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Center for Sex Offender Management, A Project of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice
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Research Results

Community notification laws are constructed on the assumption that letting neighbors know about sex offenders living near to them will help prevent further sexual assault. It may not be possible to learn the number of crimes prevented by these laws. Nonetheless, information can and should be gathered about the influence of community notification on community behaviors, perceptions and criminal justice practices.

Offender Recidivism. Only one study has been completed on the impact of community notification on offender recidivism to date. In the state of Washington, researchers found that in a matched sample of ninety offenders subject to community notification and ninety offenders not subject to community notification (comparable in all other aspects), results demonstrated that recidivists in the community notification group were rearrested sooner than recidivists in the non-notification group. However, the level of reoffending for members of each group after 4.5 years was the same. There was no statistically significant difference in reoffending between the two groups. Research also indicates that -- contrary to what is widely believed -- most new arrests for adult sex offenders are for non-sexually motivated crimes.

Cost. The level of expense associated with community notification depends upon the population density and geographic size of the area and the decisions made by policy makers. Smaller communities can often rely on word-of-mouth communications. Larger communities require postage, equipment costs, and a greater commitment of staff resources. Other practices that may be costly include background investigations of offenders about to leave prison and the identification of the individuals in the community who are most likely to be affected by the release of particular sex offenders. Legal challenges to aspects or the entirety of community notification procedures can also add significantly to at least the initial costs of establishing notification practices. To date, only the State of Washington has measured the cost implications of these new policies.

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