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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.

We want to acknowledge our special gratitude to Patty Wetterling, Alisa Klein, Jim Rensel, Nancy Daley, Dr. Levenson for providing guidance and insights in helping us to shape the research and writing of this report. Politicians have responded with a series of laws, including the sex offender registration, community notification, and residency restriction laws that are the subject of this report.

Federal law and the laws of all 50 states now require adults and some juveniles convicted of specified crimes that involve sexual conduct to register with law enforcement-regardless of whether the crimes involved children.

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.

Human Rights Watch appreciates the sense of concern and urgency that has prompted these laws.

It has made me rethink the value of broad-based community notification laws, which operate on the assumption that most sex offenders are high-risk dangers to the community they are released into.

The justifications offered for sex offender laws focus on sexually violent offenders.On the other hand, proponents of these laws are not able to point to convincing evidence of public safety gains from them.Even assuming some public safety benefit, however, the laws can be reformed to reduce their adverse effects without compromising that benefit.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.Ashoka Mukpo, US Program Associate, and US Program interns Anjali Balasingham, Andrea Barrow, Madeline Gressel, and Kari White provided important research assistance.

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