Laws designed to restrict where sex offenders can live “are really and truly useless, except as a means of politicians scoring easy political points by ratcheting up hysteria,” writes Jesse Singal in New York Magazine. There are many tricky social-scientific issues on which there are a range of opinions and some degree of debate among experts, he writes, but this isn’t one of them. Among those whose job it is to figure out how to reduce the rate at which sex offenders commit crimes, there is zero controversy: These laws don’t work, and may actually increase sexual offenders’ recidivism rates.
Singal cites policy papers and other published evidence. He also asked Karen Terry and Cynthia Calkins Mercado, both professors at John Jay College of Criminal Justice whose primary area of expertise is sex offenders, whether the residency policies work. Terry said, “To date, there is no empirical evidence that these policies reduce the rate of sexual offending.” Mercado added that there’s “considerable evidence that these restrictions make readjustment to the community more difficult and thus may inadvertently increase risk for recidivism.”