difficult to ascertain which policies were responsible for the decline.154 Many social, economic,
and political factors contributed to this trend: the economic optimism of the 1990s, increased
numbers of police officers and child social workers, enhanced efforts to identify and incarcerate
abusers, and widespread use of prescription medicine to curb aggressive behavior and
Research focusing specifically on the impact of registration and notification laws,
however, is mixed. Some researchers have found that registration laws—those that require
offenders to report to police, but do not offer public information—are associated with a decrease
in crime.156 The researchers note, however, that this decrease in the overall frequency of crime is
most likely associated with fewer attacks against victims within their own communities, because
the frequency of attacks against strangers appears to be unaffected by registration.157 Moreover,
registration laws, and specifically the residency requirements within them, have the potential to
push released offenders away from social services in their communities that they may need to
facilitate their rehabilitation in favor of moving to a new community where they can remain
anonymous.158 These requirements have also made it difficult for local law enforcement agencies
to maintain contact with all those required to register.159 In 2003, California admitted to losing
track of 33,000 of the state’s registered sex offenders.160 There are over 600,000 people on sex
offender registries throughout the U.S., which makes it difficult for law enforcement to monitor
Research is similarly bleak when it comes to notification laws. In a small sample area, it
appears that notification laws may be effective at reducing crime slightly, but that benefit
disappears as more offenders are added to the notification list.162 When registration and
notification laws are combined, which is the effect of the Adam Walsh Act, research has shown a
slight increase in the number of sex offenses.163 One study found that a decrease in recidivism
due to registration was counteracted by the notification requirements.164 This led the researchers
to conclude that the impositions of an offender’s diminished social standing, loss of support
network, and difficulty finding a job makes him or her more likely to recidivate.165 The only type
of law that has been found to be successful in terms of preventing recidivism is broad community
notification of Tier 3 offenders.166 A recent Minnesota study found that broad community
154 Id. at 185.
155 Id. None of these factors have been causally linked by evidence but each one has implications for prevention of future childhood
sexual abuse. Id. These developments, however, indicate that further research should be done on the ability of mental health treatment
to curb recidivism in sexual abusers, and that school-based education programs should not be abandoned because “they may be
connected with the improvements.” Id.
156 Prescott & Rockoff, supra note 7, at 164, 181 (finding that registration in an average-sized registry resulted in a yearly reduction of
1.21 sex offenses per 10,000 people).
157 Id. at 164.
158 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, NO EASY ANSWERS: SEX OFFENDER LAWS IN THE US 9 (2007), available at
159 Id. at 45.
162 Prescott & Rockoff, supra note 7, at 192. “When a registry is of average size, adding a notification regime effectively increases the
number of sex offenses by more than 1.57 percent.” Id. The study found that notification may deter nonregistered offenders, but
encourage recidivism among registered offenders. Id. The Act has provisions for registration of convicted sex offenders, as well as
maintenance of public websites containing information about the offenders. 42 U.S.C.A. § 16920 (West 2014).
163 Prescott & Rockoff, supra note 7, at 192.
164 Wilson, supra note 7, at 524 (concluding that “whereas some nonregistered or potential offenders may be deterred by the threat of
notification and its associated costs, the ex post imposition of those sanctions on convicted offenders may make them more likely to