Assessing the Deterrent Effects of Sex Offender Laws

Lisa L. Sample, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Timothy M. Bray, University of Texas at Dallas

In response to public concern about sex crimes throughout the 1990s, policy makers enacted sex offender registration and community notification laws. The intention of these laws is not only to ease the public's fear of sexual victimization but, more importantly, to deter persons from committing sexual offenses. However, after almost a decade of implementation, little research has been conducted to determine the effectiveness of these laws in reducing the frequency and prevalence of sex offending in communities. This research uses Illinois criminal history data from 1980 to 2000 to determine the degree to which sex offender registration and community notification have deterred the previously convicted sex offender from re-committing sex crimes and prevented non-sexual offenders from committing an initial sex offense. Answers to these research questions will help inform policy makers who wish to develop legislative interventions that exercise maximum control on sexual criminals.

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Updated 05/20/2006