residence restrictions

Hidden challenges: Sex offenders legislated into homelessness

Dr. Jill Levenson recently published an article on sex offenders legislated into homelessness in the Journal of Social WorkYou can read the abstract below. 



 Summary: Zoning laws that prevent sex offenders from living within close proximity to schools and other places where children congregate have proliferated over the past 10 years. In many communities, few dwellings are compliant with these laws, causing sex offenders to become homeless. First, a brief history of residence restriction laws will be provided and then the research around their impact and effectiveness will be summarized, followed by empirically supported recommendations for reform.

 Findings: Legislating individuals into homelessness is not sound social policy, nor is it humane. These laws do not conform to what is known about patterns of sexual perpetration and victimization, and thus do little to prevent recidivistic sexual violence. In fact, these policies may undermine the very factors shown by research to be associated with positive reentry and reduced recidivism.

 Applications: The grand challenge of social justice requires social workers to advocate on behalf of those who are marginalized in our communities including criminal offenders. Research-based policy reform can result in improved public safety outcomes and social justice in our communities.

Grand Challenges: Social Justice and the Need for Evidence-based Sex Offender Registry Reform

Dr. Jill Levenson and her colleagues have published a paper in the current issue of The Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare.   The article addresses many of the social justice implications of sex crimes policies and makes recommendations for registry reform. 

Abstract: Sex offender registries, though popular, bring with them enormous fiscal costs and unintended consequences for offenders and communities. Consistent with the Grand Challenges, social workers can play a role in advocating for sex offender management policies that are better informed by evidence and thus a better use of resources. Registry reform would also mediate the stigma resulting from the sex offender label, and reduce barriers to offender reintegration. A brief history of registration laws and the research regarding their effectiveness will be provided, followed by a rationale for needed improvements in sex offender management policy. Five evidence-based recommendations for reform will be proposed: (1) juveniles should not be subjected to sex offender registration; (2) registration durations should be guided by risk assessment research; (3) procedures for relief and removal from registries should be available; (4) discretion should be returned to judges; (5) residence restrictions should be abolished. Such changes can result in improved public safety outcomes and social justice, as well as reduced fiscal and social costs.

Sex Offender Residential Mobility and Relegation: The Collateral Consequences Continue

Dr. Richard Tewksbury is co-author on a recent paper which focused on how sex offenders continue to be relegated to socially disorganized neighborhoods. This 2016 study, published in the American Journal of Criminal Justiceconfirms findings from his 2006 study on a similar topic. 

Abstract: Prior research (see American Journal of Criminal Justice 30 (2), 177–192, 2006a) examined the residential locations and mobility of registered sex offenders and showed a common movement into increasingly socially disorganized neighborhoods after 5 years of registration. The present study examines whether or not this downward spiral continues for these sex offenders 10 years later. We examined 212 registrants from the original study and found that since their original arrest 38 % of the registrants have moved into a more socially disorganized neighborhood than their previous address. The only variable found to influence the likelihood of move to a more socially disorganized neighborhood is race, with minority sex offenders most affected. The findings suggest that the collateral consequences of sex offender policies have longterm deleterious effects on housing for sex offenders.

Examining the Correlates of Sex Offender Residence Restriction Violation Rates

In a new study published in the Journal of Quantitative CriminologyDr. Jason Rydberg and his colleagues assessed correlates of sex offender residence restriction violations. 

Abstract: Although several studies have warned that enacting sex offender residence restrictions (SORR) will result in a large number of sex offenders needing to relocate their housing, additional research has found that large proportions of sex offenders (from 30 - 90%) continued to live at addresses in violation of SORR policies. We sought to explore the correlates of SORR violation rates at the county level across Michigan and Missouri. We found that counties with higher levels of concentrated disadvantage had significantly higher violation rates. This finding was isolated to sex offenders following SORR implementation and was not observed among pre-SORR sex offenders, or pre/post SORR non-sex offenders. The research suggests that the factors which drive SORR violations may vary considerably across states, and research into SORR implementation will be necessary to understand the mechanism underlying this relationship.