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Awarded Research Grant to Prevent Violence and Violence-Related Injury

Preventing Sexual Violence: Does Sex Offender Registration and Notification Work?

FOA Number: CE05-012 - Grants for Violence-Related Injury Prevention Research
Project Period: 9/1/05-8/31/08
Application/Grant Number: 1-R49-CE000567-01
Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Letourneau, PhD
Medical University of South Carolina
Dept. Of Psychological & Behavioral Sciences-FSRC
261 Calhouns Street –Suite 243
Charleston, SC 29401
Email: letourej@musc.edu

Description

Reducing sexual violence is one of the research priorities identified in CDC’s Healthy People 2010 and its Research Agenda. This study will examine whether sex offender registration and notification policies have the intended effects of reducing sexual violence by juveniles; and whether these policies have an unintended effect of reducing the probability that youths who commit serious sexual offenses will be adjudicated. Registration and notification laws have largely escaped empirical investigation, thus this study will represent the first of which to examine the effects of sex offender-specific policies on juvenile offenders.

Researchers will examine whether South Carolina registration and notification polices have the intended effect of preventing sexual offending and of reducing sexual recidivism; and whether the unintended effect of reducing the probabilities that youth who commit sexual crimes will be prosecuted or adjudicated. To accomplish these aims, 12 years of juvenile justice data from South Carolina will be examined for changes in trends of first-time sexual offending and sexual recidivism. Victim reports of sexual violence over this same time period will also be examined to determine whether changes in adjudication rates parallel changes in victim reports. Data on nonsexual crimes will be explored to determine whether changes in rates of sexual offending simply parallel changes in other types of offending or appear due to sex offender-specific policy changes. Ultimately, researchers will conduct research comparing the impact of less restrictive versus more restrictive registration and notification policies on juvenile sex offenders throughout the U.S., including research detailing the specific mechanics of the effects of these policies. Study outcomes will help detect whether broad policies that impact thousands of juvenile sexual offenders have, in any way reduced sexual violence. If so, this information must be communicated to policy makers who have thus far, acted with little, if any empirical data. If not, the resources required to maintain these policies should be redirected towards more promising violence prevention programs.

 

 
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