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An Overview of Sex Offender Community Notification Practices: Policy Implications and Promising Approaches

November 1997

This document is also available in Adobe Acrobat format which allows the document to be downloaded, viewed, and printed with all of its original formatting and graphics. To view files in this format you must first download a copy of the Adobe Acrobat Reader and follow the instructions for installation.

Introduction

In 1996, Federal legislation mandated that states establish a community notification program or lose ten percent of their federal law enforcement funding under the Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Funding program. As of October 1997, forty-seven states had passed "community notification" laws that require criminal justice agencies to inform local communities that convicted sex offenders are residing in their neighborhoods or allow the public access to this information.

Why have these laws emerged so quickly? What do they promise the American public? How are they being implemented? What have they achieved so far? What else must be done to assure that these laws help improve the reality -- as well as the perception -- of public safety? Can community notification be used as a tool to manage sex offenders in the community? What are the limits to community notification as a tool to manage sex offenders in the community? What civil rights questions are raised by these laws? What resources are available to learn more about community notification? What resources are required to implement community notification?

In this policy and practice brief, the Center for Sex Offender Management offers, in summary form, up-to-date information intended to inform citizens, state and local leaders, and criminal justice professionals about community notification, and to describe community notification procedures that promote sound public policy and practice.

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