A report from Pew Charitable Trusts finds that many states and cities are imposing increasingly harsh residency restrictions on registered sex offenders, despite evidence that such restrictions do not improve – and may actually undermine – public safety.
The report focuses on new statewide restrictions in Wisconsin, but notes that other states are pushing more punitive laws.
In all, 27 states have blanket rules restricting how close sex offenders can live to schools and other places where groups of children may gather, according to research by the Council of State Governments. Hundreds of cities also have restrictions, according to the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA). And many laws are becoming more restrictive — along with Wisconsin, they expanded last year in Arkansas, Montana, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.
Some states are scaling back residency restrictions, and one expert quoted in the report says he has found no restrictions that actually reduce recidivism rates.
What they can do is make offenders even greater outcasts. A U.S. Department of Justice report released in October 2014 said there is fairly clear evidence that residency restrictions are ineffective, and the laws cause a “loss of housing, loss of support systems, and financial hardship that may aggravate rather than mitigate offender risk.”