Despite research that shows sex offender residency requirements hamper the rehabilitation of offenders, jurisdictions continue to pass them, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Experts say the laws, which prohibit convicted sex offenders from living within a certain distance of schools, day care centers and parks, also don’t work to help cut down on recidivism. These types of residency restrictions have been passed in at least 30 states and thousands of municipalities nationwide. Even as prosecutors, criminal justice researchers, and child advocates say they don’t work, parents and legislators continue to push for the tough laws.
Those who have studied the issue know that residency restrictions push sex offenders outside of metropolitan areas into rural communities. That means less access to family, housing, employment and treatment programs, said Jill Levenson, a professor at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fl., who has been studying sex crime policy. “At first glance, these laws sound good in theory,” she said. “But it’s much more complex than that.” The visceral reaction of “not in my neighborhood,” needs to be balanced with pragmatism, she said. Part of the problem is that residency restrictions are often one-size-fits-all. They often don’t distinguish among the types of crimes that have been committed. Just because someone is designated a sex offender does not necessarily mean that that person is a sexually violent predator or a pedophile.