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Understanding Law Enforcement Perspectives on Sex Offender Registration and Notification

Award Information

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Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $233,307)

Since the 1990s, sex offender registration and notification (SORN) has emerged as a ubiquitous element of United States sex offender management policy and practices. All U.S. states and territories and over 100 tribal jurisdictions operate public sex offender registries,and a sequence of congressional legislation has asserted an increasing federal role in setting standards for these systems, structure and operation. Efforts to reform the nation's SORN systems have particularly accelerated in the years following the passage of the 2006 Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.
Law enforcement professionals represent the front line of SORN policies, performing functions related to registry management, monitoring, compliance checks, victim outreach, and active community notification. Beyond this, they may rely upon registry data for a range of investigation, crime prevention, and resource deployment purposes. Yet although SORN policies and systems have attracted considerable research attention in recent years, remarkably little is known about how sex offender registration and notification systems are used, perceived, and experienced by law enforcement professionals in the context of their work.
This project will fill the critical gap in our understanding through the first comprehensive national assessment of law enforcement uses of and perspectives on sex offender registration and notification systems. This two-year, mixed method study will involve the collection and analysis of individual and group interview data from over 100 law enforcement line and command staff across two-dozen county, local and tribal jurisdictions, and the administration of a nationwide survey of 1,500 law enforcement agencies. The researchers aim to: 1) assess and inventory the ways in which SORN data are used in the domains of criminal investigation, incident responses, community-based crime prevention, and managerial decision-making; 2) examine the perceptions of law enforcement line and command staff regarding the effectiveness, reliability, and utility of the SORN systems; 3) evaluate the association between these perceptions and specific legal, procedural, operational, and structural characteristics of state-level SORN systems; and 4) develop recommendations for how SORN systems may be made more responsive to the demands of law enforcement management and practice.
Reflecting its applied orientation, the project design features a series of evidence integration roundtables designed to translate study findings into actionable recommendations for federal and state level SORN policy, registry system design and operational protocols, and law enforcement training initiatives. ca/ncf

Date Created: September 12, 2013