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http://ssrn.com/abstract=1100663
 
 

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Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior?


J.J. Prescott


University of Michigan Law School

Jonah E. Rockoff


Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

February 2011

Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 54, No. 1, February 2011
Columbia Business School Research Paper

Abstract:     
Sex offenders have become the targets of some of the most far-reaching and novel crime legislation in the U.S. Two key innovations in recent decades have been registration and notification laws which, respectively, require that convicted sex offenders provide valid contact information to law enforcement authorities, and that information about sex offenders be made public. Using the evolution of state law during the 1990s and 2000s, we study how registration and notification affect the frequency of reported sex offenses and the incidence of such offenses across victims. We find evidence that registration reduces the frequency of sex offenses by providing law enforcement with information on local sex offenders. As we predict using a simple model of criminal behavior, this decrease in crime is concentrated among “local” victims (e.g., friends, acquaintances, neighbors) with no evidence of less crime occurring against strangers. We also find evidence that notification has reduced crime, but not, as legislators anticipated, by disrupting the criminal conduct of convicted sex offenders. Our results instead suggest that notification deters nonregistered sex offenders, and may, in fact, increase recidivism among registered offenders by reducing the relative attractiveness of a crime-free life. This finding is consistent with work by criminologists showing that notification imposes social and financial costs on registered sex offenders, perhaps offsetting the relative benefits of forgoing criminal activity. We regard this latter finding as important, given that the purpose of notification is to reduce recidivism.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 56

Keywords: sex offenders, rape, molestation, deterrence, incapacitation, registration, notification, recidivism, shaming

JEL Classification: K0, K4, K14, K42

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Date posted: April 16, 2008 ; Last revised: February 17, 2012

Suggested Citation

Prescott, J.J. and Rockoff, Jonah E., Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior? (February 2011). Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 54, No. 1, February 2011; Columbia Business School Research Paper. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1100663 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1100663

Contact Information

J.J. Prescott (Contact Author)
University of Michigan Law School ( email )
3170 South Hall
701 S. State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
734-763-2326 (Phone)

Jonah E. Rockoff
Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics ( email )
3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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