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The Sponsors of Sex Offender Bills Speak Up: Policy Makers Perceptions of Sex Offenders, Sex Crimes, and Sex Offender Legislation

Michelle Meloy, Kristin Curtis and Jessica Boatwright

Criminal Justice and Behavior

April 2013, vol. 40, no. 4, 438-452



In the first investigation of its kind, a national U.S. sample of state-level policy makers (N = 61) were interviewed about their perceptions of the sexual offenders in their state, their state's sex offender laws, and collateral consequences of these laws, among other efficacy questions. Respondents were selected nonrandomly, as policy makers who sponsored sex offender bills were deliberately targeted for inclusion in the study. It was presumed these respondents would be more knowledgeable about sex offenders and sex offender laws. Results indicated that most respondents were familiar with the sex offender legislation in their state, that most of the laws were drafted with hopes of increasing public safety, and that policy makers believed their laws were functioning as intended, although empirical data are lacking to support these latter claims. Despite a strong conviction that sex offender laws are necessary to control sexual recidivism, policy makers discussed numerous complications and potentially deleterious effects of their own laws.



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