notification of Tier 3 offenders significantly reduced recidivism of those offenders over an eight-year period.167 However, the study notes that this decrease could also be attributed to the fact that
the offenders were placed in intensive supervision, which could have reduced their recidivism
3. Implications of Reform for Offenders and Communities
This inefficacy is particularly troubling when examining the detrimental effects these
laws have on the lives and families of those convicted. When a community recognizes an
individual as a sexual predator, he experiences diminished social standing that leads to social
sanctions such as loss of job, spouse, or friends.169 Since the passage of the Adam Walsh Act,
local police departments are required to notify the community of Tier 3 offenders and some do so
very publicly by putting up billboards, announcing sex offenders’ addresses on the front page of
newspapers, and handing out flyers door to door.170 Some scholars suggest that because
offenders’ social position leaves them feeling marginalized, they are less likely to accept
mainstream societal norms, and thus recidivate.171
Since the adoption of Jessica’s Law, many communities have restricted where these
registered sex offenders can live in their communities.172 These residency restrictions are
particularly troubling because they limit a convicted sex offender’s ability to find stable housing
or employment.173 Residency regulations typically restrict an offender from living within 1000 to
2500 feet of a school, or near daycare centers or parks.174 Only limited empirical data addresses
whether these residency restrictions are effective.175 One study from Minnesota found no link
between the proximity of sexual offenders to institutions that house children and recidivism
rates.176 In fact, researchers found that the restrictions actually compromised public safety,
because the offenders were unable to find housing and more likely to recidivate.177 In Miami, a
shantytown of homeless sex offenders housed over seventy individuals who could not find stable
housing due to the restrictions placed on them based on their convictions.178 After changes in
local laws barred offenders from living within 2500 feet of where children gather, the shantytown
167 Id. The Tier 3 offenders in this study were assigned “intensive supervision,” meaning that there was always someone monitoring
them. Id. Thus, the study concluded that the offenders likely internalized the feeling of constant monitoring, thereby deterring their
predatory behavior. Id.
169 Id. at 125.
170 Id. at 87.
171 Id. at 125. These difficulties, such as finding stable relationships and housing, can lead offenders to feeling detached socially. Id.
Furthermore, some people take action against the offenders personally: about one quarter of offenders reported that they had
experienced some kind of vigilante justice once the community was on notice of their presence. Id. One offender recounted, “One day
after I registered I got this note in the mail. It was my name, address, and my charge highlighted and downloaded off the Internet. The
note said ‘ I’m watching you.’ It scared the hell out of me.” Id.
172 Finkelhor, supra note 17, at 175.
173 Terry & Ackerman, supra note 54, at 88.
175 Id.; Levenson, supra note 85, at 273. A New Jersey study in 2008 found that sex offenders lived closer to schools than other
community members, but that sex offenders who had abused children lived farther from the schools than offenders who had harmed
adults. Id. at 276. Another 2008 study found no correlation between the presence of schools and the rate of child sexual abuse. Id. at
277. A Colorado study in 2004 found that sex offenders who recidivate were not more likely to be living near a school than those who
did not recidivate. Id.
176 Janus & Polachek, supra note 6, at 159.
177 Id. Another Minnesota study analyzed 224 sexual offenses perpetrated by criminals who had recidivated and found that “[n]ot one
of the 224 sex offenses would likely have been deterred by a residency restriction law.” Levenson, supra note 85, at 278. Seventy-nine
percent of the incidents were perpetrated against someone the abuser knew, and half of the incidents against strangers were located
more than one mile from the offenders’ homes. Id.