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Prescott on Post-Release Regulations and Sex Offender Recidivism

Abstract: The purported purpose of sex offender post-release regulations (e.g., community notification and residency restrictions) is the reduction of sex offender recidivism. On their face, these laws seem well-designed and likely to be effective. A simple economic framework of offender behavior can be used to formalize these basic intuitions: in essence, post-release regulations either increase the probability of detection or increase the immediate cost of engaging in the prohibited activity (or both), and so should reduce the likelihood of criminal behavior. These laws aim to incapacitate people outside of prison. Yet, empirical researchers to date have found essentially no reliable evidence that these laws work to reduce sex offender recidivism (despite years and years of effort), and some evidence (and plenty of expert sentiment) suggests that these laws may increase sex offender recidivism. In this Article, I develop a more comprehensive economic model of criminal behavior — or, rather, I present a simple, but complete model — that clarifies that these laws have at best a theoretically ambiguous effect on recidivism levels. First, I argue that the conditions that must hold for these laws to increase the legal and physical costs of returning to sex crime are difficult to satisfy. There are simply too many necessary conditions, some of which are at odds with others. Second, I contend that even when these conditions hold, our intuitions mislead us in this domain by ignoring a critical aspect of criminal deterrence: to be deterred, potential offenders must have something to lose. I conclude that post-release laws are much more likely to succeed if they are combined with robust reintegration efforts to give previously convicted sex offenders a stake in society, and therefore, in eschewing future criminal activity.

Paper: Portmanteau Ascendant: Post-Release Regulations and Sex Offender Recidivism

Join the discussion

  1. David M

    This is a interview with U of M law professor, JJ Prescott explaining his concerns with the registry. He does very extensive studies on the issue.

    http://www.wxyz.com/news/interview-are-there-problems-with-michigans-sex-offender-registry

  2. Will A

    I don’t know what all the various studies have shown but I can speak definitively about Registration for myself.

    Before I was listed on the Registries around 2 decades ago, I was a good U.S. citizen for the most part. I felt like I had a civic duty and I positively contributed to society. I was very pro-law and pro-law enforcement. Then I took a plea bargain for a relatively minor sex crime (minor enough that they prosecutor offered no jail time at all and I had only spent 1 week in jail before bonding out).

    I took the plea bargain with the understanding that I would only be listed on the Registry for 10 years. And when I took the plea bargain, the Registries were nearly nothing and there were no extra harassment/restriction/punishment laws. Of course all of that changed. My Registration period was extended to life and one criminal government after another started committing crimes against me, including attempting to move my family out of the home that we owned. One of the latest crimes that they have committed is attempting to stop my family from international travel.

    So it only took a few years on the Registry for me to declare war on all people who support it. I haven’t stopped and I won’t. If the criminal regimes that have Registries had any sense at all, they would remove me from their Registries immediately. But they don’t.

    I’m not going to waste everyone’s time and go into all the detail of all the actions that I have taken to retaliate against the Registries but they have been extensive and damaging. And I can say today that it is undeniable that there has been nothing in my life even close to the Registries that has made me want to harm people so much. Today, I believe that people who support the Registries are either uninformed and clueless or inherently evil. And people who are evil are not people and they deserve less than animals.

    The Registries relieved me of any obligations to be a good citizen. I take care of my family and friends. I have little concern for other people, until/unless they can prove that they don’t support the Registries.

    • mike

      I understand your feelings. I can understand the 49 ers QB not standing for the NA. I feel the same. I wish no one harm, but I do not have good feelings about our Gov.

  3. Timmr

    If they had not made registration retroactive, researchers would have had a base group to compare what affects the laws were truly having on the public welfare.

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