social work

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. 

 

Abstract

 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.