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Never Going Home: Does It Make Us Safer? Does It Make Sense? Sex Offenders, Residency Restrictions, and Reforming Risk Management Law

This article analyzes whether State laws that place residency restrictions on sex offenders are both constitutional and effective at reducing sex offender risk.

The analysis indicates that State residence restrictions on sex offenders have statistical, political, and constitutional problems. The author argues that uniformly applied residency restriction laws will most likely fail judicial scrutiny and are ineffective at preventing sex offender recidivism. Three main concerns with residency restrictions are identified as: (1) the laws are based on two flawed premises--that sex offenders target unknown children in their neighborhood and that sex offenders reoffend at higher rates than other felons; (2) they are a heavy tax burden on the government; and (3) they provoke two real estate crises--one in the already undesirable communities where sex offenders often end up living and one for low-income sex offenders themselves.

Best practice methods for managing sex offender risk in the community are examined, including the use of risk assessment criteria to match post-release restrictions to prior acts and future risk; indeterminate sentencing; civil commitments; and sex offender reentry courts. The author proposes that a comprehensive risk management system that relies on a mix of methods and focuses most restrictions on the highest risk sex offenders is the most efficient and effective means of sex offender community management.

During the past 5 years, 13 States have passed laws forbidding sex offenders from living within a certain distance of schools, parks, day care centers, and “places where children normally congregate.” Such laws even hold a sex offender in violation if at any point in the future one of the restricted uses, such as a day care center, were to be built within the proscribed number of feet from their current residence. ..more.. by Caleb Durling, published in: Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology Volume:97 Issue:1 Dated:Fall 2006 Pages:317 to 364

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