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Evaluating the Effectiveness of Sex Offender Registration and Notification Policies for Reducing Sexual Violence against Women, Executive Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
6 pages
The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of one state's sex offender registration and notification policy in reducing sexual violence.
The problem of sexual violence is a national legislative priority as evidenced by numerous sex offender-specific policies enacted at the Federal level over the past 15 years. Specifics vary among States regarding criminal justice responses to sex offending, but all such policies have as their primary goals the prevention of sexual violence and the reduction of sexual re-offending. This study examined the effects of comprehensive registration and community notification policies on rates of sexual violence in South Carolina. Specifically, broad sex offender registration and notification policies have reduced recidivism or deterred new sexual offenses and whether unintended effects of broad registration and notification policies have occurred. Results from this program of research indicate that: 1) Sex offender registration and notification (SORN), as implemented in South Carolina, appears to have a positive impact on general deterrence associated with averting new, first-time sex crimes. 2) SORN policy has no effect on deterring the risk of sexual recidivism. 3) SORN policy does exert unintended effects on judicial decision making with respect to adult sex crime cases. An increased number of defendants were permitted to plead to non-sex charges following the onset of SORN policy and following its modification to require online notification. The net effects of this change could be to reduce community safety by increasing the likelihood that defendants guilty of sex crimes pleaded to non-sex crimes or were acquitted altogether. 4) It does not appear that registered sex offenders who failure to register are more sexually dangerous than compliant registrants.

Date Published: January 1, 2010