Letourneau, 67 President St. It has been estimated that in excess of , convicted sex offenders are required to reg- ister in the United States. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Past and present SORN policies are based on the belief that providing law enforce- ment agents and community members with information regarding the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders enhances public safety. Hypothesized mechanisms of action include deterring registered offenders from reoffending because of a perceived increased threat of detection.
SORN also seeks to increase the likelihood that recidi- vists will be quickly detected because of increased surveillance of offenders by community members and law enforcement agents LaFond, Finally, it is expected that public disclosure arms the public with information by which to protect themselves by avoiding known perpetrators.
These beliefs are largely unsupported by available evidence. For example, one national study reported a 5. Longer follow-up periods are associated with higher recidivism rates but still do not approach public opinions about inevitable recidivism.
Thus prevention strategies that target known perpetrators may have little impact on reducing sexual violence and therefore deserve close exami- nation. The expectation that community members will take protective action as a result of community notification also is questionable.
Even in light of generally low sex offender recidivism rates and potentially limited community member protective behavioral changes, SORN policies might still exert effects on sex crime rates. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether SORN laws in South Carolina are effec- tive in reducing recidivism.
History and Description of SORN Laws Although sex offender registration statutes have been enacted on a limited basis since the s Logan, , the Jacob Wetterling Act was the first federal policy to Letourneau et al. The original purpose of registration was to provide a tool by which law enforcement could quickly identify and apprehend or rule out potential suspects in cases of child abduction or other sexually motivated crimes.
Although SORN policies are federally mandated, states historically have enjoyed substantial discretion regarding implementation procedures. To differentiate between lower and higher risk offenders, these states utilize empirically derived risk factors or actuarial risk assessment instruments to assess potential for reoffense, with information disseminated to a wider audience for higher risk offenders who pose a greater threat to public safety.
Other states, such as Wisconsin, linked community notification proce- dures to crime severity, with more information released for offenders convicted of more serious sex crimes. In particular, the AWA eliminates state prerogatives regarding which registered offenders should be included on online registries.
Thus all states are now required to implement broad notification in which all registered offenders are publicly identified via Internet- based registry sites. States are now required to classify offenders into tiers using an offense-based taxonomy rather than empirically derived risk assessment.
Furthermore, the Act extends mandatory registration and online notification to juvenile offenders as young as 14 years, to misdemeanor offenders, and to offenders convicted of noncontact sex crimes.
If states comply with the AWA, more offenders will be included on online registries for longer periods of time. Thus policy makers might benefit from research on the actual effects of SORN policies on offender recidivism. There are numerous challenges to synthesizing the find- ings of these studies, given their substantial methodological variation, particularly with respect to subject selection and analytic procedures.
Nevertheless, some patterns appear to be emerging. For example, 5 of the 6 group comparison studies failed to find support for an effect of SORN on sex offender recidivism. Pairs of offenders were matched on number of sex crime convictions and age of victim.
Results indicated no significant differences in the rates of recidivism for the notification and nonnotification groups e. Across an average 4. Groups were not matched, but differed significantly on just 2 of 20 Letourneau et al.