Community corrections programs oversee offenders outside of jail or prison. They are administered by agencies or courts with the legal authority to enforce sanctions. Community corrections include probation — correctional supervision within the community rather than jail or prison and parole, also a period of conditional, supervised release from prison. Evaluating sex offenders residency restrictions restrictions can how mapping can inform police: * Many locations have implemented residency laws that prohibit sex offenders from living near schools or other places where children gather.
* Studies show that restrictions can create exclusion zones that make it difficult, if not impossible, for sex offenders to find housing. * Sex offenders then may become homeless, go underground or report false addresses, making them difficult to track. * Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can help evaluate the impact of residency laws. Laws that restrict where registered sex offenders may live have become increasingly popular during the past decade. As of 2007, some 27 states and hundreds of municipalities had enacted laws that bar sex offenders from residing near schools, parks, playgrounds and day care centers.
“The specified distance from a school or other venue is typically 1,000 feet but varies from 500 to 2,500 feet, depending on the jurisdiction”. (nij. gov)The laws, which have wide public support, are modeled after Florida’s “Jessica’s Law,” named for a nine-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped and killed by a molester. “They follow the Wetter ling Act of 1994 mandating sex offender registration and the 1996 Megan’s Law requiring public notification when an offender moves into a community”. ( nij. gov) Residency restriction laws have led to some unanticipated and unintended consequences.
In many locations -most noticeably in urban areas -the restrictions have created overlapping exclusion zones that severely limit where offenders can live. “In some cities the only acceptable sites are in high-crime neighborhoods or commercial zones. ”( nij. gov) Even when residential areas are available, sex offenders just released from prison may not be able to find affordable housing in those areas. If unable to find legal housing, offenders may report false addresses, become homeless or go underground. Others may be forced to live in rural areas with less access to employment or mental health services.
Even in rural areas where schools and day care centers are more geographically dispersed, most unrestricted land is forest or farmland. “GIS analysis can help officials gauge the impacts of sex offender residency laws”. (nij. gov) By analyzing mapping data from GIS, they can isolate the exclusion zones and the areas available for housing in their communities. They can also determine whether registered sex offenders are living in compliant housing. Researchers mapped data from three areas using GIS to locate registered offenders and identify restricted sites and their exclusion zones.
Although the localities differed in geography and population, all evidenced limited access to suitable housing. “GIS mapping can inform legislators about sexual offender residency requirements — especially in jurisdictions that are contemplating enactment of residency laws. ” (nij. gov) Local officials can use the mapping analysis to determine whether affordable housing is available within approved areas and to evaluate the proximity of that housing to treatment facilities. Such prior analysis can demonstrate whether a proposed law is feasible to enforce.
Jurisdictions with a residency law already in place can use the data to assess whether the exclusion zones result in a lack of housing options for offenders. New Jersey does not have a statewide sex offender residency restriction policy, but as of 2007, 113 municipalities had barred sex offenders from living near parks, beaches, schools, day care centers or bus stops. Restrictions range from 500 to 2,500 feet. “Using GIS mapping, researchers examined three areas in northern New Jersey — the rural townships of Phillipsburg and Alpha in Warren County, the City of Newark, and Bergen
County — to assess the potential impact of residency restrictions near schools. ”( nij. gov) In the rural townships, researchers plotted the 16 registered sex offenders and the 13 schools and concluded that with a 1,000-foot exclusion zone, five of the offenders would have to move. With the maximum 2,500-foot zone, all 16 offenders would be required to relocate, and city centers would be off-limits. Although about half of the township land was compliant, most of it is uninhabitable farmland and natural reserves.
“Newark showed 196 registered sex offenders and 118 schools. ”( nij. gov) With a 1,000-foot exclusion zone, 127 offenders would have to relocate. With a 2,500-foot zone, this figure jumps to 193, and the main parts of the city become completely off limits. Only about 7 percent of city land would be compliant. Bergen County showed 56 registered sex offenders and 410 schools. With a 1,000-foot exclusion zone, 21 offenders would have to move. With a 2,500-foot zone, nearly all of the offenders (51) would have to relocate.
About one-third of the county would be compliant, but much of it is natural reserves and roads. Further complicating the analysis, when schools were located near township or county boundaries, residency restriction zones extended into neighboring jurisdictions. In two cases, exclusion zones extended into adjacent states, making enforcement difficult. Phase two used a sample of 550 sex offenders arrested and released from New Jersey Department of Correction facilities before and after the implementation of Megan’s Law to examine the differences between the two groups.
Pre-post comparisons looked for differences in general re-offense arrest rates, sexual re-offense rates, harm (violent offense rates, percentage of child victims) and community tenure. The Megan’s Law in New Jersey The final phase of the project assessed costs associated with the implementation and current operation of community registration and notification activities in New Jersey. Cost assessment questionnaires were mailed to the Megan’s Law Units in the prosecutor’s offices for the 21 counties. “Survey questions were classified under two general categories” (nij.
gov) start-up costs (equipment, Internet sex offender registry) and ongoing yearly implementation costs for the 2006 calendar year (staff salaries, Internet registry maintenance, equipment maintenance/supplies and office supplies). Fifteen of 21 counties completed the survey. Along with the cost assessment survey, prior New Jersey state budgets were reviewed for costs associated with the incarceration, rehabilitation and tracking of sex offenders. Convicted offenders and their offense types were similar before and after Megan’s Law was passed.
Compared to the average criminal, sex offenders are generally older, are more likely to be married or have been married, are more likely to be employed, are better educated and are more likely to have children or stepchildren. In terms of the offenses, 79 percent of the crimes committed were child molestations and 20 percent were rapes. In 48 percent of the cases, the sex offender was a member of the victim’s family. “In 42 percent of the cases, the perpetrator lived with the victim and in 77 percent of the cases, the crime occurred in the victim’s or offender’s home. ”( nij. gov)
The greatest challenge in conducting research about sexual offenses is the low rate of reported sexual offenses. Because these crimes tend to be underreported, official sources of data and most measures of recidivism may underrepresent true offending rates. Another challenge in this study was determining whether Megan’s Law served as a deterrent. “Although the study found long-term downward trends in sexual arrest rates, it was not possible to determine whether the results were due to decreases in new first-time sex offenses (general deterrence) or to decreases in repeat sexual offenses (specific deterrence)”( nij.
gov) The study did not examine the extent to which sex offender registration and community notification increased surveillance and prepared the public to take preventive action. References (NIJ. GOV) “http://www. nij. gov/nij/topics/corrections” http://www. nij. gov/nij/topics/corrections/community/sex-offenders/new-jersey. htm http://www. state. nj. us/corrections/pages/index. shtml