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Washington State Institute for Public Policy
June 2009
The Sex Offender Policy Board asked the Institute to evaluate the effectiveness of sex offender registration and community notification laws on reducing crime. We conducted a systematic review of all research evidence and located nine rigorous evaluations. Some studies address whether the laws influence “specific” deterrence—the effect of a law on the recidivism rates of convicted sex offenders. The remaining studies analyze “general” deterrence—the effect of a law on sex offense rates of the general public, as well as recidivism rates of convicted sex offenders.

At this time, we tentatively conclude that existing research does not offer much policy guidance on the specific deterrent effect of registration/notification laws. For general deterrence, there is some indication that registration laws lower sex offense rates in the public at large. Additional research is necessary before definitive conclusions can be drawn.
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