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Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior?

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  • J.J. Prescott
  • Jonah E. Rockoff

Abstract

Sex offenders have become targets of some of the most far-reaching and novel crime legislation in the United States. Two key innovations have been registration and notification laws, which, respectively, require that offenders provide identifying information to law enforcement and mandate that this information be made fully public. We study how registration and notification affect the frequency and incidence across victims of reported sex offenses. We present evidence that registration reduces the frequency of reported sex offenses against local victims (for example, neighbors) by keeping police informed about local sex offenders. Notification also appears to reduce crime, not by disrupting the criminal conduct of convicted sex offenders, but by deterring nonregistered offenders. We find that notification may actually increase recidivism. This latter finding, consistent with the idea that notification imposes severe costs that offset the benefits to offenders of forgoing criminal activity, is significant, given that notification's purpose is recidivism reduction.

Suggested Citation

  • J.J. Prescott & Jonah E. Rockoff, 2011. "Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(1), pages 161-206.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/658485
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Linn, Joshua, 2013. "The effect of voluntary brownfields programs on nearby property values: Evidence from Illinois," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 1-18.
    2. Simundza, Daniel, 2014. "Criminal registries, community notification, and optimal avoidance," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 73-82.
    3. Kang, Songman, 2017. "The consequences of sex offender residency restriction: Evidence from North Carolina," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 10-22.
    4. Jennifer L. Doleac, 2017. "The Effects of DNA Databases on Crime," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 165-201, January.
    5. Yeh, Susan, 2015. "Revealing the rapist next door: Property impacts of a sex offender registry," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 42-60.
    6. Loewenstein, George & Price, Joseph & Volpp, Kevin, 2016. "Habit formation in children: Evidence from incentives for healthy eating," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 47-54.

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