The state by state sex offender registries were meant to assist law enforcement and probation and parole officers in the supervision of those who have been convicted of sex crimes not to create conditions of greater danger to community members. Unfortunately, many well-intended laws designed to prevent sexual violence do not show any evidence of effectiveness - and may have unintended negative consequences. Residency restrictions and community notification laws may even be undermining community safety. For example, a survey of recently released sex offenders in Florida indicated that housing restrictions increased isolation, created financial and emotional stress, and led to decreased stability. Making it more difficult for individuals to live in the community increases the risk that they may re-offend.
At its best, community re-entry becomes a cooperative process with a role for all of us to play in preventing future sexual assaults whether as a private citizen, a public official or agency professional. True primary prevention demands that each of us be accountable for educating ourselves with a clear understanding of the facts, so we can take the necessary actions in our personal and professional lives to prevent the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.
It takes all adult community members to create the conditions for safety by educating themselves about child sexual abuse. On a societal level: When judges assign conditions of parole/probation are they informed by best practice for sex offender management? For policymakers: Asking the question whether or not a policy increases or decreases community safety and then looking to the evidence of what is most effective can increase the conditions for community safety. An example would be: insuring opportunities for adequate housing and work for former offenders to be able to establish stable lifestyles. For the former sex offender: Is there specialized, sex specific treatment available in the community? For professionals: Did re-entry planning begin at the early stage of incarceration? Are pre-release, transition and community re-entry plans coordinated? Are re-entry plans revised to keep up with changes in circumstances of the offender? For the general public: Are there opportunities to educate themselves about preventing sexual abuse and how to work to create greater safety in the community and at home?