In Episode 9, “Why Should I Care?!”, Alexa interviews Dr. Alissa Ackerman about sex crimes policies in the U.S. Alissa is widely considered an expert on sex crimes policy and much of her research has examined the efficacy of the sex offense registry, residence restrictions, and community notification. Notably, her research, and that of most other researchers, have found that sex crimes policies have done nothing to make society safer and have not reduced rates of sexual violence since their implementation.
In this episode, we discuss two policies that apply only to those who have committed what the law defines as a “sex crime”: the publicly available sex offender registry and residence restrictions. These policies were enacted after the high-profile abductions and murders of young children by a known “sex offender”. The names of these child victims, Adam Walsh, Megan Kanka, and Jacob Wetterling, are well known. Unfortunately, these cases do not represent typical sex offenses. In fact, these are the rarest type of sex crimes.
The assumptions underlying sex crimes policies is the notion that sex offenders are somehow different from everyone else. That they do not stop offending and each offense is more violent than the last. As we discussed in Episode 8 with Dr. Danielle Harris, most people who have committed sex offenses do desist, or stop offending. Additionally, studies of recidivism rates consistently indicate that people who offend sexually recidivate at lower rates than most other offenders and are more likely to recidivate with a non-sexual offense than a sexual one. The collateral consequences of these laws, the shame, stigma, inability to find housing and employment, are precisely the elements that are necessary for a person to reintegrate into their community in a positive, prosocial way.
Why should you care?! Anyone that wants to end sexual violence should care about the ineffectiveness of sex crimes policies and their collateral consequences. Instead of spending money on policies that are doing nothing to decrease rates of sexual violence, money and legislative efforts could be better directed toward sexual violence prevention.
In this episode we referenced several studies. You will find links to those research articles below. If you would like more information, please feel free to email us.
To read about Alissa’s work with the data from NCMEC, click here.
To read more about the sex offender registry in an article by Dr. Alissa Ackerman, Dr. Andrew Harris, Dr. Jill Levenson, and Dr. Kristen Zgoba click here.
To read more about research on the efficacy of sex offense policies on reducing rates of sexual violence, read an article by Dr. Alissa Ackerman, Dr. Meghan Sachs, and Dr. David Greenberg here.
We highly recommend the documentary Untouchable which provides a comprehensive understanding of these policies and the very human impact of them.
Please note that Alissa references the findings of a meta-analysis conducted to evaluate the impact of sex offense legislation. She actually was referring to a comprehensive literature review on the topic which can be accessed here.
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