Sex Offender Registration and Notification Statutes
This chapter examines sex offender registration and community notification (SORCN) laws. It explores how local legal cultures and pre-existing prosecutorial attitudes toward sex crimes influence the implementation of sex offender laws, recognizing the fluidity of practices in different communities. It begins with an analysis of New Jersey's system for categorizing sex offenders. The New Jersey law shows how political arguments about the nature and harm of sexual violence are deployed through official practices—in this case, an actuarial risk assessment tool developed by state experts and interpreted by state judges. These discursive practices have real and substantial effects: despite differences in state laws, rape care advocates report that the understandings advanced by SORCN laws produce consistent, adverse effects on sex crimes prosecutions. Drawing on interviews from Kansas, the chapter shows how, when prosecutors are generally uninterested in pursuing sex offenses, SORCN laws provide a way to substitute sex offender registration for a sex offense conviction. It concludes with a study from Washington, where advocates brought into the process of sex offender classification and reintegration face conflicts over how to define, retain, and advance their mission to reduce sexual violence while collaborating with law enforcement agencies.
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