Studies and Articles on Residency Restrictions
The following links are to research studies and journal articles on the issue of the effectiveness and impacts of sex offender residency laws.
Studies done to date have found that living in close proximity to places where children gather IS NOT A FACTOR IN RECIDIVISM.
As these research articles reveal, residency restrictions often can leave law abiding registrants, and by extension their families, with few, if any, housing opportunities in a community – a steep burden to bear for a policy lacking in any empirical data to justify it.
As with all sex offender sanctions, this policy is rooted in the myth of high recidivism.
Jurist.org, Supported by University of Pittsburg Law School
An article by the noted sex offense researcher Jill Levenson, Ph.D., of Lynn University, stating in part:
“…sexual recidivists do not appear to live closer to schools or parks than non-recidivists, suggesting that residential proximity to such venues is not a contributing factor to re-offending. Furthermore, sex offenders rarely prey on young children in or near parks, libraries or schools and sexually motivated abductions of children are very rare events. Laws restricting where sex offenders live or work will do little to prevent the most common circumstances in which children are sexually abused, through positions of authority and familiarity.”
Kelly M. Socia, The University at Albany, School of Criminal Justice
A study of the impacts of county-level residency restrictions imposed by several counties in New York State, finding in part that:
“Overall, the present study supports prior research that found residence restrictions were not effective at incapacitating recidivistic sex crimes that were committed against either children or adults. Given that many of these crimes occur among acquaintances and not among geographically proximate strangers (Greenfield, 1997), as well as indications that these policies are passed for political reasons, this finding is not surprising."
A map study illustrating the impacts of residency restrictions on housing choices (in this example Albany, NY) can be found here.
Kansas Department of Corrections
Twenty Findings of Research on Residential Restrictions for Sex Offenders and the Iowa Experience with Similar Policies, including:
“Research shows that there is no correlation between residency restrictions and reducing sex offenses against children or improving the safety of children.”
“The sex offender residency restriction was a very well intentioned effort to keep the children of our communities safe from sex offenders. It has, however, had unintended consequences that effectively decrease community safety."
Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA)
A position paper by ATSA, the leading treatment organization of sexual offenders comprised of therapists, social workers, parole and probation officers, which concluded in part:
“There is no research to support that adult sex offenders’ proximity to schools or parks leads to recidivism. Researchers from the Minnesota Department of Corrections found that not one of 224 recidivistic adult sex offenses would have been prevented by a residential restriction law. In Florida, researchers found that the distance adult sex offenders lived from schools and daycares was not associated with recidivism; recidivists did not live closer to schools and daycares than non-recidivists (Zandbergen, Hart, & Levenson, 2010). The bottom line is that adult sex offenders do not molest children because they live near schools.”
Jill Levenson, Ph.D. Lynn University; Paul Zandbergen, Ph.D., Universtiy of New Mexico,; Timothy Hart, Ph.D., University of Nevada
Of all the sex offenders registered on the Florida Sex Offender Registryin 2004, 165 were rearrested in 2004-2005. This group formed the sample to study their residential proximity to places where children gather. Among the studies conclusions:
“Proximity to schools and daycares, with other risk factors being comparable, explains virtually none of the variation in sexual recidivism. Sex offenders who lived within closer proximity to schools and daycare centers did not reoffend more frequently than those who lived farther away. These data do not justify the widespread enactment of residential restrictions for sexual offenders. The time that police and probation officers spend addressing housing issues is likely to divert law enforcement resources away from behaviors that truly threaten our communities in order to attend to a problem that simply does not exist.”
Jill Levenson, Ph.D., LCSW, Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL
A study of 109 persons required to register in Broward County, Florida and the impacts of enacted residency restrictions. Among its findings:
“Residence restrictions appear to interfere with social support and stability for most registered sex offenders. Many reported transience as a result of housing restrictions, including multiple moves and homelessness.”
“Residence restrictions were especially detrimental for younger offenders. They experienced more transience and homelessness, probably as a result of being unable to live with their families in residential neighborhoods near places where children gather. Similar findings were documented in Indiana (Levenson & Hern, 2007). Because most young adults are still dependent on their parents financially and psychologically, housing laws may be uniquely problematic for this subgroup.”
Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice
A policy paper indicating the particular problem that residency restrictions present in urbanized areas, where overlapping safety zones often resulting in entire municipalities being off limits. From the report:
“If unable to find legal housing, offenders may report false addresses, become homeless or go underground. Others may be forced to live in rural areas with less access to employment or mental health services. Even in rural areas where schools and day care centers are more geographically dispersed, most unrestricted land is forest or farmland.”
Minnesota Department of Corrections
This study examined sex offender recidivism and the effect of residency laws. Between 1990 and 2002, 3,166 sex offenders were released from state prisons, of which 224 were returned to prison for a new sex crime through 2006. The report states:
“Not one of the 224 sex offenses would likely have been deterred by a residency restrictions law. Only 79 (35 percent) of the cases involved offenders who established direct contact with their victims... A juvenile was the victim in 16 of the 28 cases. But none of the 16 cases involved offenders who established victim contact near a school, park, or other prohibited area. …even when offenders established direct contact with victims, they were unlikely to do so close to where they lived. This may be due mostly to the fact that offenders are more likely to be recognized within their own neighborhoods. As a result, when direct contact offenders look for a victim, they are more likely to go to an area relatively close to home (i.e. within 20 miles of their residence), but still far enough away (i.e. more than one mile) to decrease the chances of being recognized.”