expected. The institute recorded 14 cases in the State over a three-year period.28 The police officer in Seattle was aware of only two cases of harassment in six years. The Thurston County detective had heard of only minor harassment, such as when a teenager called a young offender a pervert.

According to a survey of 45 probation and parole sex offender specialists from 35 counties in Oregon who were supervising 2,160 sex offenders, less than ten percent of offenders experienced some form of harassment, such as name calling, graffiti, picketing, and minor property vandalism. Two extreme cases of retaliation were reported: one sex offender had a gun pointed at him and another was threatened with having his house burned down.29

An experienced probation officer in Oregon recalled only one example of harassment, when someone had written angry words on an offender’s automobile windows. Respondents in Oregon and Washington State reported that whatever harassment has occurred has declined over time.

27. Cohen, F. From the editor: Sex offender registration laws: Constitutional and policy issues. Criminal Law Bulletin, 195, 31(2): 151–60; Pullen and English, Law Enforcement Registration; Thomas and Lieb, Sex Offender Registration; Montana, Note: An ineffective weapon; Steinbock, A policy perspective. (None available on the Internet)

28. Donnelly and Lieb, Washington’s Community Notification Law.

29. Sex Offender Supervision Network, Sex Offender Community Notification in Oregon.(not available on the Internet)

It is important to note that the study did not try to gather harassment statistics from registrants who are NOT on parole or probation. WHY? Because there is no system of recording harassment or other types of harm suffered by registrants or their families. In fact, there is no system anywhere in the nation that does that. Hence the focus of this blog.

Also important is, that if folks on parole or probation are having trouble in the community, and tell their supervising agent, it is very likely they will be told to move somewhere else and they have no say about that. So, although they did get some responses (i.e., harassement less than 10%) that is probably a very low percentage.

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