Alisa Klein, Public Policy Consultant, Association for the Treatment of Sex Abusers, Beaverton, Oregon
NIJ Conference 2010
Alisa Klein: There's a trend in sex offender policy right now and it is to increase punishment, increase surveillance and to really monitor sex offenders in a way that we've seen from the research is actually not very effective. We're seeing two things in particular. We're seeing residence restrictions for sex offenders from state to state. We currently have 27 states that have implemented residence restrictions for sex offenders and then hundreds and hundreds of other local jurisdictions — counties, cities, towns and townships — that are also implementing residence restrictions that are often harsher than those that are implemented by the state.
The other trend we're seeing is community notification, and that is something actually that's now mandated at the federal level. We're seeing 50 states, 197 Indian tribes and the five U.S. territories are all mandated by the federal government to implement a particular form of community notification. It's Internet-based notification, broad notification for all sex offenders no matter what their level of risk to the community.
Both of these things are things that we have good solid research on that show us that in fact these are not the methodologies that we need to put into place to keep sex offenders from reoffending. In fact, we're seeing collateral consequences from this kind of legislation, from this kind of policy.
I think that this kind of mega-focus on sex offenders, the known sex offenders, is problematic. We do need to find ways and implement the ways that research is telling us work to manage sex offenders, to supervise them once they return to communities. What we need to be looking at is risk and protective factors. Who is at risk to perpetrate, who we can keep from perpetrating in the future, so that the focus really needs to be moving towards primary prevention and also bringing more of a collaborative approach to how we respond to known sex offenders.
I think that a really important point for us to be focusing on is the role that victim advocacy can play in primary prevention, in the management of sex offenders. It is victims and the people that work with them who know best what victims want, what community members want. We need to be listening to them.
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Alisa Klein, Public Policy Consultant, Association for the Treatment of Sex Abusers
Date created: August 6, 2010