200165 Perceived Collateral Consequences of Megan's Law

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kelly Bonnar, PhD , Dept of Community Health, SUNY-Potsdam, Potsdam, NY
David R. Black, PhD, MPH, FAAHB , Health and Kinesiology Department, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
Daniel C. Coster, PhD , Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Utah State University, Logan, UT
Studies confirm the incidence of sexual offenses has not been significantly impacted by sex offender registration and community notification laws. One reason may be that they create an overwhelming number of collateral consequences making reintegration, and thus rehabilitation, impossible. The purpose of this descriptive study was to examine those collateral consequences. A non-random sample of Registered Sexual Offenders (RSO's; n=72) completed an online, 76-item survey assessing (a) demographics; (b) conviction history; and (c) collateral consequences of registration and community notification. Forty-four percent of the RSO's were married and 57% had children. Seventy-one percent had education beyond high school, yet only 38% were working full-time. Most reported collateral consequences. For example, 26% were verbally and physically threatened after community notification while 42% were harassed. Furthermore, collateral consequences extended to family members with 17% reporting their partners had been verbally or physically threatened and 31% harassed. Interestingly, 24% also report their children had suffered harassment. Fifty-percent lost friends and 56% lost social support, which might explain why 80% reported feeling depressed, sad, and isolated. These collateral consequences do not appear to subside with time as 61% had been convicted more than 5 years ago. Finally, 0% reported recidivating and 93% did not feel at risk for committing another sexual offense. Although evidence exists suggesting these laws are ineffective at preventing sexual crimes, it is evident they create an unstable environment for RSO's and their family members; a context that could increase the risk they will recidivate.

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss the scope of local, state, and national laws developed to prevent sexual violence. 2. Identify the limitations of these laws in protecting the public from sexually violent crimes. 3. Describe results from a study designed to explore the collateral consequences of being a sexual offender who must abide by these laws. 4. Discuss how these collateral consequences may compromise efforts to prevent sexual violence.

Keywords: Sexual Assault, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a PhD in Health Promotion and 3 years of experience as a Faculty member. I am solely responsible for the study design and data collection.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.