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Examining the Effectiveness of Sex Offender Policies

In the United States, those who commit sex crimes, or those who find themselves on a sex offender registry, are usually persona non grata. Whether they served time or not, generally speaking, the punishment can last a lifetime.

Job availability all but vanishes. Although it makes sense that in most states, sex offenders cannot work with vulnerable populations such as the elderly and children, some states get very particular about which jobs sex offenders are allowed to have.

Residency bans. After serving time in prison, sex offenders can find themselves unable to move back to their hometown, or sometimes, many towns, due to city-wide residency bans. Usually, one can’t live near schools, but sometimes it can be other places like near churches. This limit on where a sex offender can live actually causes increases in homelessness.

Due to strong public beliefs about the ever-present, high chance for re-offending, sex offender residency bans and registries get little pushback. But as Quartz has shown, there are many studies that show sex crime recidivism can actually increase due to these laws. With nowhere to live or work, sex offenders have virtually no way to reintegrate into society. Studies also show that recidivism rates are actually lower than most people believe.

Sex crimes are also wide-ranging. Depending on the state (note: not in New York), these crimes can put someone on the sex offender registry:

  • Consensual sex between underage teens (i.e., statutory rape)
  • Public urination
  • Prostitution-related offenses e.g., solicitation, running a brothel

In some states, sex offenders can be listed on their registries for a lifetime, regardless of the severity of the charge. New York State has a minimum of 25 years, and, depending on the severity of the crime and the risk to re-offend, can have offenders on the registry for a lifetime.

If sex offender rates of recidivism aren’t as high as one would think, then there needs to be nationwide reform regarding sex offender policies. There has been no evidence that these policies actually work to reduce recidivism rates and, thus, keep the public safe. Slate outlines a variety of ways that can help integrate sex offenders productively back into society.

If you have been charged with a sex crime, you have a lot at stake. As such, please contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.

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