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A growing number of states and municipalities have also prohibited registered offenders from living within a designated distance (typically 500 to 2,500 feet) of places where children gather-for example, schools, playgrounds, and daycare centers.
In many states everyone who is required to register is included on the online registry.Corinne Carey, former researcher for the US Program, undertook the original research for this report.The report was written by Sarah Tofte with the assistance of Jamie Fellner, director of the US Program, who also edited the report. Patrick Vinck, director of the Berkeley-Tulane Initiative on Vulnerable Populations at the Human Rights Center, University of California-Berkeley, tabulated the data for Human Rights Watch's study of North Carolina's online sex offender registry.Ian Gorvin, deputy director of the Program Office, and Aisling Reidy, senior legal counsel, edited the report. In February 2005 she was abducted from her home in Florida, raped, and buried alive by a stranger, a next-door neighbor who had been twice convicted of molesting children.Ashoka Mukpo, Grace Choi, and Andrea Holley provided invaluable production assistance. Over the past decade, several horrific crimes like Jessica's murder have captured massive media attention and fueled widespread fears that children are at high risk of assault by repeat sex offenders.Some politicians cite recidivism rates for sex offenders that are as high as 80-90 percent.
In fact, most (three out of four) former sex offenders do not reoffend and most sex crimes are not committed by former offenders.
Blanket residency restrictions should be abolished. Proponents of sex offender registration and community notification believe they protect children in two ways: police have a list of likely suspects should a sex crime occur in the neighborhood in which a registered offender lives, and parents have information that will enable them to heighten their vigilance and to warn their children to stay away from particular people.
Advocates for residency restrictions believe they will limit offenders' access to children and their temptation or ability to commit new crimes.
Ashoka Mukpo, US Program Associate, and US Program interns Anjali Balasingham, Andrea Barrow, Madeline Gressel, and Kari White provided important research assistance.
Zama Coursen-Neff, acting deputy director of the Children's Rights Division and Janet Walsh, acting director of the Women's Rights Division, reviewed the report. What happened to nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford is every parent's worst nightmare.
Human Rights Watch would like to thank all of the survivors of sexual violence, former offenders and their families, social workers, advocates, law enforcement officials, and attorneys who shared their experiences and perspective with us for this report.