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How Sex Offense Registries Fail Youth and Communities Adam Walsh Act Report, JPI, 2007

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Registering Harm
How sex offense registries fail youth and communities

Congress passed the Adam Walsh Act,
a federal law that requires states to
include children as young as age 14 on
registries — often for the rest of their
lives — in an attempt to protect our
children from sexual violence.
But the Adam Walsh Act won’t keep our
children safe.
Instead, this law will consume valuable
law enforcement resources, needlessly
target children and families, and undermine the very purpose of the juvenile
justice system. Thankfully, states can
opt out of compliance with this law, and
make smart investments in programs
and policies that will actually protect our
children and our communities.

contents
Introduction ................................................................................................................3
The History and Origins of Sex Offender Registries ...............6
The Adam Walsh Act
The Adam Walsh Act explained................................................................................9
The Adam Walsh Act exposed.................................................................................12

The Harmful Effects of the Adam Walsh
Act on Our Children and Communities
The Adam Walsh Act is not cost effective
and will put pressure on state resources...............................................................16
The Adam Walsh Act needlessly targets children and families.....................20
The Adam Walsh Act compromises public safety.............................................28

Recommendations
Federal and State Policy............................................................................................ 33
Local and Community Strategies............................................................................ 37

Appendix A
Cost Analysis Methodology.................................................................................... 40

Appendix B
State by State Registration Survey 2007..............................................................41

Endnotes. ........................................................................................................................44

This report would not have been possible without the generous
support of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Public Welfare
Foundation, and Open Society Institute.
The Justice Policy Institute would like to thank Sarah Bryer,
Nicole Pittman, Tara Andrews, and Sarah Tofte for their invaluable suggestions, expertise, and support. Special thanks to
Russell Estes and Scott Phillips at the Southern Poverty Law
Center for their creativity in the design of the report. JPI staff
includes Sheila Bedi, Debra Glapion, LaWanda Johnson, Laura
Jones, Amanda Petteruti, Emily Sydnor, and Nastassia Walsh.
For additional information, please contact JPI at:
Justice Policy Institute
202-558-7974
info@justicepolicy.org

2  registering harm

Introduction
Initially, registries were restricted to law enforcement use and were used largely to
track adults who had been convicted of violent sex offenses. More recently, policymakers have expanded the scope of registries by including children on the registry,
requiring registration for nonviolent offenses, and making registries available to
the public in online databases. The Adam Walsh Act is a federal law that aims to
further expand the breadth of registries at the state level and requires states to
list all registrants on the national online database, the Dru Sjodin National Sex
Offender Public Registry. This report documents the issues related to public safety
and fiscal accountability that states should consider as they determine whether to
comply with the Adam Walsh Act or otherwise expand the reach of their existing
registries.
During the past two decades, sensationalized media accounts of crimes that have a
sexualized component have driven policy aimed at preventing sexual violence. As
a result, millions of dollars of state and federal resources support registries despite
that fact that there is no evidence that public registries reduce sexual violence.
What we do know, however, is that these registries
consume public safety resources and may be funded
What is a sex offense?
at the expense of alternative approaches that research
suggests actually would reduce sexual violence in our
The definition of sex offenses varies widely from
communities.
state to state. The FBI defines sex offenses as
Research shows that laws that place people convicted
“Offenses against chastity, common decency,
of sex offenses on registries or that mandate other
morals, and the like.” Frequently sex offenses
restrictions are counterproductive and may even make
include behaviors that psychologists consider
the problem of sexual violence worse. These laws do
to be normative for both adults and children,
not deter inappropriate behavior; instead, registries
including sexual experimentation. In some
can actually create more crime by alienating those
states, sex offenses can also include public urinaon the registry from social support systems, includtion and streaking.
ing education, employment, and housing, that have
Specific data on the numbers and types of sex
been shown to reduce the likelihood that an individual
offenses reported are not available on a national
might participate in illegal activities.
scale. The FBI Uniform Crime Report lumps
together all sex-related, non-rape, and non-prosThe Adam Walsh Act (AWA)* mandates the registratitution offenses into the category “sex offenses,”
tion of children for certain sex offenses and, through
making it difficult to determine where and how
coordinated state effort, the appearance of those
sexual violence occurs.*
records on the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender
Public Registry, which is maintained by the FBI. The
AWA requires registration for youth as young as age
14 despite the fact that research shows that children
*  The FBI Uniform Crime Report defines “sex offenses” as “Offenses
are very amenable to rehabilitation and that the conagainst chastity, common decency, morals, and the like. Incest, indecent
sequences of registration are likely to undermine any
exposure, and statutory rape are included. Attempts are included.”  
www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/about/offense_definitions.html
rehabilitative programming available for children. In
some cases, these young people will be on a public
*  Although we refer to the Adam Walsh Act throughout this report, the majority of the analysis and research pertains to
Title I of AWA, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

justice policy institute  3

registry for the rest of their lives, which can have numerous and permanent negative effects on their lives and those of their families, including alienation from
social networks, schools, and churches. The AWA purports to protect children, yet
subjecting youth to these consequences fails to provide any public safety benefit
and instead significantly harms youth who are forced to register.
Victims’ rights groups, organizations founded in the name of children harmed by
sexual violence, treatment professionals, criminal justice reformers, and researchers have noted that sex offense registries can generate a false sense of security for
people in communities and do not provide adequate information on how to protect
their families from sexual offenses.
Registries have questionable — and sometimes negative — public safety outcomes
for several reasons, including law enforcement’s inability to accurately track
and maintain all the information required by the registries in a timely manner.
Additionally, most registries indiscriminately sweep up people who pose no threat
to public safety. The over-inclusiveness of a registry actually diminishes its value as
a public safety tool because it becomes impossible to determine who might pose a
real threat.
Furthermore, establishing and maintaining registries consumes law enforcement
time and money. States can expect to spend millions of dollars fully implementing and sustaining the guidelines of the AWA, without significant federal financial
assistance. Law enforcement officers who previously protected our communities
are now tracking down people who fail to register, many of whom are not a threat
to public safety. This gives police little time to focus on monitoring the select individuals who may be a high risk to the community. Simply put, registries divert
resources from positive and effective public safety strategies that have been proven
to prevent sexual violence and lower violence in communities.
However, even with enough law enforcement resources to make sure that people
are registering accurately and often, there is a distinct lack of evidence that supports the notion that registries make us safer. In fact, the opposite may be true.
Continued investments in registries put our families in danger with short-sighted
policies that alienate people who are trying to safely re-enter the community. We
owe it to our children and to our communities to implement sound public safety
strategies based on evidence, not media-created hype.
This report explores the potential impact that compliance with the Adam Walsh
Act will have on states, communities, and youth, who are targeted by the new legislation. The report includes the following findings:
k Despite policymakers’ assertions that people who are convicted of sex
offenses are likely to commit another sex offense, research from the
Department of Justice (DOJ) indicates otherwise. The DOJ determined that
individuals previously convicted of sexual offenses had a lower overall rearrest rate for any new offenses (not necessarily sexual offenses) than did
people convicted of other offenses, 43 percent to 67.5 percent respectively.1
k Responses to children who commit sex offenses should recognize the difference between children and adults, including the fact that children are

4  registering harm

more amenable to rehabilitation. Registries ignore this fact and impose adult
criminal sanctions on children and therefore undermine the rehabilitative
process.
k According to the National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, the vast
majority of youth sex offenses are manifestations of non-sexual feelings.
Most youth behavior that is categorized as a sex crime is activity that mental
health professionals do not deem as predatory.2 Many of the behaviors
reported are status offenses, including things such as parking and necking,
which would not be a crime if committed by an adult.3
k Lawmakers established sex offense registries with the aim of protecting children from strangers. However, research conducted with the Federal Bureau
of Investigation has found that 34 percent of youth victims (0-17 years old)
were sexually assaulted by a family member and 59 percent were assaulted
by acquaintances. In other words, 7 percent of youth victims in this study
were assaulted by strangers.4
k The cost to states of coming into compliance with the Adam Walsh Act could
potentially reach millions of dollars. Virginia estimated that the cost of compliance with the Adam Walsh Act would exceed $12 million.5
k Being on a registry can hinder a child’s ability to access rehabilitative services needed to lead a productive life. Registries can impede access to
employment, housing, and education. Barriers to these basic services can
inhibit a young person from turning his or her life around, and may actually
encourage delinquent behavior.6
k Placement on a registry can be extremely detrimental to a young person’s
development, making it difficult to progress through school and to participate in appropriate adolescent activities. Youth who are labeled “sex
offenders” often experience rejection from peer groups and adults and are
therefore more likely to associate with delinquent or troubled peers and are
less likely to be attached to social institutions such as schools and churches.7 Youth who are detached from normative social institutions may be more
likely to engage in illegal behaviors.
k Registries can lead to a false sense of security for families and communities
as they are increasingly overloaded with people convicted of offenses that
pose little or no danger to public safety. For example, public urination is a
registry-eligible offense and in 29 states consensual sex between teenagers is
also cause for registration.8

justice policy institute  5

The history and origins
of sex offender registries
During the 1990s, a spike in media coverage of sex offenses led to an outbreak of
laws aimed at people convicted of sex offenses at the state and national levels.
Media attention on sex offenses, especially deadly acts of sexual violence against
children by strangers, gave the impression that sex offense rates were higher than
ever and media coverage tends to portray sexually motivated child abductions
as an everyday occurrence. Although even one threat to a child is too many, the
Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that approximately 100 such
cases occur in the United States each year.9 Between 1991 and 1998, there was a 128
percent increase in articles relating to sexual offending.10 At the same time, the rate
of reported violent offenses and forcible rapes during these years fell dramatically.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime reports show that violent
offense rates fell 25 percent during this time and the rate of forcible rapes dropped
19 percent.11
News coverage of tragic, though often isolated crimes motivated lawmakers to
commit to protect children from “violent
sexual predators.” During this time, lawmakers openly admitted that they were
legislating in direct response to the media’s
coverage of sex crimes. In Illinois, a study
conducted on policymakers’ perception of
people who commit sex offenses concluded
that “a cycle emerges in which high-profile cases lead to extensive media coverage,
which permits public outcry and concern
and influences public officials’ perceptions.”12
When asked about a belief in a growing sex
offense problem, one legislator responded,
“Of course it’s a problem. You can’t turn on
your TV without hearing about some pervert
trying something on some kid.”13
It appears that Congress was also influenced by sensationalized media coverage of
sex offenses. The first Federal law related to
registries was the Jacob Wetterling Crimes
Against Children and Sexually Violent
Offender Act (Wetterling Act) in 1994. The
Wetterling Act, Jacob Wetterling, an 11-yearold boy who was abducted by stranger in
1989 while riding his bicycle home. Jacob
is still missing. It was later learned that a
halfway house in Wetterling’s neighborhood

6  registering harm

Even as all violent crime and forcible rape rates fell,
media reports of sexual offenses increased from 1991 to 1998
150%
120%
90%
60%

128%

Percent change in number
of newspaper articles and
offense rates (per 100,000)

30%
0%
-30%

NEWSPAPER
ARTICLES

-25%

-19%

VIOLENT CRIME
RATES

FORCIBLE RAPE
RATES

Sources: Lisa L. Sample and Colleen Kadleck, “Sex Offender Laws: Legislators’ Accounts of the Need for Policy,” Criminal Justice Policy Review 19, no. 1 (2008): 40-62,
cited in Jeffrey T. Walker and others, eds., The Influence of Sex Offender Registration
and Notification Laws in the United States (Little Rock, AR: Arkansas Crime Information
Center, 2006).

housed people convicted of sex offenses, and police surmised that if they had a
ready-made list of individuals in the area who were previously convicted of sex
offenses, they could have saved valuable investigative time by interviewing those
suspects first.14 The Wetterling Act required states to compile a list of individuals
convicted of violent sex offenses against children to register with the police for a
period of 10 years.
After another highly publicized case involving a child, Congress passed Megan’s Law,
which amended the Wetterling Act in 1996 by mandating community notification for
fifteen years after their release of adults convicted of violent sex offenses who were
released into the community,. Megan Kanka was sexually assaulted and murdered in
1994 by her neighbor, a man who, unknown to Megan’s parents, had been previously
convicted of molesting a child.15 Megan’s parents argued that if they had known their
neighbor had previously been convicted of a sex offense their daughter would still be
alive today, as they would have warned her not to speak with him.
Congress enacted Megan’s Law without considering research about best practices.
During deliberations on the bill, lawmakers continuously relied upon unsupported
statistical data and misinterpreted accounts of recidivism rates.16

	 Claim	Representative Ramstad (R-MN) argued the need for Megan’s
Law by citing a study by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention stating that over 114,000 children were the
victims of abduction in 1988.17 Taken at face value, this statistic has
powerful implications.
	Truth	A closer look at the study reveals that abduction was defined to
include “cases involving minimal coerced movement, exceedingly brief time of detention, and such ‘nonfamily’ perpetrators as
acquaintances and babysitters.” The study declared that 200 to 400
of the abductions in 1988 fell into a stereotypical definition of kidnapping, one in which a child was taken far from his or her home
by a stranger, ransomed, or killed. Ninety-six percent of the 114,000
children abducted in 1998 were eventually found unharmed.
	 Claim	In support of Megan’s Law, Representative Jackson-Lee (D-TX)
referenced the Children’s Trust Fund of Texas18 claiming that in
1995 the number of children that were victimized by abuse and
neglect exceeded 50,000.19
	Truth	Abuse and neglect, as defined by the Children’s Trust Fund of
Texas, includes “a person’s action or failure to take action which
has an adverse effect on a child’s physical or mental health or
welfare.”20 This broad definition of abuse and neglect used by Ms.
Jackson-Lee reaches beyond Megan’s Law to potentially include
the types of neglect generally perpetuated by a child’s parent or
guardian (such as medical or educational neglect).

justice policy institute  7

In 2003, Dru Sjodin, a 22-year-old woman, was abducted, sexually assaulted, and
murdered by a man who had been on a sex offense registry. In response to the
case, President Bush signed into law the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public
Registry (NSOPR). The NSOPR joins state web-based registries to a single federal
registry available online. The law also makes it a felony for persons on a registry to
fail to update their contact information and whereabouts.21
Today, all 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia have some form
of public sex offense registry and notification requirements. State registries vary
in many important ways, including the ways they define registerable offenses,
the length of time a person will stay on the registry, and how often a person must
update the registration. Most public registries include a picture, name, and birth
date of the person. Many also include the offense, address, and a physical description of the individual. All registries require the posting of a warning that use of
the website should not result in harm or vigilantism. For example, the Dru Sjodin
National Sex Offender Public Registry website states: “Any person who uses information contained in or accessed through this Website to threaten, intimidate, or
harass any individual, including registrants or family members, or who otherwise
misuses this information, may be subject to criminal prosecution or civil liability
under federal and/or state law.”22 In general, there is a lack of uniformity among the
state databases, as state registries can go beyond the federal law requirements.

8  registering harm

The Adam Walsh Act
The Adam Walsh Act explained

A description of the federal law that imposes numerous mandates
on local and state law enforcement
As it has with other federal laws requiring registration and community notification, Congress passed The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006
without the benefit of research demonstrating that these laws have questionable
public safety effectiveness and may even exacerbate sexual offending in some situations. The Adam Walsh Act is different from its predecessors, however, because
of the fiscal burden this law places on states and because it specifically targets children for inclusion on a national, public registry.
The Adam Walsh Act (AWA) contains numerous provisions that aim to protect
children. One such provision, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act
(SORNA) of the AWA specifically mandates a national sex offender registry and
provides a comprehensive set of minimum standards for sex offender registration
and notification in the United States. Most state legislatures have already established standards for state-controlled registries that meet the specific needs of their
communities. Under the AWA, states will have to follow federal guidelines. In
most instances, states that comply with Adam Walsh will have to both expand their
registries to include children and increase the number of offenses for which registration is required. States that fail to comply with AWA will forfeit some federal
funding, but AWA compliance will cost states far more than they will receive in
federal funds.
SORNA contains the following provisions:
k Requires that youth register, if prosecuted and convicted as adult OR (a) if
offender is 14 or older at time of offense AND (b) adjudicated delinquent for
offense comparable or more serious than “aggravated sexual abuse” OR adjudicated delinquent for a sex act with any victim under the age of 12*
k Extends the jurisdictions in which registration is required (all 50 states, U.S.
territories, and the District of Columbia) to include federally recognized
Indian tribes.
k Incorporates more sex offenses for which registration is required.
k Requires people to register and keep their registration current in the jurisdictions in which they reside, work, or go to school.
k Requires people to provide more extensive registration information, including photos.
k Requires people to make periodic in-person appearances to verify and update
the registration information.
k Expands the amount of information available to the public regarding people
on the registry.
*  “Aggravated sexual abuse” (18 USC 2241) covers (a) engaging in sex act w/ another by force or threat of serious
violence; (b) sexual act by rendering unconscious or involuntary drugging; OR (c) engaging in sexual act with child under 12
(see 18 USC 2241(c)).

justice policy institute  9

k Makes changes in the required minimum duration of registration and establishes a Tier system based on offense.23
» Tier 1: Includes people convicted of whatever offenses do not support a
higher classification, such as misdemeanor registration offenses and child
pornography possession. People on Tier 1 must register for a minimum of
15 years and must update the registry annually.*
» Tier 2: Includes people convicted of most felonious sexual abuse or sexual
exploitation offenses involving victims who are minors. People on Tier 2
must register for a minimum of 25 years and must update the registry every
6 months.
» Tier 3: Generally encompasses people convicted of sexual assaults involving sexual acts regardless of victim age, sexual contact offenses against
children below the age of 13, nonparental kidnapping of minors, and
attempts or conspiracies to commit such offenses. People on Tier 3 must
register for life and must update the registry every 3 months.
k Makes the registry retroactive. People convicted of sex offenses prior to
AWA’s passage are subject to SORNA’s registration requirements IF (a) they
are currently registering, (b) under supervision or incarcerated, OR (c) if the
offender re-enters the system because of a new conviction whether or not
the new crime is a sex offense.
k Requires states to have a failure to register offense on the books and provide
a criminal penalty for a “maximum term of imprisonment greater than one
year.”
The SORNA also establishes the federal Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring,
Apprehending, Registering and Tracking Office (SMART Office) to set guidelines
for registering people convicted of sex offenses, develop software for the registry, and assist state, local, and tribal governments in implementing their registries.
States are required to be in substantial compliance of the AWA by July 27, 2009 or
they will face losing 10 percent of their Byrne Grant funds.
The SMART Office also helps states enact registry provisions that are far more
restrictive than those required by AWA. A communication from SMART makes this
clear: “jurisdictions should consider AWA minimum requirements as a floor, not a
ceiling. Jurisdictions are free to implement regulations that are stricter than what
AWA requires.”24

*  SORNA allows jurisdictions to reduce the registration period for a person on Tier I by 5 years after he or she maintains
a clean record for 10 years and to terminate registration for a person who is required to register under SORNA based on
juvenile delinquency adjudication after he or she maintains a clean record for 25 years.

10  registering harm

What information must be made available on the public sex
offender registry website?
To comply with AWA, the following information about each person convicted
of a sex offense who is registerable and who lives, works, or goes to school in
a particular jurisdiction must be included on that jurisdiction’s sex offender
website:
 k The name of the individual, including all aliases.
  k The address of each residence at which the person resides or will
reside and, if the person does not have any (present or expected) residence address, other information about where the person has his or
her home or habitually lives. (If current information of this type is not
available because the person is in violation of the requirement to register or is unlocatable, the website must note this.)
  k The address of any place where the person is an employee or will be
an employee and, if he or she is employed but does not have a definite employment address, other information about where the person
works.
  k The address of any place where the individual is a student or will be a
student.
 k The license plate number and a description of any vehicle owned or
operated by the person on the registry.
  k A physical description of the person on the registry.
  k The text of the sex offense for which the person is registered and any
other sex offense for which the person has been convicted.
 k A current photograph of the person required to register.
Source: US Department of Justice, Frequently Asked Questions: The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act
(SORNA) Proposed Guidelines, www.ojp.usdoj.gov/smart/pdfs/sorna_faqs.pdf

justice policy institute  11

The Adam Walsh Act exposed

An examination of the faulty data and research that convinced Congress to pass
the most sweeping registry law in U.S. history
Congress passed the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) on July 27, 2006. In June 2005, the
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security held three hearings
to discuss the bills proposed and to develop a consensus on the need for a national
sex offender registry and notification system. Nearly a year later, on March 8, 2006,
the House of Representatives held a 40-minute discussion on the AWA, which was
passed on a suspended calendar, meaning that there were no hearings, amendments, or committee markups on the bill.25 No experts were invited to testify for or
against the AWA in its entirety. During the March discussion, Representative John
Conyers (D-MI) noted that “this legislation, all 164 pages, has managed to completely circumvent the traditional legislative process.”26
An examination of the Adam Walsh Act’s legislative history reveals that several
members of Congress based their support of this bill on inaccurate data. In their
efforts to protect children, lawmakers often argued that individuals convicted of
sex offenses are more serious offenders because of their propensity to re-offend.
The data tell a different story: people convicted of sex offenses have one of the
lowest recidivism rates of any group. Yet as described below, policymakers cling to
the myth that people convicted of sex offenses are the most likely to commit a new
sex offense.
k Then Attorney General Charlie Crist of Florida testified that “The experts
tell us that someone who has molested a child will do it again and again.”27
k U.S. Representative Ric Keller (R-FL) noted that “The best way to protect
children is to keep child predators locked up in the first place, because
someone who has molested a child will do it again and again and again.”28
k Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children testified that “Sex offenders represent the highest risk of
re-offense.”29
Contrary to these policymakers’ assertions, research
demonstrates that individuals convicted of sexual
offenses do not inevitably commit new sex offenses. In
1998, researchers Hanson and Bussiere did a meta-analysis of 61 separate studies on patterns of recidivism for
people convicted of sex offenses. They concluded that
13.4 percent of the 23,393 individuals in the study committed a new sexual offense.30 Large-scale studies of
recidivism find that for people released from prison
after being convicted of any offense, 67.5 percent will be
re-arrested for any new offense within three years. The
recidivism rates for people convicted of sex offenses are
considerably lower.31
In 2003, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice
Statistics (BJS) released findings from the largest

12  registering harm

“Though often thought of as the
most relentless and dangerous of
offenders, sex offenders are in fact
among the least likely offenders
to re-offend.32”
—richard tewksbury, professor,
university of louisville and jill levenson,
professor, lynn university 33

study ever conducted on re-arrest and re-conviction patterns of people previously
convicted of sex offenses. BJS tracked 272,111 individuals, including 9,691 people
convicted of sex offenses, for three years following their release in 1994 from 15
different states. BJS determined that individuals previously convicted of sexual
offenses had a lower overall re-arrest rate for any new offenses (not necessarily sexual offenses) than did people convicted of other offenses, 43 percent to 67.5
percent respectively.34 BJS also concluded that within the three-year time frame,
5.3 percent of the people convicted of sex offenses in this study were re-arrested
for a new sex offense and 3.5 percent were re-convicted. These numbers are significantly lower than the media and crime policies lead the public to believe.
Additionally, the BJS study tracked the re-arrest patterns of individuals who were
released but had no prior sex offense convictions. After the three year period, BJS
reported that 1.3 percent of the 262,420 people convicted for nonsexual offenses
were re-arrested for a sex crime.36 Therefore, 3,382 individuals (1.3 percent) out of
the non-sex offender group and 517 individuals (5.3 percent) from the group who
had been convicted of a sex offense were re-arrested for a sex crime. If each of
these individuals only victimized one person, then the total number of victimizations resulting from these two groups would be 3,845 (3,382 + 517). In this example,
the group of released sex offenders was only accountable for 13 percent of the 3,845
sex crimes and the non-sex offender group was responsible for 87 percent. This
means that 87 percent of sexual victimizations would not have been prevented
through sex offender registration because the majority of the new victimizations
were committed by individuals who were first-time sex offenders.
Registries are not proven to be effective at preventing sexual violence. Indeed,
compelling research shows that even if the registry was perfect — that it contained
completely accurate information; that everyone who was a potential danger to
communities based on previous behavior was included; and that all people in the
community could access the information — it is unlikely that registries would make
us safer.
Studies have shown that states that implemented registries under Megan’s Law did
not necessarily see a drop in reported sex offenses, and some states saw increases.37
A large percentage of sex offenses are committed by people known to the victim,
including within the family.38 Having a family member on the sex offense registry
will not protect that victim and may cause other detrimental effects to the family.39
As most people who commit sex offenses are “first-time offenders,” meaning that
they have never been convicted of a sex offense, the majority of people committing
sex offenses would not already be on the registry.40 Having a registry can therefore
create a false sense of security within families and communities, who might rely on
the registry to identify people who may be a threat to their safety.
Being on a registry can hinder a person’s ability to access rehabilitative services
needed to lead a productive life and engage in appropriate, legal behavior. Registries
can impede access to employment, housing, and education, which have been shown
to be an integral part of the re-entry process and a necessity for young people who
are trying to turn their lives around.41

justice policy institute  13

Finally, these registries cost a significant amount of money to implement and
adequately maintain, and they take away resources from law enforcement and communities that could be providing effective solutions to public safety challenges.
States that implemented community notification under Megan’s Law did
not necessarily see a drop in reported forcible rapes
Megan’s Law mandated that law enforcement notify communities when a person
on the sex offender registry moves into a neighborhood. This law was premised on
the idea that people will be able to protect themselves better if they are aware of
certain individuals living in their immediate community. Although Megan’s Law
was passed in 1996, many states had already implemented sex offense registries
that included aspects of community notification prior to this time.42 Community
notification by law enforcement soon morphed into internet databases, which
greatly expanded the reach of who had access to information about individuals on
the registry.
In 2006, a group of researchers with the Arkansas
Crime Information Center analyzed the effectiveness
of Megan’s Law at reducing forcible rapes by examining reports of these offenses in 10 states.* The data was
collected from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for a
10-year span — five years before and after each state
implemented the community notification component
mandated by Megan’s Law. The researchers concluded
that the data did not provide a definitive answer on
whether community notification laws in fact did
prevent rapes, as most of the changes in the number of
offenses were not statistically significant.43

“… sex offender registration and
notification laws have no systemic influence on the number
of rapes committed in these
states as a whole.”35
—jeffery t. walker, professor,
university of arkansas

Five states in the study witnessed a drop in the
number of monthly rapes five years after the notification laws were put into place. However, the other
five states showed an increase in the number of monthly rapes recorded after
community notification was implemented. Half of the states showed no significant differences either way in the average number of rapes being reported. The
researchers do point out, however, that “These non-significant findings masked the
fact that roughly half of these non-significant changes were actually increases in
the average incidence of rape within a given state.”44 The researchers conclude that
“sex offender registration and notification laws have had no systematic influence
on the number of rapes committed in these states as a whole.”45
Self-report surveys show that the majority of sex offenses are not committed by strangers
The supposed purpose of the registries is to protect youth and adults from potential sexual predators. But evidence shows that most people who experience sexual
abuse are victimized by people they know, including family members, and thus
*  States included: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

14  registering harm

The majority of youth who are sexually assaulted
are victimized by people they already know.

7%
STRANGER

59%

34%

ACQUAINTANCE

FAMILY
MEMBER

Source: Howard N. Snyder, Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident and Offender Characteristics (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice
Statistics, 2000). www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/saycrle.htm.

registries do not necessarily make us safer.
In an effort to uncover more comprehensive data regarding sexual assaults against
youth, Dr. Howard Snyder with the U.S.
Department of Justice launched a research
project which analyzed police reports collected by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting
Program. The police reports contained incidents of sexual assaults* collected from 12
states between 1991 and 1996. Dr. Snyder
compiled information on more than 60,000
sexual assault victims and more than 57,000
victim-identified offenders within this fiveyear period.46
The research showed that almost half (49
percent) of youth under age six and 42
percent of children ages six to 11 in the study
were sexually assaulted by a family member.
Additionally, about three-quarters (72.6
percent) of adults in the study were victimized by people they knew. Overall, the study
concluded that 34 percent of youth victims
(0-17 years old) were sexually assaulted
by a family member and 59 percent were
assaulted by acquaintances. In other words,
7 percent of youth victims in this study were
assaulted by strangers.

*  “Sexual assault” was defined in this study by the FBI to include forcible rape, forcible sodomy, and sexual assault with an
object.

justice policy institute  15

The harmful effects of the Adam Walsh
Act on our children and communities
The Adam Walsh Act is not cost effective and will put pressure on
state resources
The Adam Walsh Act (AWA)* requires states to register more people and keep track
of them for even longer periods of time, without receiving substantial additional
federal funding. By July 2009, all states must be in compliance with AWA or risk
losing 10 percent of the state’s Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funding, money that
is granted to fund a variety of criminal justice initiatives, but generally focuses on enforcing drug laws and
supporting law enforcement.
All states currently have some form of registry and community notification, but fully implementing AWA poses
a significant challenge, both logistically and fiscally. As
a largely unfunded mandate, the AWA provides little
federal funding for implementation and stands to cost
states more than they will receive in federal funding. In
times of budget crises in many states, it is important that
they consider the costs and benefits of implementing the
AWA on public safety and on state budgets.

“The repercussions of the [Adam
Walsh Act] are many, and its
effects will be with us for years
to come.”
—lori mcpherson, american prosecutors
research institute’s national center for
prosecution of child abuse 52

States and localities can expect to incur significant
costs as they attempt to implement the AWA
Although all states currently have some form of public sex offender registry and
notification laws, AWA requires the implementation of a national format for all
registries and a nationwide way of notification. In addition to new software and
technology costs to fully implement the registry, onerous registration requirements
will likely result in more people being arrested and prosecuted for failure to register, being sent back to prison or jail, and/or put on probation.
Virginia estimated that expanding the list of registry-eligible offenses will likely
increase the number of state prison beds needed for people who violate the registry
provisions.53 Increasing the frequency with which the state police and probation officers must verify registration information may also result in the additional
detection of violations. In addition, increasing penalties for first-time registry violations for people who are not defined as “sexually violent” could increase State
bed requirements. Based on these facts, Virginia estimates an additional cost of
$351,376 to the state.
Costs to Virginia’s juvenile justice system in terms of correctional and detention
centers were not able to be determined, but will likely be affected by these guidelines, because changing penalties of registration violations from a misdemeanor to
a felony can result in additional commitments to these facilities.54
*  Title I of the Adam Walsh Act, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), specifically addresses the
sex offense registry.

16  registering harm

During this time of budget shortfalls, states should consider all possible areas in
which increased expenditures will occur.
k New personnel to register more people more often, collect information, make
updates, etc.
k Software, including installation, maintenance, and technical support
k Additional jail and prison space for people who fail to register
k Court and administrative costs related to reclassification due to the retroactivity clause of the AWA
k Law enforcement costs related to tracking down people who fail to register
k Legislative costs related to adopting and crafting state law

States can expect to spend more on implementation than they stand to lose
In the last two years, some states have done extensive cost analyses to determine the feasibility of adopting
AWA given the cost. These states have found that implementing AWA in their state is far more costly than
the penalties for not being in compliance.
Ohio determined that the cost of implementing new software to create a registry would approach a half
million dollars in the first year.48
k Installing and implementing software alone would cost $475,000 in the first year. The software
would then cost $85,000 annually thereafter for maintenance.
k Certification of treatment programs and providing a description of a person on the registry to the
state’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation would cost another $100,000 annually.
k Ohio also lists other factors that would increase the cost of implementing AWA, including salaries and benefits for new personnel, new court and administration costs, and costs to counties and
municipalities. These costs are in addition to the $475,000 needed for software, but have not yet
been quantified by the state.
k If Ohio chose not to implement AWA, the state would lose approximately $622,000 annually from
its Byrne funds. However, the total cost of software, certification of treatment programs, salaries,
and benefits for new personnel would likely exceed the lost Byrne funds.
Virginia conducted a comprehensive cost analysis and determined a total cost of more than $12 million for the
first year of compliance with the registry aspect of the AWA.49
k The first year of implementing AWA would cost the Commonwealth of Virginia $12,497,000. This
figure would include the cost of hiring 99 new staff people, implementing new technology and
increasing the number of people on the registry by approximately 8,000 individuals.
k The yearly annual cost of AWA would be $8,887,000. Adjusted with a 3.5 percent yearly inflation
rate,50 Virginia would be paying more than $10 million by 2014.
k If Virginia chose to enact AWA, implementation costs would cause the state to effectively lose
$12,097,000 more than it would if it chose not to implement AWA and forfeit 10 percent of its yearly
Byrne grant of approximately $400,000.51

justice policy institute  17

AWA Implementation
Estimate for 2009

Byrne Money
Received in 2006**

10 Percent of
Byrne Money

ALABAMA

$7,506,185

$3,178,628

$317,863

ALASKA

$1,108,573

$565,971

$56,597

ARIZONA

$10,281,201

$3,653,881

$365,388

ARKANSAS

$4,597,925

$2,180,442

$218,044

CALIFORNIA

$59,287,816

$21,876,819

$2,187,682

COLORADO
CONNECTICUT
DELAWARE
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
FLORIDA

$7,885,178

$2,725,489

$272,549

$5,680,602

$2,189,001

$218,900

$1,402,612

$1,248,534

$124,853

$954,186

$1,804,991

$180,499

$29,602,768

$12,402,693

$1,240,269

GEORGIA

$15,481,193

$5,594,288

$559,429

HAWAII

$2,081,603

$933,732

$93,373

IDAHO

$2,431,969

$1,170,003

$117,000

ILLINOIS

$20,846,306

$8,501,000

$850,100

INDIANA

$10,291,799

$3,696,033

$369,603

IOWA

$4,846,488

$1,881,623

$188,162

KANSAS

$4,502,553

$2,035,999

$203,600

KENTUCKY

$6,879,497

$2,702,451

$270,245

LOUISIANA

$6,963,401

$3,514,704

$351,470

MAINE

$2,136,456

$1,172,583

$117,258

MARYLAND

$9,112,724

$4,320,568

$432,057

MASSACHUSETTS

$10,461,238

$4,353,201

$435,320

MICHIGAN

$16,336,082

$6,793,169

$679,317

$8,430,328

$3,061,831

$306,183

MISSISSIPPI

$4,734,150

$2,065,269

$206,527

MISSOURI

$9,534,548

$4,182,382

$418,238

MONTANA

$1,553,611

$1,076,424

$107,642

NEBRASKA

$2,878,281

$1,288,957

$128,896

NEVADA

$4,160,944

$1,808,095

$180,810

$2,134,219

$1,192,435

$119,244

$14,088,206

$5,160,709

$516,071

$3,195,121

$1,879,901

$187,990

MINNESOTA

NEW HAMPSHIRE
NEW JERSEY
NEW MEXICO
NEW YORK

$31,300,125

$11,279,841

$1,127,984

NORTH

$14,696,622

$5,460,983

$546,098

$1,037,592

$554,556

$55,456

$18,598,869

$6,223,825

$622,383

OKLAHOMA

$5,867,138

$2,790,472

$279,047

OREGON

$6,078,218

$2,251,312

$225,131

PENNSYLVANIA

$20,165,479

$7,640,322

$764,032

RHODE ISLAND

$1,715,760

$967,292

$96,729

SOUTH CAROLINA

$7,149,123

$3,610,292

$361,029

NORTH DAKOTA
OHIO

SOUTH DAKOTA

$1,291,426

$513,858

$51,386

TENNESSEE

$9,985,946

$4,817,782

$481,778

TEXAS

$38,771,924

$14,045,713

$1,404,571

UTAH

$4,290,617

$1,557,034

$155,703

VERMONT

$1,007,649

$630,419

$63,042

VIRGINIA

$12,508,695

$3,943,036

$394,304

WASHINGTON

$10,491,519

$3,538,816

$353,882

WEST VIRGINIA

$2,939,046

$1,679,108

$167,911

WISCONSIN

$9,085,630

$2,982,833

$298,283

$848,009

$584,036

$58,404

WYOMING

18  registering harm

In every state, the first-year cost
of implementing the Adam Walsh
Act outweighs the cost of losing 10
percent of the state’s Byrne grant
money.*

*  See Appendix B for methodology and additional information.
**  The U.S. House of Representatives estimates that 2009 federal
allocations for Byrne grants will return to 2006 levels, which total
approximately $200 million.

The retroactivity clause of the AWA will impose significant costs on states
Since the AWA is retroactive, in states like Ohio, the attorney general must reclassify people and mail out notices of their reclassification. An individual who is sent
a reclassification notice may petition the court for a hearing to challenge the new
classification, creating more administrative costs for the county.55

“Experts say the data disaster is
attributable to an unwieldy and
ever-growing sex offender registry,
one driven more by state politics in
recent years than by scientific evidence. Legislators are calling on local
police departments to track more sex
offenders — many of them low-risk —
than ever before, without including
the money necessary to do so.”
— dallas morning news61

Although not all states will require court hearings for
people convicted of sex offenses before the implementation of AWA, many will face lawsuits brought by people
whose status will change as a result of the law. On July 1,
2008, Nevada changed the classification of sex offenses
so that many individuals who had been registered on
Tier I, which included no public registration notification,
would be changed to Tier III, which does require public
registration and notification. Individuals have already
brought lawsuits against the state.56 The American Civil
Liberties Union of Nevada has also filed suit.
Counties, as the major law enforcement arms within
the states, will bear the brunt of the new registry policies. Manpower will be used to seek out people who fail
to register or update their registration at the appointed
intervals. County jails could fill up with people who are
caught for failure to register, which is punishable with
between one and 10 years of imprisonment.57

As shown in a previous section of this report, errors in the registries and failures
to update known information could potentially result in substantial lawsuits and
enormous payouts for people incorrectly listed on the registry.
The Adam Walsh Act places significant burdens on local law enforcement
The AWA requires local law enforcement agencies and corrections departments to
shoulder the burden of registration and notification laws, with little federal funding
or technical assistance. Spending so much time tracking down people for failing to
register and making sure that information in the registry is accurate overburdens
law enforcement and can take away precious time and resources from more effective crime-fighting strategies like educating communities about effective ways to
prevent sexual violence.
k In Texas, the number of registerable crimes has grown from four to 20 since
the enactment of the first registration laws in 1991, with approximately 100
new people added to the registry each week.58
k In 2003, San Jose, California, spent $600,000 to dedicate seven staff people
to monitoring 2,700 people who are required to register.59
k In Michigan, as of August 2004, two full-time employees manage information and records for people convicted of sex offenses, but according to a state
audit, the state’s sex offender registries still contain inaccurate and incomplete information that may give the public a false sense of security. 60

justice policy institute  19

The Adam Walsh Act needlessly targets children and families
In recent years and following several well-publicized cases of sexual violence committed by adults against children, legislation and media attention has focused heavily on
sex offenses and adults deemed “sexual predators.” In the push to target people who
may actually pose a significant danger to the public, youth convicted of sex offenses
have been swept up in punitive legislation that publicly brands them as sexual predators. Research has shown however, that juvenile sexual offending is very different from
adult sexual offending, and that youth are not committing the majority of sex offenses.
In 2006, youth under the age of 18 accounted for 18
percent of arrests for any sex offense* and 15 percent
of arrests for forcible rape. Youth under the age of 15
accounted for 9 percent of sex offense arrests and 5
percent of forcible rape arrests in the same year. Less
than 1 percent of all arrests of youth under the age of 18
were for sex offenses.63

“A common misperception is that
they’re like adults. But they’re not.
We’re mainly talking about geeky,
nerdy, socially immature kids. And
so many of the factors that contribute to risk — like where they
live or how their families work —
are out of their control.”

According to the National Center on Sexual Behavior of
Youth, the vast majority of youth sex offenses are manifestations of non-sexual feelings. Youth engage in fewer
abusive behaviors over shorter periods of time and
engage in less aggressive sexual behavior.64 Youth rarely
eroticize aggression and are rarely aroused by child sex
—dan knoepfler, president of the
stimuli. Most youth behavior that is categorized as a sex
washington
[state] association for
crime is activity that mental health professionals do not
treatment
of sexual abusers62
65
deem as predatory. Many of the behaviors reported
are status offenses, including things such as parking and
necking, which would not be a crime if committed by an
adult.66 National data that disaggregates sex offenses by
type or seriousness are not available; however the observations of organizations who work with youth who commit sex offenses generally
report relatively non-serious acts and many statutory offenses.
There have been numerous stories publicized in the media of youth as young as age
6 being labeled a sex offender for behaviors such as hugging or kissing other youth.67
These zero-tolerance attitudes and policies towards common youth behavior do not
increase public safety but rather alienate youth and disconnect them from communities, education, and jobs, aggravating the likelihood that they may engage in future
delinquency. Although youth can and do commit sexually violent offenses against
young children, these situations are very rare.
While Adam Walsh does not mandate registration for consensual sex acts or for minor
offenses that have a sexualized component, expanding registries could easily lead to
the inclusion of offenses like those listed below:
k After slapping a first-grade girl on the bottom on the playground, a six-year-old
boy from Woodbridge, Virginia, was written up in an incident report by school
*  Sex offenses included here do not include forcible rape or prostitution.

20  registering harm

officials who called it “Sexual Touching Against Student, Offensive,” which
will remain on his student record permanently. Then school officials called the
police.68
k A kindergartner in Hagerstown, Maryland, was accused of sexual harassment
after pinching a female classmate’s bottom.69 The charge will remain on his
record until he enters middle school.
k A four-year-old in Texas was given an in-school suspension after a teacher’s
aide accused him of sexual harassment for pressing his face into her breasts
when he hugged her. School officials later agreed to remove sexual references
but refused to expunge the “inappropriate physical contact” charge from the
boy's school record.70
In most states, intercourse with a child under the age of 14, 15, or 16 is considered
sexual assault regardless of consent. However, according to the National Longitudinal
Survey of Youth, slightly more than three-quarters of youth in the survey reported
having had sexual intercourse. Of those youth, more than 80 percent reported having
had sex by age 15.71 Thus, the youth reporting having engaged in sex by the age of 15
would be guilty of committing a sex offense.
Recidivism rates of youth who commit sex offenses are low and youth are
more amenable to change
Research has shown that a young person who commits a sex offense is unlikely to
commit another one. Current, national recidivism rates are difficult to routinely ascertain and compare because states and localities often define recidivism differently.
However, a few academic studies have attempted to determine recidivism rates generally for youth and specifically for sex offenses at the state or local level. Overall,
general recidivism rates for youth convicted of all offenses are higher than recidivism
rates for youth convicted of sex offenses.
The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice72 conducted a study in 2005 that
reviewed 27 states’ youth recidivism rates. They found that 55 percent of youth were
re-arrested within one year and 24 percent were re-imprisoned for any offense, not
just sexual offenses.*
Recidivism for youth convicted of sex offenses

k A 2002 review of 25 studies concerning juvenile sex offense recidivism rates
reveals that youth who commit sex offenses have a 1.8 — 12.8 percent chance
of re-arrest and a 1.7 — 18.0 percent chance of reconviction for another sex
offense.73
k A 2000 study of 96 youth who committed a sex offense in Philadelphia showed
a 3 percent sex re-offense rate.
*  Re-arrest: 55 percent of juveniles released from facilities in Florida, New York and Virginia were rearrested within one
year. Re-referral to court: 45 percent of youth released from incarceration in Colorado and Maryland were re-referred to
Court during the 12-month follow-up period. Re-conviction/Re-adjudication: 33 percent of youth released from detention
centers in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Virginia were reconvicted or
re-adjudicated within one year. Re-incarceration/Re-confinement: 24 percent of juveniles released from facilities in Florida,
Maryland and Virginia were re-incarcerated during the 12-month follow-up period. Source: Virginia Department of Juvenile
Justice, 2005.

justice policy institute  21

k A 2006 retrospective study of 300 boys on a sex offense registry in Texas who
were under age 18 at the time of their first sex offense charge found that 4.3
percent of the sample was rearrested as an adult for another sex offense.74
A 2007 study funded by the MacArthur Foundation reviewed a longitudinal data set
of three cohorts of youth in Wisconsin and found that of men who had contact with
police for a sex offense as youth, 8.5 percent had contact with police for a sex offense
as adults.75 In other words, more than nine out of 10 times the arrest of a youth for a
sex offense is a one-time event. The author of the study, Franklin Zimring, a juvenile
justice expert at the University of California at Berkeley, found that youth who have
committed a sex offense are no different from youth
who commit other nonsexual offenses and would likely
benefit from similar interventions.76 The study goes
on to say that putting youth on sex offender registries
“would have little effect on the prevention of sex crimes
and, thus, do little to protect the public.”77 Additionally,
the threat of lifelong marginalization from schools, jobs,
and communities may prevent families and youth from
seeking interventions that could help youth who may be
engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior.
Increasingly punitive sanctions and policies may
make people who need treatment less likely to seek it
Perhaps no offense carries as high a stigma as a sex
offense. These stigmas and the way that laws feed off
the prejudices leads to a lower probability that someone
who needs treatment may actually seek it. Adding the
risk of lifetime consequences to the mix can lead to even
fewer people seeking the help they may need. According
to Edwards and Hensley,

“As the severity of criminal sanctions
have increased for sexual crimes, it
has become more and more difficult
for sex offenders to initiate therapeutic intervention both before
abuse is brought to the attention
of authorities and even after an
individual is incarcerated and confronted with the opportunity of
accepting or refusing prison-based
sex offender treatment.”
—william edwards, morehead state
university, and christopher hensley,
morehead state university 78

Furthermore, according to Bruce Winick of the
University Of Miami School Of Law, sexual predator
and community notification laws may be providing a
strong disincentive for sex offenders to plead guilty to
their crimes and accept treatment.79 “Offenders may feel
that no matter what they do, they are still going to face the same postrelease exposure,
scrutiny, and ostracism associated with high-risk assessments and community notification measures, whether they attend a treatment program or not.”80 In other words,
people who commit sex offenses may be less likely to seek treatment because of the
risks associated with turning themselves in. Thus, instead of receiving treatment for
behavior that may be a threat to public safety, individuals are forced to cope on their
own and not receive the resources needed to tame such behavior.
Registering children means registering entire families
Currently, there are no exceptions for intra-familial cases of sexual abuse, meaning
that even if the abuse occurs within the home, the person convicted can still remain
on the registry, even while living with the victim.81 The AWA explicitly states that the

22  registering harm

victim cannot be identified on the registry; however, publishing the address of the
person convicted can sometimes inadvertently identify the victim.
Additionally, having a family member on the registry puts an extra burden on the
family, who may wish to aid or support their loved one as they struggle to get back on
their feet after being released from prison. Although most people released after being
convicted of a sex offense do not have this sort of family support, “for those who do,
such relationships are severely strained under the thumb of such laws because the
community’s ostracism of the offender now often extends to anyone willing to support
or assist him or her.”82 Having support and a place to stay while trying to regain your
life can be critical when trying to keep people from
repeating past behaviors. A study of 183 people participating in sex offense treatment in Florida found that
about 19 percent reported that other members of their
household had been “threatened, harassed, assaulted,
injured, or suffered property damage” as a result of
living with a person on the registry.83

“SORNA as applied to youth will
disrupt families and communities
across the nation because SORNA
does not just stigmatize youth; it
stigmatizes the entire family.”

According to a 1996 study by Freeman-Longo, reports

—association for the treatment in New Jersey and Colorado suggest a decrease in
of sexual abusers 84 the reporting of both incest offenses and juvenile sex

“Public shaming of an incest
offender is humiliating to the
victim and the rest of the family.”

offenses by victims and by family members who do not
want to deal with the impact of public notification on
their family.85
The Adam Walsh Act undermines the very purpose
of the juvenile justice system

As of 2007, 31 states allowed youth to be on a registry,
with certain restrictions, and 17 states allowed for community notification for these youth (See Appendix 2).
The AWA increases the likelihood that youth will be on
registries because it includes youth adjudicated in juvenile court of sex offenses, thus undermining a system
which is designed to protect youth from the lifelong
penalties carried by the adult criminal justice system.
Sixteen states offer a process for getting youth convicted
of sex offenses off the registry. The AWA mandates that youth fitting certain criteria, and who are at least 14 years old, must be listed on the registry under the same
conditions and timelines as adults, including possible lifetime registry. This mandate
contradicts everything we know about youth and about youth behavior and undermines the very purpose of a juvenile justice system

—eric lotke, national center on
institutions and alternatives 86

Young people are still developing and are thus highly amenable to change; the nature
and intention of youthful sexual experimentation is not considered to be predatory or
aggressive; and the likelihood that a youth will commit another sex offense is small.
Youth need to be held accountable for their behaviors in an age-appropriate manner,
but a registry system designed for adults does not fit these standards and should not
apply to youth.

justice policy institute  23

As the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in Roper v. Simmons,87 the landmark case that
outlawed the juvenile death penalty, children are categorically less culpable for their
actions than adults. This should mean that the state cannot punish children in the
same manner it uses to punish adults, particularly because the part of a young person’s
brain that deals with judgment and risk assessment is not fully formed. Since their
brains are still developing, youth are even more susceptible to appropriate and effective treatment.88
Research has shown that community notification and
registry laws exacerbate the stress felt by any person
released from prison, and such stress can trigger new
offenses.89 Stressors can be brought on by the ostracism felt by people on the registry and the difficulties in
finding adequate housing and employment after being
put on the registry. A study by JJ Prescott and Jonah
Rockoff found that “registered sex offenders might be
more likely to commit crime in a state that imposes a set
of notification requirements, perhaps because of heavy
social and financial costs associated with the public
release of their information.”90
The link between barriers to education, employment,
housing, and treatment and involvement in the criminal justice system has been well documented for both
youth and adults. Registries alienate individuals from
the very opportunities that are likely to reduce the likelihood of future offending. Research on adolescent brain
development indicates that youth are particularly vulnerable to the stigma and isolation that registration and
notification create. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s
annual Kids Count data book also keeps tally of “disconnected” youth (youth who are not working or in
school) as a factor in child well-being. In other words,
the youth who are connected to school or work are generally expected to have better life outcomes than youth
who are not.92
Placement on a registry can be extremely detrimental to a young person’s development, making it difficult
to progress through school and to participate in appropriate adolescent activities. Youth who are labeled “sex
offenders” often experience rejection from peer groups
and adults and are therefore more likely to associate
with delinquent or troubled peers and are less likely to
be attached to social institutions such as schools and
churches.94 Youth who are detached from normative
social institutions may be more likely to engage in illegal
behaviors.

24  registering harm

“To ignore the emotional, psychological, and social-situational
impact of community notification laws on offenders is irrational,
short-sighted, and potentially
dangerous.”
—william edwards and christopher hensley,
morehead state university professors 91

“And if we know that negative
emotional states and maladjustment to a community setting
are common triggers to offender
relapses, then it behooves us to
consider how public notification laws exacerbate these known
stressors for newly released
offenders.”
—william edwards and christopher hensley,
morehead state university professors 93

In addition to the negative impacts on education or employment for youth who are
put on a registry, having a young person’s information made publicly available may
also put him or her at risk of physical harm. There have been numerous reports of vigilantism against people on the sex offender registry, including harassment, threats,
and even murders.95 A qualitative study by Richard Tewksbury at the University of
Louisville found that 47 percent of people surveyed had been harassed in person
and 28 percent had received threatening phone calls
as a result of being on the registry; 16 percent had been
assaulted.96

“SORNA as applied to youth is
contrary to the core purposes,
functions, and objectives of our
nation’s juvenile justice systems in
that it strips away the confidentiality and the overall rehabilitative
emphasis that forms the basis of
effective intervention and treatment for youthful offenders.”

—association for the treatment of
sexual abusers 100

There is no evidence that registries and notification systems for people convicted of sex offenses are
effective ways of improving public safety or deterring
future sex offenses. For youth, registries and notification systems are particularly damaging to developing
brains,97 increase the risk of suicide, alienate a youth
from school and community, and raise barriers to successful participation in society.98 Additionally, youth
who are on public registries have their home and school
addresses, as well as other personal information, displayed for everyone to see, including those who may
wish to prey on youth.

The juvenile justice system was founded on the premise
that youth are different from adults and need to be held
accountable in appropriate ways. Juvenile court judges
are experts in assessing the culpability and rehabilitative
potential of young people. Youth involved in the juvenile justice system typically receive more treatment and rehabilitative services than
they would if they were treated as adults.99 The registry undermines rehabilitation by
labeling a young person a “sex offender,” thereby stigmatizing the youth and closing
available doors for treatment.
The juvenile justice system’s purpose is to treat and rehabilitate — not to punish.
Because of this, youth are not afforded the same due process protections that are provided to criminal defendants. For example, only a very few states provide children
with the right to a jury trial. This fact illustrates that an adult punishment such as lifetime registration undermines the very foundation of juvenile justice.
Registries and community notification have the power to push individuals and whole
families out of stable housing, disrupting their ability to participate in employment
and education. This can be extremely detrimental to young people who are trying to
complete their education and find adequate employment, especially when they cannot
live with their families and must support themselves at an early age. The incidental limitation of housing options by imposing registries and community notification is
sure to have a negative impact on public safety.

justice policy institute  25

Residency Restrictions
Although residency restrictions on people who have
been convicted of a sex offense are not part of the
Adam Walsh Act, states and localities are permitted
to initiate such restrictions. Residency restrictions are
implemented with the supposed intent of protecting
children from being victimized by people previously convicted of a sex offense by keeping a person
from living within close proximity to schools, parks,
daycare centers, and other places children gather.
Most restrictions fall within the 1,000 to 2,500 feet
range. Residency restrictions can have an even more
significant negative impact on youth on the registry, as they are not permitted to live near their school,
making it even more difficult to get an education.
At least 20 states have enacted laws restricting where
people convicted of certain sex offenses can live.102
Some states, like Georgia, have laws that do not discriminate between offense types or risk — no person
with a sex offense conviction can live within 1,000 feet
of these areas.103

“If we can get these people out
of our community, it’s not that
these crimes won’t happen… It’s
just that they won’t happen in my
community…. We’re not punishing
these people any more than the
lepers of ancient times were punished. We’re just isolating them
from our community.”
—christopher j. shipley, mount dora,
florida city council member 101

Residency restriction laws rely on the belief that people previously convicted of
sex offenses are highly likely to reoffend and thus must be separated from potential
victims; that they will choose victims who live within close proximity to their home;
and that new victims will be children that they do not already know. But compared
to people convicted of other offenses, research has shown that people convicted of
sex offenses are statistically less likely to re-offend, whether in a sexual or nonsexual
manner,104 and that place of residence has no effect on recidivism rates.105 Studies in
states have found similar results:
k The Colorado Department of Public Safety published a report in 2004
finding that “sex offenders who recidivate are not more likely than non-recidivating sex offenders to live near schools or day care centers.”106
k According to a report by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, “Rather
than lowering sexual recidivism, housing restrictions may work against this
goal by fostering conditions that exacerbate sex offenders’ reintegration into
society.”107
k The California Research Bureau released a report in 2006 that said “there
is little research regarding the effectiveness of restricting the housing locations available to sex offenders, but the few studies available find they have
no impact on re-offense rates.108”109
“Some research suggests that residency restrictions may lead to serious unintended
collateral consequences for offenders, such as limiting their opportunities for
employment, treatment services, pro-social support systems, and most importantly,
housing.” California Research Bureau, 2006110

26  registering harm

When people convicted of sex offenses do re-offend, 75 percent of their victims
are someone they already know.111 A study conducted by the National Institute
of Justice in 2006 confirmed what other research has also shown: that a majority of sex offenses are happening in the home by individuals who have legitimate,
daily contact with the child victims.112 Residency restrictions, therefore, would not
prevent a large portion of child sexual abuse.
A number of law enforcement officials, victims, and people who work with people
who have committed sex offenses have come out against residency restrictions:
k According to John Gruber, executive director of the Association for the
Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA), the organization is generally opposed
to residency restrictions: “What you’re doing is pushing people more underground, pushing them away from treatment and pushing them away from
monitoring. You’re really not improving the safety, but you’re giving people a
false sense of safety.”113
k Seattle police detective Bob Shilling, a nationally recognized expert on sex
offenders, noted that Seattle’s residency restriction law “creates a lot more
homeless sex offenders, which makes it a lot harder for us to keep track
of them. [Residency restrictions] do not work. In fact, it exacerbates the
problem.”114
k The director of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation indicated that residency
restrictions were ineffective. She stated that residency restrictions are often
“feel good quick fixes” that do not make the best use of community resources
and create a false sense of security.115
k Ernie Allen, the president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children, is of the opinion that residency restrictions can create a false
sense of security because communities will believe that people who have sex
offense convictions will just go away. Also, they may move these people from
one community to the next, setting off a competitive spiral of ever-tougher
“not in my backyard” ordinances.116

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The Adam Walsh Act compromises public safety
Registries encourage a disproportionate and inappropriate focus on registries and the people on them
Statistics from the Justice Department support the idea that the people on the registry are not likely to be the people who pose the greatest potential threat.
k The majority of people arrested for sex offenses have never been previously convicted of a sex offense. In 2003, the Bureau of Justice Statistics
(BJS) reported that 86.1 percent of the people
arrested for a sex offense had never been previously convicted of a sex offense and would
therefore not already be included in the registry.118 Furthermore, another study by BJS found
that of all the adults arrested for rape in 1997
(791,513), 3.6 percent were of people released
from prison in 1994. In other words, people who
had been previously convicted of sex offenses
are not the majority of people arrested for sex
offenses on a yearly basis.119
k People who are convicted of sex offenses are not
likely to repeat the offense. The BJS found that
5.3 percent of people released from prison after
serving time for a sex offense were rearrested
for a new sex crime within three years.120

“[Notification] laws are likely to
increase the already common
public misperception that child
sexual abuse is mostly a “stranger”
problem. When this occurs,
parental attention is focused
toward the nonfamilial offender
and away from the familial environment where the majority of
sexual abuse occurs.”

Registries create a false sense of security
Reliance on registries creates the illusion that parents
can protect their children from sexual violence simply
by checking an online database. A survey of mental
health professionals found that 70 percent of those
surveyed felt that “a listing of sex offenders on the
web would create a false sense of security for parents
who might feel that they can protect their children
simply by checking a web site.”121
Despite registry requirements and stiff penalties for
not registering, registries are often inaccurate and out
of date.122 The result is misdirected apprehension and
the alienation of people who live at an address listed
on the database, but who have never been convicted
of any crime. A number of media outlets have exposed
inaccuracies in sex offense registries.
k In 2006, Dallas Morning News found that 18
percent of Dallas County registrants either had
incorrect addresses listed or never lived at the
address listed.123

28  registering harm

—william edwards, morehead state
university, and christopher hensley,
morehead state university 117

“Sex offender registries are
popular, and it’s easy to see why.
People don’t want to see their
loved ones become victims. It
stands to reason we can better
protect ourselves and our children
if we know where predators live.
But there’s a danger that registries
can make us feel safer without
necessarily making us more safe”
—editorial, birmingham news132

k Inaccuracies in the registries mean that occasionally people not on the registry are the only inhabitants of the address listed on the registry. Thus people
never convicted of any crime are by default listed on the registry, as was the
case in Chandler, Arizona.124
k In Columbus, Ohio a woman’s name and address was passed out to neighbors
after her brother registered her address with the sex offender registry. He had
never resided at the home and police are not required to verify the addresses.125
k In 2007, Birmingham News revealed that there are enormous discrepancies
between the information available on the public registry and the information that Jefferson County, Alabama, had about people charged with sex
offenses.126 Even though the county had correct, current information, it takes
months for the information to be corrected on the public site. Seventeen
percent of the addresses listed on the Jefferson County public site were different from the information that the county had collected. Also, the state
registry and the county registry didn’t match; both had names and addresses
that the other didn’t contain.
k In 2005, a Virginia man sued a private registry management company for
falsely listing his name on a registry of people convicted of sex offenses.
Another suit was filed against a neighbor for defamation. The company managing the registry does not verify information before posting it online.127
k In 2007, the Las Vegas Sun documented the story of a 71-year-old man, who
had never had even a traffic ticket, misidentified by neighbors as having committed a sex offense because a public registry run by Watch Systems LLC
failed to update the address of a man who had been on the registry and formerly lived at that address. Despite complaints to the state and county, no
efforts were made to change the information until he brought the issue to the
attention of the ACLU.128
k Human Rights Watch reported that the Boston Herald, newspapers in
Florida, and researchers in Kentucky have all documented serious inaccuracies in those states’ internet registries.129
A study by Richard G. Zevitz, Ph.D., at Marquette University found “negligible
support for sex offender community notification having any kind of measurably
deterrent effect on sex offender recidivism patterns. If anything, these findings call
into question the utility of this practice and the danger of creating a false sense of
security in the communities where notification occurs.”130 A survey of men listed on
the sex offender registry found that “These offenders generally feel that registries
do little to heighten community awareness and protect the public, which in turn
provides no deterrent effect on sex offenders.”131
Currently, most state registries do not provide adequate interpretation
of the information listed about individuals on the registry or direction
for what to do with the information; and the AWA compounds these
problems.
Overbroad registration or notification practices make it difficult for the public
to determine who on the registry may pose a public safety threat and who
doesn’t.133 The tier system of the AWA provides little context to people who receive

justice policy institute  29

notification or view a public registry. In a review of all
state registries, Human Rights Watch found that only
five states provided enough understandable information on online registries for the public to be able to
interpret the charge and the age of both the registrant
and the victim.134 This may be one of the reasons that
the public incorrectly assumes that everyone on the
registry is listed because of an offense against a child.
The Human Rights Watch study also found that residents who received community notification or viewed
online information were not educated about how to
protect themselves or family members. Recipients of
notification were left feeling scared and powerless.135
Similar studies have found that people in the community report increased anxiety due to notification
because of the lack of strategies offered for protecting themselves or their families from people who may
pose a real threat.136

“Vigilant parents and community
groups are relying on faulty or
incomplete data to protect themselves. Some homeowners are
targeted as sex offenders because
their addresses mistakenly appear
in the database. And hundreds
of the region’s sex offenders are
avoiding registration or filing false
information with law enforcement
agencies — some to hide in the
crowd, others to re-offend.”
—dallas morning news138

Anxiety and suspicion caused by registries and notification may undermine a community’s cohesion and
sense of trust, both of which scholars have linked to
public safety.137 In other words, members of a community who do not trust each other are less likely to exert
the positive social controls that improve public safety. For example, neighbors that
have trusting relationships are more likely to conduct neighborhood watches and
monitor activities on each other’s property.

Registering people for consensual, nonviolent, and statutory offenses and activities overloads the registry and distracts the public. Furthermore, not every person
on a sex offender registry has committed rape or a sexual offense against a child.
Human Rights Watch reviewed statutes in all 50 states and found that a sex
offense is defined differently in different states. The Adam Walsh Act (AWA), the
newest piece of federal legislation related to registries, is designed to represent the
minimum offenses that are registerable, thus the law is likely to encourage states
to further expand the offenses for which people must register. At the time of the
publication of the Human Rights Watch report, the following offenses require
registration:
k Adult prostitution-related offenses (five states)
k Public urination (13 states, two limit registration to urination in front of a minor)
k Consensual sex between teenagers (29 states)
k Exposing genitals in public (32 states; of those, seven require the victim to be
a minor).139
It is important to note that the AWA does not require states to register young people
convicted of sex offenses involving consensual sexual activity between minors as
long as the “victim” is at least 13 years old and the “offender” is no more than four

30  registering harm

Genarlow Wilson
Homecoming King, Football Star, Honor
Student, Sex Offender?
On New Year’s Eve 2003 in Douglasville, Georgia,
Genarlow Wilson, 17, and five friends engaged in
consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a
party. The whole thing was video-taped. Wilson
was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison
for felony aggravated child molestation, plus lifetime registration as a sex offender. According to
jurors, the tape clearly showed that the 15-year-old girl involved in the oral
sex episode had consented, but Georgia law at the time made any oral sex
with a partner under 16 a felony, regardless of consent.
According to Marie Manigault, the jury forewoman in Wilson’s case, “He
didn’t do a single thing that was physically aggressive toward either of the
girls, and he wasn’t vocally intimidating. This whole thing was a bunch of
kids who decided they wanted to try A, B, C and D and it got totally out of
control. It was a night of stupidity and not one of them had any idea that what
they were doing was illegal. There should never have been a charge of aggravated child molestation in the first place.”141
Wilson refused to plea guilty for the offense, because he did not want to
be labeled a sex offender and forced to be on the registry. In his words, “I
wouldn’t be able to stay with my mother because I have a little sister. You
know, when you’re a sex offender you can’t be around kids. Basically, I can’t
even have kids myself, you know, so what is the point of life?”142
There was a multitude of public outcry related to the case which led to the
passage 2006 of a “Romeo and Juliet” law, which made most consensual oral
sex between minors a misdemeanor, rather than a felony. But the law didn’t
help Wilson, since it included language that specifically barred its application
to those who had already been convicted. If this law was made retroactive,
more than 1,100 young people’s cases could be reopened.143
On October 26, 2007, Wilson was released from prison at age 21 after serving
two years, after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that his 10-year sentence
for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl was “cruel and unusual
punishment.”144 He is now a student on full scholarship at Morehouse College.

justice policy institute  31

years older than the “victim.”140 This is referred to as
the “Romeo and Juliet” clause. While the AWA does
not require it, the legislation does encourage state legislation to be more stringent. Indeed, many states still
have laws on the books that would punish youth in this
situation, leading to some highly publicized and controversial cases of young people being registered for
typical teenage behaviors.
Assuming that sex offender registries are an effective means of preventing sexual violence, overloading
registries with people who have engaged in activities like those similar to Genarlow Wilson’s (see text
box) makes it difficult for the public to determine who
might pose a threat and who might not, especially
given the complicated and technical language used on
registries to describe offenses.
Registries and notification create barriers to education, employment, housing, and other social networks
and outlets that allow successful participation in the
job market and the community. Such barriers increase
the likelihood that a person will engage in illegal
behavior in the future and become involved in the
criminal justice system. Prison and social isolation are
a high price to pay for public urination.

32  registering harm

“The reason I believe that many
of those men succeeded in treatment is they were able to get a
fresh start. They could get jobs.
They weren’t feeling disenfranchised, angry at the community.
They succeeded, I believe, in part
because they were able to do
those things. It begs the question
whether, if we drive these people
underground, are we actually
making the community safer?”
—testimony of fred berlin, m.d., associate
professor, johns hopkins university145

Recommendations
These recommendations encourage policymakers to protect communities from sexual
violence by employing proactive preventative strategies. Providing education and
information for community members and resources for families to combat certain
behaviors before they start can be an effective means of making sure our communities
are safe. Instead of expanding the scope of existing registries, state and federal lawmakers should consider implementing interventions that have been shown to prevent
sexual violence. Additionally, state and local governments should evaluate the effectiveness of their existing programs and policies aimed at reducing sexual offenses.

Federal and State Policy
1.	Congress should repeal the section of the Adam Walsh Act that mandates the registration of youth under age 18.
Subjecting children to lifetime registration will not keep our communities safe, and
this practice will undermine juvenile justice systems across the country. In passing
the AWA, Congress failed to consider the most recent research regarding public
safety and adolescent brain development. This information justifies repealing this
provision of the AWA.
2.	Refuse to put children on public registries in your state.
Given the questionable public safety consequences of the Adam Walsh Act, and the
strain it will place on law enforcement resources, states should refuse to put children on public registries. Because of the tremendous costs of implementation, most
states can do so without adversely affecting their state budgets. Instead of expanding registries for our children, states should invest in proactive strategies to reduce
sexual violence in our communities.
If your state chooses to put youth on state registries, it should ensure that registries do the least harm and are not funded at the expense of effective programming.
Specifically:
k Ensure sure that your state legislature can appropriate significant funding to
ensure compliance with the AWA.
k Ensure that placing children on a public registry does not violate your state
constitution, especially with regard to a child’s right to treatment, rehabilitation and due process.
k Ensure that no child under the age of 13 is placed on a public registry, for any
reason. 
k Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 16911(8), ensure that no child over the age of 14 is placed
on the registry, unless one of children the following circumstances exists:
» The child has been adjudicated of a crime similar or more serious than the
federal crime of aggravated sexual assault. This crime, which is punishable
by life in prison, is defined by the use of force or threat to cause another to
engage in a sexual act and/or impairing the ability of another to cause her
to engage in a sexual act. 18 U.S.C. § 224.
» The child’s victim is younger than 12 years old.

justice policy institute  33

k Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 16911(5)(c), ensure that no individual is placed on the
registry for consensual sexual contact, as long as the victim is at least 13 years
old and the offender is no more than four years older than the victim.
k Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 17915, ensure that your state has developed procedures
for children placed on the registry to petition for removal 25 years after the
date of their adjudication.
k Ensure that your state is prepared to meet its legal obligations to provide for
the educational, mental health and rehabilitative needs of children who are
publically labeled sex offenders.
3.	 Assess the effectiveness of sex offense registries and community notification on a national or state scale.
As laws to implement state and federal registries have been passed, it is now the
job of governments to evaluate the efficacy of those measures, particularly as they
pertain to the welfare of all youth, including those on the registries.
A number of academic institutions and even a few state governments have found
that the harm that sex offense registries and notification cause communities outweighs any benefits. However, such assessments have largely gone ignored by both
the public and policymakers. A national, federally sponsored assessment of registries and community notification should be commissioned, especially as the
country moves toward a mandated implementation of a national registry.
Policymakers should base their decisions on research, data, and evidence, rather
than on misinterpreted analyses and conjecture. While it is impossible to predict
the outcome of a national assessment of registries, at least policymakers would
have much clearer evidence on which to base decisions.
4.	 Reframe the problem of sexual violence from a criminal justice
issue to a public health issue.
Sexual violence devastates lives and people who have experienced sexual violence
are more likely to harm others. Advocates from Stop It Now! are clear that sexual
violence should not be viewed as an individual pathology or failure, but rather as
a systemic problem that requires a “proactive, prevention-based model that will
address the root causes of abuse on a social systems scale.”146
Unlike the criminal justice system, which tends to address problems after the fact,
the public health system uses evidence-based approaches to prevent abuse, including education, community involvement, increased communication, and appropriate
interventions. The criminal justice system response is punishment, registries, and
notification, which according the research presented in this report does little to
prevent future sexual violence. However, a public health approach to sexual violence would frame the problem of sexual violence as that of a community and
focuses on education from a young age.

34  registering harm

Stop It Now!

Shifting the Paradigm
Stop It Now! is an organization dedicated to preventing sexual abuse by
mobilizing adults, families, and communities to take actions that protect children before they are harmed. Stop It Now! advocates for shifting the problem
of sexual violence from a criminal justice issue to a public health issue.
The public health system is a valuable tool for addressing sexual violence for
the following reasons:
k Multi-disciplinary and multi-agency collaboration and cooperation:
Sexual violence is a problem that affects victims, abusers, families and
communities, and multiple experts and public agencies have a role in
addressing those effects.
k Promotion of prevention: The public health system is designed to
promote collaboration to define, contain, and prevent problems that
negatively impact the health of individuals and, by extension, whole
communities.
k Rigorous assessment of the problem and the solution: Decisions about
public health are historically made using quantitative and, potentially
also, qualitative data. Data-driven decisions allow for reassessment to
be done after an intervention.
Specific methods for using a public health paradigm to prevent sexual violence include, but are not limited to:
k Create public service announcements educating the public about
sexual violence and prevention strategies.
k Establish collaborations with survivors, abusers, and family members
to share information.
k Educate criminal justice professionals on the tenets of public health
strategies for prevention.
k Increase and support community involvement and investment in positive parenting skills and other prevention strategies.
k Redefine accountability based on community needs. Accountability
does not necessarily mean incarceration.
Stop It Now! is careful to explain that treatment and prevention do not supplant accountability, but too often public outcry and political pressure derail
efforts to make systemic changes. Finally, to achieve real success the public
health model must be accessible to all communities, particularly racially and
economically diverse communities.147

justice policy institute  35

5.	Determine how money spent maintaining sex offense registries and
notifying communities might be better used elsewhere.
According to research published by Eric Janus, a professor of law at William
Mitchell College of Law, a violence reduction program in southern Minnesota,
which among other things educates schoolchildren about sexual violence prevention, costs $125 per school.148 In total, the programs reached 4,000 elementary
school students and 2,500 junior high students in one year. Evaluations showed significant changes in attitudes about sexual violence. However, as evidenced by this
brief, implementing a national registry could potentially cost states a total of nearly
$500 million without any proof that future sexual violence will be prevented.
6.	Evaluate the effectiveness of responses to sexual violence.
We should not assume that the current methods of intervention in the lives of
people who have committed sex offenses are the most appropriate or effective for
all individuals. In particular, research suggests that the interventions and sanctions
used with adults who have committed a sex offense are not appropriate for youth.
Continued research and evaluation will likely reveal more effective, more appropriate interventions.
The same level of scrutiny should be consistently applied to Risk Assessment
Instruments (RAI), which are often used to determine the risk that a person might
commit another sex offense in the future. Much like intervention strategies, RAIs
should evolve with new research and evaluation. RAIs are not necessarily appropriate for all individuals and should not be viewed as a definitive determination
of risk. Other strategies for assessing risk should be explored, evaluated, and
implemented.
7.	Assess the public safety impact of registries on communities.
Congress and other state legislative bodies commonly use impact statements to
determine the environmental and fiscal impact of specific pieces of legislation.
Racial impact statements are also increasingly used in decision-making processes,
especially pertaining to criminal justice legislation, and most legislative bodies
have long required fiscal notes to accompany legislation. Such proactive assessments provide a holistic view of the legislation and provide a better foundation on
which to pass laws.149
Before passing legislation that would expand registries, lawmakers could consider
public safety impact statements to determine how registries or notification would
actually change public safety and the general health and well-being of communities
and children.

36  registering harm

Local and Community Strategies
1.	Educate the public about the realities of sex offenses
The media has focused its coverage of sexual violence on rare cases of child
abduction and sexual abuse.151 This type of coverage can frighten communities
and families and result in ill-informed public policies. Additionally, having a sex
offender registry can lead to a false sense of security, as people may think that
because nobody is registered in their neighborhood, they are safe from possible
victimization. However, these registries are not completely accurate and place too
great an emphasis on the danger presented by strangers.
Since the majority of sex offenses go unreported, the registry is under-inclusive and
does not provide a clear picture of possible threats in a community. Yet at the same
time, most registries are over-inclusive and list people who are not a threat to public
safety. This dilutes a registry’s public safety effectiveness as families cannot tell who the
real threats are in their communities.
The public should know that youth are rarely considered by mental health professionals to be predators. Youth who commit sex offenses are not likely to become
adults who commit sex offenses, and although adults who commit sex offenses are
not likely to do so again, youth are even less likely to reoffend.

How do communities educate citizens?
Many jurisdictions use public education to accompany community notification of the presence of someone on a sex offense registry. However, some of
the same issues that advocates from organizations such as the Center for Sex
Offender Management say should be discussed during the community notification process would be just as effective in the absence of notification or a
public registry.
Those issues include:
k Differentiating between common myths and facts regarding people
who commit sex offenses and their victims154
k Identifying and verbalizing their fears and perceptions about people
convicted of sex offenses in the community155
k Accessing and utilizing information in the community to prevent sexual
violence156
Forums for education might include:
k Door-to-door education initiatives to reach as many community
members as possible
k Community forums and meetings
k School-based courses open to children, parents, and other community
members

justice policy institute  37

The public must be aware that effective treatment interventions for people convicted of sex offenses exist, not all people on the registry are “incurable,” and not
everyone on the registry is a threat to public safety. Furthermore, youth who are
convicted of sex offenses benefit from the same interventions available to all youth
who come in contact with the juvenile justice system.
2.	Educate the public on ways to increase personal safety
Although children alone cannot protect themselves from sexual abuse, it is by far
more beneficial to educate a child about potentially dangerous situations than to
rely on a registry. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children advocates for building children’s confidence and teaching them to be aware rather than
looking out for a singular or “particular type” of person.152
Public courses, training, school, and work-based initiatives can help individuals
understand how to better protect themselves and to understand how to identify
suspicious behavior, both within a home or familiar situation and among strangers.
Internet safety is a growing concern for communities. While many resources
are available to communities and individuals concerning internet safety, localities could provide additional community-based resources to help parents set up
controls on their computers, provide guidelines for talking to children about the
people they meet online, and discussing the importance of privacy.153
3.	Provide resources to families who may be worried about inappropriate
behavior
Defining appropriate and inappropriate behavior can be a challenge for many
parents and families. Resources should be provided to families who have questions
about these issues to make sure that they are handled appropriately and to ensure
that they have the ability to talk to their children about what is and is not appropriate behavior. If the child is exhibiting behavior that is
inappropriate then appropriate interventions should
be made available before the child becomes involved
in the criminal or juvenile justice systems.
Additionally, for youth who have been charged
with a sex offense, or any offense, adequate legal
resources need to be made available so that the
young person and his or her family fully understand
the legal consequences of this behavior and the ramifications associated with the sex offender registry so
that they can make better decisions and be prepared
for the criminal justice process.
4.	Provide training to teachers to help identify and
distinguish between appropriate and concerning
behavior
As more and more frequently teachers are becoming
responsible for reporting inappropriate behaviors to

38  registering harm

“Providing the public with accurate
information about sex offending
is central to successful prevention
and management efforts.”
—madeline m. carter and
laura morris of the center for
sex offender management 150

school officials and even law enforcement, it is important that they are trained to
recognize appropriate and inappropriate behavior and how they should respond
when concerned.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, “Programs
on child safety that are taught in the schools should be designed to increase children’s ability to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations and help
better protect themselves. Equally important is the development of self-esteem at
every level of the educational process, because children with self-confidence are
less likely to be victimized.”157

justice policy institute  39

Appendix A
Cost analysis methodology
The Justice Policy Institute calculated estimates of the potential costs of coming into
compliance with Title I of the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) based on the fiscal impact
drafted by one state. States that complete individual, comprehensive analyses based
on their unique statutory and law enforcement characteristics may arrive at different figures. Regardless of individual state differences in statutes, technology, and law
enforcement resources, the added staff and technology needed to come into full compliance with the AWA is sure to exceed the Byrne funds that would be lost by not
complying.*
In the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget’s Fiscal Impact Statement for
Proposed Legislation, Senate Bill No. 590 — ID# 08-0244806,158 the state found that
implementing a registry and notification system that would be in compliance with the
Adam Walsh Act would cost $12,497,267 in the first year of implementation. This figure
appears to include the hiring of 99 new sworn personnel and other support staff. The
Justice Policy Institute chose to use Virginia’s fiscal impact statement of Senate Bill 590
because it was the most comprehensive analysis available.
To arrive at the fiscal analysis based on Virginia’s cost estimate, JPI used the following
methodology:
1.	Determined the predicted number of people who will reside in Virginia
in 2009 by multiplying the number of people in Virginia in 2007 by 1
percent, which is an estimate of the average growth of the population of
the United States.159
2.	Divided Virginia’s estimated total cost ($12,497,267) by the predicted
number of people living in Virginia in 2009 to get the cost per person of
compliance with the Adam Walsh Act in Virginia. The cost per person is
$1.59.
3.	Determined the predicted number of people in each state in 2009 by
multiplying the number of people in the state by the projected average
increase of 1 percent.
4.	Multiplied the predicted number of people in each state in 2009 by $1.59
(the cost per person of coming into compliance with AWA in Virginia).
To arrive at 2009 state allocations for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance
Grant, JPI used the allocations allotted for Byrne grants for 2006.160 In May 2008 the
Senate had unanimously voted to authorize the Byrne grant program at fiscal year 2006
levels until 2012. In July 2008, the bill also passed the House of Representatives.161
Although these numbers are estimates, Virginia would have overestimated the cost of
coming into compliance with the Adam Walsh Act by a factor of 31 to break even with
the Byrne funds that could potentially be lost by non-compliance.

*  According to the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, California, Colorado, Arizona, and Washington are
also completing fiscal impact statements related to coming into compliance with the Adam Walsh Act.

40  registering harm

Appendix B
State by State Registration Survey 2007*
Juvenile
Registration

Juvenile
Community
Notification

Termination
of Juvenile
Registration

Alabama

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

Alaska

No

No

No

 

Arizona

Yes

No

Yes

 

Arkansas

Yes

Yes

Yes

Separate registration laws for juveniles

California

Yes

No

No

Only juveniles sent to the adult correctional system are required to register. Juveniles on probation are not required. This means that 95 percent of
juveniles are not required to register.

Colorado

Yes

Yes

Yes

Juveniles under age 18 can petition for removal upon successful completion of and discharge from the sentence.

Connecticut

Yes

No

No

 

Delaware

Yes

No

No

 

Florida

Yes

No

No

Juveniles are not required to register unless they are sentenced as an
adult.

Georgia

No

No

No

 

Hawaii

Yes

No

No

 

Idaho

Yes

No

Yes

Juveniles must be at least 14 years old to be put on the registry and they
are required to register until the age of 21.

Illinois

Yes

No

Yes

 

Indiana

Yes

Yes

Yes

Juveniles are only required to register if they are at least 14 years old
and found by the court by clear and convincing evidence to be repeat
offenders.

State

Comments

*  Prepared by Danielle Lipow, Southern Poverty Law Center, www.splc.org

justice policy institute  41

Iowa

Yes

Yes

No

 

Kansas

Yes

No

No

Separate registration laws for juveniles

Kentucky

No

Yes

No

 

Louisiana

No

No

No

 

Maryland

No

No

No

 

Massachusetts

Yes

Yes

No

 

Michigan

Yes

No

No

 

Minnesota

Yes

No

Yes

 

Mississippi

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

Missouri

Yes

No

No

Separate registration laws for juveniles

Montana

Yes

No

No

A judge determines the need for a juvenile to be on the registry based
on information from the probation officer and sex offender treatment
provider. Separate registration laws for juveniles.

Nebraska

No

No

No

 

Nevada

Yes

No

Yes

 

New Mexico

Yes

Yes

No

Juveniles must be at least 14 years old at the time of the offense and are subject to
the same community notification requirements as adults. If a juvenile is convicted
as a “youthful offender” he/she will be listed on the registry if the court determined at sentencing that he/she is a danger and not amenable to treatment.

New York

No

No

No

 

North Carolina

Yes

Yes

Yes

Separate registration laws for juveniles. Laws only apply to juveniles who
are at least 11 years old at the time of the offense and found by the court to
be a danger to the community.

42  registering harm

North Dakota

Yes

No

No

 

Ohio

Yes

Yes

Yes

Juveniles must be at least 14 years old or older to be on the registry.

Oklahoma

Yes

No

Yes

Juveniles must be at least 14 years old or older to be on the registry.
Separate registration laws apply.

Oregon

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

Pennsylvania

No

No

No

 

Tennessee

No

No

No

 

Texas

Yes

Yes

Yes

The court may defer registration requirements or de-register a juvenile.

Utah

Yes

No

No

Individuals who have had to register as a juvenile and who commit a subsequent offense as an adult are subject to lifetime registration.

Vermont

No

Yes

No

 

Virginia

No

Yes

No

 

Washington

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

Washington, D.C.

No

No

No

 

West Virginia

No

No

No

 

Wisconsin

Yes

Yes

No

Separate registration laws apply to juveniles.

Wyoming

No

No

No

 

justice policy institute  43

Endnotes
1  Patrick A. Langan, Erica L. Schmitt, and
Matthew R. Durose, Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994 (Washington,
D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003)

9  Cited in Richard Tewksbury and Jill Levenson, “When Evidence Is Ignored: Residential
Restrictions for Sex Offenders,” Corrections
Today 69, no.6 (2007): 54-57.

2  J.A. Hunter, D.W. Goodwin, and J.V.
Becker, “The Relationship between Phallometrically Measured Deviant Sexual Arousal
and Clinical Characteristics in Juvenile
Sexual Offenders,” Behavioral Research and
Therapy 32 (1994): 533-538; J.V. Becker, J.A.
Hunter, R.M. Stein, and M.S. Kaplan, “Factors
Associated with Erection in Adolescent Sex
Offenders,” Journal of Psychopathology &
Behavioral Assessment 11 (1989): 353-363;
American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic
and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th
ed.) (Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric
Association, 1994).

10  Jeffrey T. Walker and others, eds., The
Influence of Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws in the United States, (Little Rock,
AR: Arkansas Crime Information Center,
2006). http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=236182

3  Michael H. Miner, “Reaction Essay:
The Fallacy of Juvenile Sex Offender Risk,”
Criminology and Public Policy 6, no.3 (2007):
565-572.

13  Lisa L. Sample and Colleen Kadleck, 2008

4  Howard N. Snyder, Sexual Assault of Young
Children as Reported to Law Enforcement:
Victim, Incident and Offender Characteristics
(Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000). www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/
saycrle.htm.

15  Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation, Inc., July
2008. www.megannicolekankafoundation.
org/mission.htm.

5  Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission,
Fiscal Impact Statement for Proposed Legislation, Senate Bill No. 590 — ID# 08-0244806
(Richmond, VA: Virginia Criminal Sentencing
Commission, 2008).
6  Robert G. Zevitz, and M.A. Farkas, “Sex
Offender Community Notification. Managing
High-Risk Criminals or Exacting Further Vengeance?” Behavioral Sciences and the Law18
(2000): 375–391; Justice Policy Institute,
Housing and Public Safety (Washington, D.C.:
Justice Policy Institute, 2007); Justice Policy
Institute, Education and Public Safety (Washington, D.C.: Justice Policy Institute, 2007);
Justice Policy Institute, Employment, Wages
and Public Safety (Washington, D.C.: Justice
Policy Institute, 2007).
7  Franklin E. Zimring and others, “Sexual Delinquency in Racine: Does Early Sex Offending
Predict Later Sex Offending in Youth and
Young Adulthood?” Criminology and Public
Policy 6, no.3 (2007): 507-534.
8  Sarah Tofte, No Easy Answers (New York:
Human Rights Watch, 2007). www.hrw.org/
reports/2007/us0907/.

44  registering harm

11  FBI Uniform Crime Report, Crime in the
United States, 1991 and 1998, www.fbi.gov/ucr/
ucr.htm
12  Lisa L. Sample and Colleen Kadleck, “Sex
Offender Laws: Legislators’ Accounts of the
Need for Policy,” Criminal Justice Policy Review
19, no. 1 (2008): 40-62

14  Jacob Wetterling Foundation, “Jacob
Wetterling Story,” July 2008. www.jwf.org/.

16  Elizabeth Garfinkle, “Coming of Age in
America: The Misapplication of Sex Offender
Registration and Community Notification
Laws to Juveniles,” California Law Review 91
(2003): 163-208.
17  Daniel Filler, “Making the Case for Megan’s Law: A Study of Legislative Rhetoric,”
Indiana Law Journal 76, no.2 (2001).
18  The Texas Department of Protective and
Regulatory Services, 1995 Annual Report:
Protective Services For Families and Children:
36-53.
19  Daniel Filler, 2001
20  Daniel Filler, 2001
21  Dru’s Voice, “Dru’s Law,” August 2008.
www.drusvoice.com/law/
22  Accessed August 15, 2008, www.nsopr.
gov/
23  U.S. Department of Justice, “Frequently
Asked Questions: The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) Proposed
Guidelines,” (Washington, D.C.: SMART
Office, May 17, 2007) www.ojp.usdoj.gov/
smart/pdfs/sorna_faqs.pdf

24  Laura L. Rogers, “Sex Offender Registry
Laws: From Jacob Wetterling to Adam Walsh”
(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, SMART Office, 2007). www.ojp.usdoj.
gov/smart/pdfs/so_registry_laws.pdf
25  Dialogue, House of Representatives,
HR4472, March 8, 2006 www.geocities.com/
advocateletters/p-dia-hr4472-3-8-06-hse.
html
26  Dialogue, House of Representatives,
HR4472, March 8, 2006
27  Hearing before the Subcommittee on
Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of
the Committee on the Judiciary, House of
Representatives, 109th Congress, First Session, On H.R.2318 and H.R. 2388, “Protection
against Sexual Exploitation of Children Act of
2005. And the Prevention and Deterrence of
Crimes Against Children Act of 2005,” June 7,
2005 Serial No. 109–33 www.access.gpo.gov/
congress/house/pdf/109hrg/21652.pdf
28  Dialogue, House of Representatives,
HR4472, March 8, 2006
29  Hearing before the Subcommittee on
Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of
the Committee on the Judiciary, House of
Representatives, 109th Congress, First Session,
“Protecting our Nation’s Children from Sexual
Predators and Violent Criminals: What Needs
to be Done?”, June 9, 2005 Serial No. 109–31,
www.access.gpo.gov/congress/house/
house10ch109.html
30  R. Karl Hanson and Monique T. Bussiere
“Predicting Relapse: A Meta-Analysis of
Sexual Offender Recidivism Studies,” Journal
of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 66, no. 2
(1998):348-362.
31  Patrick A. Langan and David J. Levin,
Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994 (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics,
2002). http://ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/
rpr94.htm
32  Patrick A. Langan and others, 2003;
L.L. Sample, “An examination of the degree
to which sex offenders kill,” Criminal Justice
Review, 31, no.3 (2006): 230-250; L.L. Sample
and T.M. Bray, “Are Sex Offenders Dangerous?” Criminology and Public Policy, 3, no.1
(2003): 59-82; L.L. Sample and T.M. Bray,
“Are Sex Offenders Different? An Examination of Rearrest Patterns,” Criminal Justice
Policy Review, 17, no.1 (2006): 83-102.

33  Richard Tewksbury and Jill Levenson,
2007
34  Patrick A. Langan and others, 2003
35  Jeffrey T. Walker and others, eds., 2006
36  Patrick A. Langan and others, 2003
37  Jeffrey T. Walker and others, eds., 2006
38  Howard N. Snyder, Sexual Assault of
Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement:
Victim, Incident and Offender Characteristics
(Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000). www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/
saycrle.htm
39  Jill S. Levenson and Leo P. Cotter, “The
Impact of Megan’s Law on Sex Offender
Reintegration,” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 21, no.1 (2005): 49-66; 18 U.S.C.
§16911(5)(c). cited in Lori McPherson, Practitioner’s Guide to the Adam Walsh Act (Washington, D.C: American Prosecutors Research
Institute’s National Center for Prosecution
of Child Abuse, 2007). www.ojp.usdoj.gov/
smart/pdfs/practitioner_guide_awa.pdf.
40  Lawrence Greenfield, Sex Offenses and
Offenders: An Analysis of Data on Rape and
Sexual Assault (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of
Justice Statistics, 1997). www.ojp.usdoj.gov/
bjs/pub/pdf/soo.pdf, Table 5.
41  Robert G. Zevitz, and M.A. Farkas, “Sex
Offender Community Notification. Managing
High-Risk Criminals or Exacting Further Vengeance?” Behavioral Sciences and the Law18
(2000): 375–391; Justice Policy Institute,
Housing and Public Safety (Washington, D.C.:
Justice Policy Institute, 2007); Justice Policy
Institute, Education and Public Safety (Washington, D.C.: Justice Policy Institute, 2007);
Justice Policy Institute, Employment, Wages
and Public Safety (Washington, D.C.: Justice
Policy Institute, 2007).

48  Ohio Legislative Service Commission Fiscal Note & Local Impact Statement (Columbus, OH: Ohio Legislative Service Commission, 2007) www.lsc.state.oh.us

60  David Eggert, “Audit: Michigan sex
offender registries contain inaccurate data,”
Associated Press, July 9, 2005. www.detnews.
com/2005/metro/0507/09/-241894.htm

49  Virginia Department of Planning
and Budget 2008 Fiscal Impact Statement
(Richmond, VA: Department of Planning and
Budget, 2008).

61  Emily Ramshaw, “Sex Offender Label
Makes No Distinction: For Many Men,
Registry Has Lasting and Devastating
Effects,” Dallas Morning News, October
2, 2006 cited on National Association of
Criminal Defense Lawyers webpage: http://
www.nacdl.org/sl_docs.nsf/freeform/sex_
offender011?OpenDocument

50  Oregon State University, “Yearly Inflation
or Deflation Rate (CPI-U) 1915 -2005, in Percent.” April 24, 2008. http://oregonstate.edu/
cla/polisci/faculty-research/sahr/pc1915ff.
htm .
51  Office of Justice Programs, “JAG State
Allocations,” April 23, 2008. www.ojp.usdoj.
gov/BJA/grant/07JAGstateallocations.pdf.
52  Lori McPherson, 2007.
53  Virginia Department of Planning and
Budget, Fiscal Impact Statement for Proposed Legislation, Senate Bill No. 590 — ID#
08-0244806 (Richmond, VA: Virginia
Criminal Sentencing Commission, 2008).
http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.
exe?081+oth+SB590F122+PDF
54  Virginia Department of Planning and
Budget, 2008.
55  Ohio Revised Code, 2950.031 Tier-classification of registered sex offenders. http://
codes.ohio.gov/orc/2950.031
56  David Kihara, “Rating Relapse Risks:
Reclassifying sexual offenders means more
will feel public pressure,” Las Vegas ReviewJournal, June 22, 2008. www.lvrj.com/
news/20638774.html
57  SORNA Guidelines, XIII: Enforcement of
Registration Requirements, page 58, www.
ojp.usdoj.gov/smart/pdfs/final_sornaguidelines.pdf

46  Howard N. Snyder, 2000

58  Emily Ramshaw, “Sex Offender Label
Makes No Distinction: For Many Men,
Registry Has Lasting and Devastating
Effects,” Dallas Morning News, October
2, 2006 cited on National Association
of Criminal Defense Lawyers webpage:
www.nacdl.org/sl_docs.nsf/freeform/sex_
offender011?OpenDocument

47  Kris Axtman, “Efforts grow to keep
tabs on sex offenders,” Christian Science
Monitor, July 28, 2006. www.csmonitor.
com/2006/0728/p01s02-ussc.html

59  Hector Castro, “Sex offender registry
failing,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January
8, 2003. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/
local/103212_register08.shtml

42  Jeffrey T. Walker and others, eds., 2006
43  Jeffrey T. Walker and others, eds., 2006
44  Jeffrey T. Walker and others, eds., 2006
45  Jeffrey T. Walker and others, eds., 2006

62  Claudia Rowe, “Juvenile sex offenders
marked for life,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June
22, 2008, http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/
local/368007_youthoffenders23.html.
63  Federal Bureau of Investigation, “2006
Uniform Crime Report,” Arrests by Age, Table
38, 2007, www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/data/
table_38.html.
64  National Center on Sexual Behavior of
Youth, Center for Sex Offender Management
(CSOM) and the Office of Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention, Juveniles Who
Have Sexually Offended: A Review of the Professional Literature Report (Washington, D.C.:
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention, 2001).
65  J.A. Hunter, D.W. Goodwin, and J.V.
Becker, “The Relationship between Phallometrically Measured Deviant Sexual Arousal
and Clinical Characteristics in Juvenile
Sexual Offenders,” Behavioral Research and
Therapy 32 (1994): 533-538; J.V. Becker, J.A.
Hunter, R.M. Stein, and M.S. Kaplan, “Factors
Associated with Erection in Adolescent Sex
Offenders,” Journal of Psychopathology &
Behavioral Assessment 11 (1989): 353-363;
American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic
and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th
ed.) (Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric
Association, 1994).
66  Michael H. Miner, “Reaction Essay:
The Fallacy of Juvenile Sex Offender Risk,”
Criminology and Public Policy 6, no.3 (2007):
565-572.
67  Brigid Schulte, “For Little Children,
Grown-Up Labels as Sexual Harassers,”
Washington Post, April 3, 2008.
68  Brigid Schulte, April 3, 2008.

justice policy institute  45

69  Yvonne Bynoe, “Is That 4-Year-Old
Really a Sex Offender?,” The Washington Post, October 21, 2007. www.
washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/
article/2007/10/19/AR2007101901544.
html?referrer=emailarticle

(Beaverton, OR: Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, 2007) www.atsa.
com/pdfs/SORNA.pdf

70  Yvonne Bynoe, October 21, 2007.

85  Robert E. Freeman-Longo, “Prevention or
Problem?” Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research
and Treatment 8, no. 3 (1996), cited in William
Edwards and Christopher Hensley, 2001.

71  Michael F. Caldwell, “What We Do Not
Know About Juvenile Sexual Reoffense Risk,”
Child Maltreatment7, no. 4 (November 2002):
291-302.

86  Eric Lotke, Sex Offenses: Facts, Fictions and
Policy Implications (Baltimore, MD: National
Center on Institutions and Alternatives, Inc.,
2006) www.ncianet.org.

72  Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice,
Juvenile recidivism in Virginia (Richmond, VA:
VDJJ, DJJ Research Quarterly, 2005); cited in
Howard N. Snyder and Melissa Sickmund,
Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National
Report (Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2006).
http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/nr2006/.

87  Roper v. Simmons, www.supremecourtus.
gov/opinions/04pdf/03-633.pdf

73  Michael F. Caldwell, 2002

89  William Edwards and Christopher Hensley, 2001, Page 89

74  Donna M. Vandiver, “A Prospective
Analysis of Juvenile Male Sex Offenders:
Characteristics and Recidivism Rates as
Adults,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 21, no.
5 (May 2006): 673-688.
75  Franklin E. Zimring and others, 2007,
Figure 7.
76  Michael H. Miner, 2007
77  Michael H. Miner, 2007
78  William Edwards and Christopher Hensley, “Contextualizing Sex Offender Management Legislation and Policy: Evaluating the
Problem of Latent Consequences in Community Notification Laws,” International Journal of
Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
45, no.1 (2001): 83-101. Page 94-95
79  Cited in William Edwards and Christopher Hensley, 2001 Page 95
80  William Edwards and Christopher Hensley, 2001 Page 96
81  18 U.S.C. §16911(5)(c). cited in Lori
McPherson, 2007.
82  William Edwards and Christopher Hensley, 2001, Page 90
83  Jill S. Levenson and Leo P. Cotter, 2005.
84  Association for the Treatment of Sexual
Abusers, Comments on Proposed Guidelines
to Interpret and Implement the Sex Offender
Registration and Notification Act (SORNA),

46  registering harm

88  Association for the Treatment of Sexual
Abusers, The Effective Legal Management of Juvenile Sex Offender (Beaverton, Oregon: Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers,
2000). www.atsa.com/ppjuvenile.html

90  JJ Prescott and Jonah E. Rockoff, “Do Sex
Offender Registration and Notification Laws
Affect Criminal Behavior?”Social Science Research Network Working Paper No. 08-006.
Page 34.
91  William Edwards and Christopher Hensley, 2001, Page 91.
92  Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2008 Kids
Count Data Book (Baltimore, MD: Annie E.
Casey Foundation, 2008).
93  William Edwards and Christopher Hensley, 2001, Page89
94  Franklin E. Zimring and others, “Sexual
Delinquency in Racine: Does Early Sex Offending Predict Later Sex Offending in Youth
and Young Adulthood?” Criminology and
Public Policy 6, no.3 (2007): 507-534.
95  The New York Times, “Sex Offender’s
Home is Burned,” July 13, 1993; Glenn Adams,
“Maine Killings Raise Questions About Sex
Offender Registries,” San Diego Union-Tribune,
April 17, 2006. www.signonsandiego.com/
news/nation/20060417-1412-sexoffendersslain.html; Jerry DeMarco, “Innocent
Man Beaten, Mistaken for Sex Offender,”
The Record (Bergen County, NJ), January
11, 1995;Robert Hanley, “Shots Fired At the
House Of a Rapist,” The New York Times, June
17, 1998, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D03E0DF103DF934A25755
C0A96E958260

96  Richard Tewksbury, “Collateral Consequences of Sex Offender Registration,” Journal
of Contemporary Criminal Justice 21 No. 1
(February 2005): 67-81
97  Franklin E. Zimring and others, 2007
98  Sarah Tofte, 2007.
99  MacArthur Foundation Research
Network on Adolescent Development and
Juvenile Justice, Issue Brief 5: The Changing
Borders of Juvenile Justice: Transfer of Adolescents to Adult Criminal Court, www.adjj.org/
downloads/3582issue_brief_5.pdf August
2008.
100  Association for the Treatment of Sexual
Abusers, Comments on Proposed Guidelines
to Interpret and Implement the Sex Offender
Registration and Notification Act (SORNA),
(Beaverton, OR: Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, 2007) www.atsa.
com/pdfs/SORNA.pdf
101  John-Thor Dahlburg, “Limits on sex
offenders spread in Florida,” LA Times, July
5, 2005, http://articles.latimes.com/2005/
jul/05/nation/na-sexlaws5
102  Sarah Tofte, 2007.
103  Bill Rankin, “Law would evict female
“offender” for teen sex,” The Atlanta JournalConstitution, July 11, 2008, www.ajc.com/
metro/content/metro/stories/2008/07/11/
sex_offender_eviction_challengec.html
104  Patrick A. Langan and others, 2003.
105  Grant Duwe and others, eds., “Does
Residential Proximity Matter? A Geographic
Analysis of Sex Offense Recidivism,” Criminal
Justice and Behavior 35, no. 4 (2008): 484504.
106  Grant Duwe and others, eds., 2008,
Page 486.
107  Minnesota Department of Corrections,
Residential Proximity & Sex Offense Recidivism
in Minnesota (St. Paul, Minn: Minnesota
Department of Corrections, April 2007)  
www.doc.state.mn.us/documents/04-07SexOffenderReport-Proximity.pdf

108  Jill S. Levenson and Leo P. Cotter, “The
Impact of Sex Offender Residence Restrictions: 1,000 Feet from Danger or One Step
from Absurd?” International Journal of Offender
Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Vol. 49
No. 2, 2005, pages 178-205; Jill S. Levenson,
“Sex Offender Restrictions,” Sex Offender Law
Report, Civil Research Institute, 2005.
109  Marcus Nieto and David Jung, The
Impact of Residency Restrictions on Sex Offenders and Correctional Management Practices: A
Literature Review (Sacramento, CA: California
Research Bureau, 2006). www.library.ca.gov/
crb/06/08/06-008.pdf
110  Marcus Nieto and David Jung, 2006
111  Grant Duwe and others, eds., “Does
Residential Proximity Matter? A Geographic
Analysis of Sex Offense Recidivism,” Criminal
Justice and Behavior 35, no. 4 (2008): 484504.
112  Jeffery Walker, “Eliminate Residency
Restrictions for Sex Offenders,” Criminology
and Public Policy 6, No. 4 (2007): 863-870.
113  Joseph Gerth, “Ordinance Would Place
Restrictions on Molesters, Council Measure
Targets Residential, Work Options,” CourierJournal, December 8, 2005.
114  Channel 4 KOMO Staff and News Service, “Sex Offender Task Force Wants Tougher
Registration Laws,” Seattle, Washington,
December 27, 2005, cited in Marcus Nieto
and David Jung, 2006.
115  Jeffery Walker, 2007
116  Robert Worth, “Exiling Sex Offenders from Town,” New York Times, October 3,
2005.
117  William Edwards and Christopher Hensley, “Contextualizing Sex Offender Management Legislation and Policy: Evaluating the
Problem of Latent Consequences in Community Notification Laws,” International Journal of
Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
45, no.1 (2001): 83-101. Page 92
118  Lawrence Greenfield, 1997, Table 5.
119  Patrick A. Langan and David J. Levin,
2002, Table 6.
120  Patrick A. Langan and others, 2003.

121  Alvin Malesky and Jeanmarie Keim,
“Mental Health Professionals’ Perspectives
on Sex Offender Registry Web Sites,” Sexual
Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment 13,
no. 1(2001):53-63.
122  Richard Tewksbury and Matthew B.
Lees, “Perceptions of Punishment: How Registered Sex Offenders View Registries,” Crime &
Delinquency 53 (2007): 380-407, page 384.
123  Emily Ramshaw, “’Sex Offender’
Label Makes No Distinction: For Many
Men, Registry Has Lasting and Devastating Effects,” Dallas Morning News, October
2, 2006 cited on National Association
of Criminal Defense Lawyers webpage:
www.nacdl.org/sl_docs.nsf/freeform/sex_
offender011?OpenDocument
124  AZFamily.com, “Man wrongly pinpointed as sex offender by Chandler Police,”
AZFamily.com, June 20, 2008, www.azfamily.
com/news/local/stories/Chandler_local_
news_061908_wrong-sex-offender.1db9dd4e.
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125  10TVNews.com, “Sex Offender Falsely
Lists Sister’s Address as Own,” 10TVNews.
com, July 25, 2008.
126  Editorial, “To Find a Sex Offender,”
Birmingham News, June 6, 2007.
127  John-Henry Doucette, “Man sues over
sex offender registry site,” Virginia Pilot and
Ledger-Star, September 27, 2005.
128  Abigail Goldman, “Flawed sex offender
tracking leads to wrong door,” Las Vegas Sun,
November 18, 2007.
129  Sarah Tofte, No Easy Answers (New York:
Human Rights Watch, 2007). www.hrw.org/
reports/2007/us0907/.
130  Richard G. Zevitz, “Sex Offender Community Notification: Its Role in Recidivism and
Offender Reintegration,” Criminal Justice Studies 19, no. 2(2006): pp. 193–208, Page 205
131  Richard Tewksbury and Matthew B. Lees,
2007, page 402
132  Editorial, “To Find a Sex Offender,”
Birmingham News, June 6, 2007.
133  Jill S. Levenson and David A. D’Amora,
“Social Policies Designed to Prevent Sexual
Violence: The Emperor’s New Clothes?”
Criminal Justice Policy Review, 18, no. 2 (2007),
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134  Sarah Tofte, 2007.
135  Matthew R. Lee and Terri L. Earnest,
“Perceived Community Cohesion and Perceived Risk of Victimization: A Cross-National
Analysis,” Justice Quarterly, 20:1 (March
2003): 131.
136  A.A. Caputo, “Community Notification
Laws for Sex Offenders: Possible Mediators
and Moderators of Citizen Coping,” Dissertation Abstracts International 61, no. 9-B (2001);
R.G. Zevitz, D. Crim and M.A. Farkas, “Sex
Offender Community Notification: Examining
the Importance of Neighborhood Meetings,”
Behavioral Sciences and the Law 18 (2000):
393-408.
137  Jeffrey Michael Cancino, “The Utility of
Social Capital and Collective Efficacy: Social
Control Policy in Nonmetropolitan Settings,”
Criminal Justice Policy Review 16, 287 (2005).
138  Emily Ramshaw, “Sex Offender
Label Makes No Distinction: For Many
Men, Registry Has Lasting and Devastating Effects,” Dallas Morning News, October
2, 2006 cited on National Association of
Criminal Defense Lawyers webpage: http://
www.nacdl.org/sl_docs.nsf/freeform/sex_
offender011?OpenDocument .
139  Sarah Tofte, 2007.
140  18 U.S.C. §16911(5)(c). cited in Lori
McPherson, 2007.
141  Michael Lindenberger, “Should a Teen
Sex Offender Go Free?” Time, February
20, 2007, www.time.com/time/nation/
article/0,8599,1591688,00.html
142  CNN, “Genarlow Wilson: Plea deal
would have left me without a home,” CNN
News, October 19, 2007, http://edition.cnn.
com/2007/US/law/10/29/wilson.released/
143  Michael Lindenberger, “Should a Teen
Sex Offender Go Free?” Time, February
20, 2007, www.time.com/time/nation/
article/0,8599,1591688,00.html
144  CNN, October 19, 2007
145  Hearing before the Subcommittee on
Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of
the Committee on the Judiciary, House of
Representatives, 109th Congress, First Session,
June 9, 2005

justice policy institute  47

146  Stop It Now!, “Working Upstream: A
Public Health Approach to Preventing Sexual
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147  Stop It Now!, August 14, 2005.
148  Eric S. Janus, Failure to Protect: America’s
Sexual Predator Laws and the Rise of the Preventive State (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press, 2006)
149  Marc Mauer, “Racial Impact Statements as a Means of Reducing Unwarranted
Sentencing Disparities,” Ohio State Journal of
Criminal Law 5, no. 19 (2007). www.sentencingproject.org/Admin/Documents/publications/rd_racialimpactstatements.pdf
150  Madeline M. Carter and Laura Morris,
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and Practitioners. Updated [ed.] (Washington,
D.C.: Office of Justice Programs, 2007).
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Library/022701
151  Ross E. Cheit, “What Hysteria? A
Systematic Study of Newspaper Coverage of
Accused Child Molesters,”
Child Abuse & Neglect 27, no. 6 (2003): 607.
152  National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children, Child Safety, Accessed September 22, 2008, http://
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US&PageId=713
153  National Institute on Media and the
Family, “Factsheet: Internet Filters: Making
Web Surfing Safer For Children,” August 14,
2008. www.mediafamily.org/facts/facts_internet.shtml
154  Center for Sex Offender Management,
Sex Offender Registration: Policy Overview and
Comprehensive Practices (Washington, DC:
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155  Center for Sex Offender Management,
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156  Center for Sex Offender Management,
1999.

48  registering harm

157  National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children, Guidelines for Programs to
Reduce Child Victimization. http://missingkids.
com/en_US/publications/NC24.pdf
158  Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission, Fiscal Impact Statement for Proposed
Legislation (Preliminary), Senate Bill No. 590
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Criminal Sentencing Commission, January
2008).
159  Bureau of the Census, Current Population
Reports: Population Projections of the United
States by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin:
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Washington, DC: 1996). www.census.gov/
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160  Office of Justice Programs, 2007
State JAG Allocations — Factsheet (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, 2007). www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/
grant/07JAGstateallocations.pdf.
161  Govtrack.us, “S. 231--110th Congress
(2007): A bill to authorize the Edward Byrne
Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program
at fiscal year 2006 levels through 2012,”
September 22, 2008. www.govtrack.us/
congress/bill.xpd?bill=s110-231

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