IX. Residency Restriction Laws

My intent personally is to make it so onerous on those that are convicted of these offenses … they will want to move to another state.

—Georgia State House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, co-sponsor of a bill, signed into law, which prohibits sex offenders in Georgia from living within 1,000 feet of schools, daycares, churches, playgrounds, and bus stops342

The proliferation of these types of restrictions is making it more difficult for communities to fulfill their mandate of helping offenders make a successful re-entry into society.

—Paul Olney, research associate for the Center for Sex Offender Management343

As detailed above, registered offenders may be hounded from their homes by angry neighbors or denied housing by private and public landlords. But their right to establish and maintain homes in which they can live with their families is also threatened by a growing number of state and municipal laws that expressly forbid them from living near places where children gather. At least 20 states have enacted laws that prohibit certain sex offenders from living within a specified distance of schools, daycare centers, parks, and other places where children congregate (for a list of residency restriction statutes by state, see Appendix).

In addition, hundreds of municipalities (in states with and without residency restriction statutes) have also passed similar ordinances prohibiting registered sex offenders from living within specified distances of places where children congregate.    The least restrictive distance requirement is in Illinois (500 feet), but most common are 1,000- to 2,500-foot boundaries.


Public officials have discovered that by increasing the length of the restrictions and expanding the list of the places that trigger a residency restriction (in addition to schools and daycare centers, pet stores, movie theatres, public parks, and swimming pools are being added) they can create “sex offender-free zones.”344 Some laws prohibit registered offenders from “loitering” within designated areas.345Legislators have even proposed banning offenders from entering or working in certain public areas, such as shopping malls and municipal buildings.346

Although all the residency restrictions are keyed to distances from areas in which children congregate, only four states that Human Rights Watch knows of limit their residency restriction laws to persons convicted of sex offenses involving child victims.347 In the other states and municipalities, residency restriction laws apply to all registered offenders, regardless of whether their crimes involved children.

The number of residency restrictions in the US continues to grow, in part because of the horrific abduction, rape, and murder of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford in 2005. The man convicted of Jessica’s murder is John Couey, a convicted child molester who lived within sight of Jessica’s home.348 Jessica’s father has advocated for “Jessica’s Law,” which, among other things, calls for residency restrictions for sex offenders. In 2006 alone, at least 10 states and a number of municipalities adopted or enhanced laws restricting where sex offenders could live.

The inability of convicted sex offenders to find housing when they are released from prison has become a significant barrier to their successful reintegration into society.  This is particularly problematic for registrants who have limited resources, or for those who because of work, community, or family obligations want to live in particular locations. Residency restrictions prevent offenders from living in the areas closest to jobs and public transit, since schools, daycare centers, and parks are often built in the center of main residential areas of cities and towns.

Registrants and their family members have found that in some cities there is literally nowhere they are allowed to live.349 For example, a study in Orange County, Florida, which has a 1,000-foot restricted buffer zone around attractions, bus stops, daycares, parks, and schools, found that only 5 percent of the city’s residential areas were outside the residential restriction zone.350 Max C., who is on the Georgia sex offender registry, told Human Rights Watch that because of that state’s residency restrictions, “I can honestly say that I have nowhere to live in the community I have lived in for 30 years.”351 An Iowa sex offender was found living with his family of three in a car on an abandoned farm property because residences in the small farm towns were either off-limits or too expensive.352 In Florida, a 2004 survey of sex offenders found that half of the respondents reported that residency restrictions had forced them to move from a residence in which they were living, and 25 percent were unable to return to their residence after their conviction.353 Nearly half reported that residency restrictions prevented them from living with supportive family members.354 Recently, newspapers have reported that in Miami, five sex offenders are living under a bridge—with the state’s approval—because the residency restrictions in their county made it impossible for them to find housing.355

A mother of a Florida registrant told Human Rights Watch about her son’s search for housing after he was released from prison:

My husband and I wanted him to come live with us for awhile, while he got adjusted to life on the outside and got on his feet. He was not allowed to do so because we live within 1,000 ft. of a school bus stop. So he had to go to a different county, where he had no support system. He was placed in a dirty disgusting motel because it was the only place he could find to live. It was next door to a XXX nudie place. He had to be in his motel room from 6pm until 7am daily. He could not attend church services and church support groups due to this time constraint. He was very lonely and depressed. The motel was very expensive and between that and paying for probation and counseling, he was finding himself further and further in the hole financially. He eventually started drinking again and violated parole by staying out too late.356


Residency laws even preclude registered offenders from living in homeless shelters within the restricted area. A Texas registrant told Human Rights Watch,

 I was homeless—I went to two homeless shelters—told them the truth—I was a registered sex offender—I could not stay. No one helps sex offenders I was told. The 3rd shelter I went to—I did not tell them. I was allowed to stay, November 2002 I was to register again—my birthday. If I told them I lived at a shelter—I would be thrown out—if I stayed on the streets I would not have a [sic] address to give—violation. So I registered under my old address—the empty house, which was too close to a school.  Someone called the police—told them I did not live at that address anymore—! I was locked up, March 2003. I was given a 10-year sentence for failure to register as a sex offender.357 

Some public officials want to limit sex offenders’ access to emergency shelters. A Tampa sheriff is sending “letters to registered sex offenders and predators, urging them to plan now for a safe place to stay in the event of a hurricane.” When a colleague asked whether the county should plan to offer alternative emergency accommodations, the sheriff told the local paper, “I think my answer was no, they can take care of themselves … As far as spending resources to have some school or jail special for them, I think there are other people more needy of our resources.”  If a sex offender is found in a hurricane shelter, the sheriff vows that the offender “could be arrested as a violation of the conditions of his release.”358 The state now directs registrants to report directly to prison in case of a hurricane. Six registrants stayed in prisons during July 2005 hurricanes.359

Residency restrictions are justified as a means of “taking away a portion of the opportunity for sex offenders to reoffend.”360 While residency restriction laws are popular, there is little evidence that they make sense or that they make children safer from sexual violence.  Indeed, the experience of several states suggests the laws are counterproductive as well as unnecessary and profoundly unjust.


We made a mistake.

—Republican Iowa state legislator, on the state legislature’s support of a 2,000-foot state-wide residency restriction361

In 2002 Iowa legislators passed a law prohibiting registered offenders whose victims were minors from living within 2,000 feet of any school or child care center.362 Violators face up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.363

Legal challenges delayed it from taking effect until 2005, when a federal court of appeals declared the law constitutional. The restrictions apply regardless of the length of time a former offender has lived offense-free in the community— and the restrictions remain in place for life.364 The restrictions apply to all individuals convicted of a sex offense against a child, regardless of whether the conviction required them to register as a sex offender. The only exception to the law is that offenders do not have to move from their residences if they had been living there before the law was enacted.365

The Iowa law has had the effect of excluding sex offenders from entire communities, driving them underground or across state lines to municipalities without residency restrictions. For this reason, some of the toughest and most vocal critics of Iowa’s residency restrictions are law enforcement officials.

As one law enforcement official points out, “We’ve taken stable people who have committed a sex crime and cast them out of their homes, away from their jobs, away from treatment, and away from public transportation. It’s just absolutely absurd what these laws have done, and the communities are at greater risk because of it.”366

The Iowa County Attorney’s Association asserts that the state has lost track of over half its registered sex offenders since the restrictions went into effect.367 Lynn County, Iowa Sheriff Don Zeller reports that his county had 435 sex offenders registered in 2002. After the residency restriction went into effect in 2005, 114 moved, 74 have been charged with violating the ordinance, and others disappeared. “We went from knowing where about 90 percent of them were. We’re lucky if we know where 50 to 55 percent of them are now … the law created an atmosphere that those individuals can’t find a place to live.”368

Douglas Dykstra, a probation and parole supervisor for the Iowa Department of Corrections says that many individuals can be safely supervised in the community without distance restrictions. “You can’t take any law and blanketly apply it to everybody, because people are different and pose different degrees of risk to the community,” Dykstra said. “To all of a sudden up the ante and treat everyone as if they are the highest risk is not really a wise use of resources.”369


The county attorney of Dubuque, Iowa, Fred McCaw, worries about the law’s inflexibility: “The law doesn’t take into account the ones that have behaved themselves for however many years and have done the rehabilitation programs and are now contributing members of the community. None of that is considered.”370

In January 2006 the Iowa County Attorney’s Association issued a statement opposing Iowa’s 2,000-foot sex offender residency restriction law, citing the fact that the law “does not provide the protection that was originally intended and that the cost of enforcing the requirement and the unintended effects on families of offenders warrant replacing the restrictions with more effective protective measures.”371

Iowa resident Zane S., who was convicted of child molestation in 1997 and released in 2003, explained to Human Rights Watch why the law led him to leave the state. “When I was released, I went to live with my grandmother, who is sick. I thought I could help take care of her. But then the zoning law went into effect and, because I moved in with my grandma after 2002, I could not stay there—she is too close to a daycare. There was nowhere I could live legally in the county that I could afford. A group of sex offenders were thinking about living in a trailer park at the edge of town, but I didn’t think that would be good for my recovery. So I had to leave my grandma.  I decided to go live in Nebraska, because there were no residency restrictions.”372

Registrants in Des Moines, Iowa’s largest and most densely populated city, have had a particularly hard time finding housing outside the sex offender-free zones created by the residency restriction law. In effect, sex offenders who have committed crimes against children are zoned out of Des Moines.


All sex offenders required to register must provide a home address, but because of the residency law, some sex offenders do not have a home. Law enforcement officials in Des Moines have resolved this conundrum by allowing individuals to register as homeless, as long as they specify a location.373 When users go to Iowa’s online registry, they may be surprised to see a registrant’s address listed as “on the Raccoon River between Des Moines and West Des Moines,” “behind the Target on Euclid,” or “underneath the I-80 bridge.”374 The areas are industrial, polluted, noisy, full of debris, and, in one case, right next to an active railroad track.375  A Des Moines law enforcement officer explained to Human Rights Watch, “We don’t expect that the registrants are actually living under the bridge, its just one of the few places where they are legally allowed to admit they are living, and so they list that as their address, and go live someplace else.”376 The officer estimated that city police had lost track of at least 300 sex offenders who were registered as living in Des Moines before the residency restriction went into effect.377


Gavin D.’s Story

In 1999 Gavin D. grabbed and twisted the flesh of a 12-year-old girl’s buttocks during a girls’ softball game he was coaching. “I had some anger issues to work out, and I took out my anger at the game on this girl,” Gavin told Human Rights Watch.378 “I know that what I did was wrong, and I take full responsibility for what happened.”  Thirty-one at the time, Gavin had a full-time job at a warehouse, and lived in a home in Dubuque with his wife and two young children. Gavin agreed to plead guilty to “Indecent Contact with a Child,” an aggravated misdemeanor.379 In exchange, Gavin would be placed on probation for two years, with the understanding that if he successfully completed treatment his record would be expunged. 

Under Iowa law at the time, Gavin was required to register as a sex offender, but would not be subject to community notification. “The judge said he felt funny about me being registered because he thought I was low-risk, but because my offense was against a child, I was required to register with the police,” Gavin said. In 2001, Gavin successfully completed the terms of his probation. According to his probation officer, in her recommendation to the judge, Gavin “appears to have gained insite [sic] into his offending behavior and has been an active participant in the [sex offender treatment] group.”380 

When Iowa passed its residency restriction law, Gavin was subject to it as a registered offender who had committed a sex offense against a child. Gavin was also added to the public registry, pursuant to a provision of the residency restriction law that required all persons subject to those restrictions to be on the public registry.381 

In 2005, after Iowa’s highest court upheld the constitutionality of the residency restrictions, Gavin went to the Sheriff to see whether he would have to move. “The Sheriff told me he was sorry, but we couldn’t stay in our home, because we bought it after 2002 and so we couldn’t get an exemption from the law.”

Gavin and his wife decided that he would move out, and she and the children would stay in the home. Gavin could not find a place to live in Dubuque that was affordable and in compliance with the residency restrictions. He decided to move across the border to Wisconsin, to live in the basement of a friend, where he has lived for over a year.  

Because the residency restriction law only prohibits Gavin from sleeping in his home, not from visiting there, Gavin spends as much time there as possible. “I can be there 23 hours a day if I stay awake. On the weekends I stay there as long as I can keep my eyes open. I just want to be with my kids as long as possible. I at least always wait to leave until they have gone to bed, and I try to leave Wisconsin to get back home to them before the kids wake up. I don’t get much sleep, but I need to be a father to my children. 


“My nine-year-old son is starting to figure out that something is not quite right with Dad. He thinks there is something wrong with me. Sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the night, and he asks for me, and my wife has to tell him I am not there. 

“I just can’t understand why I can’t just live with my kids. I have not reoffended, and it’s been seven years. But because of this law, I may never live with my family again.”   Human Rights Watch asked Gavin if he had ever considered not registering. “It’s tempting,” he said. “But believe it or not, I am a guy that respects the law. I want to get back home, but I won’t break the law to do it.”


Iowa is not the only state experiencing increased difficulties keeping track of sex offender registrants after residency restrictions have been enacted. Recently, Oklahoma City law enforcement officials reported that since a 2005 state residency restriction law went into effect, banning offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or daycare, less than 16 percent of the Oklahoma City area is available for sex offenders to live, and most of that consists of land surrounding industrial areas that does not have residential housing. As of 2006, nearly 200 offenders have dropped off the state registry.382 “We recognize that’s directly attributable to these laws,” said Mark Pursley, a senior probation officer with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections who specializes in the supervision of sex offenders. “[The law has] raised the bar too high.”383 


In 2006, Georgia passed a sex offender zoning law which would prohibit any registered sex offender from living within 1,000 feet of places where children gather, including bus stops and places of religious worship.384 One of the state senators sponsoring the bill asserted that his goal was to make Georgia a sex offender-free state. “We want them all out of here,” Georgia House Majority Leader Jerry Keen said.  “If it becomes too onerous and too inconvenient, they may just want to live somewhere else. And I don’t care where, as long as it’s not in Georgia.”385


Before the law could go into effect, the Southern Center for Human Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia filed a class-action lawsuit to enjoin the state from enforcing the law, especially as applied to places of religious worship and bus stops, because it would have the effect of virtually “banning the state’s 11,000 registered sex offenders from living in Georgia.”386 Among the plaintiffs who would have to leave their homes under the law is an elderly man with Alzheimer’s, living in a nursing home; a blind man; a disabled man; a woman convicted as a teenager of statutory rape for having consensual sex with her teenage boyfriend; and a woman convicted as an accessory to statutory rape for allowing two teenagers, one of whom was her child, to have sex in her home.387 In July 2006 the judge issued an order enjoining the state from enforcing the bus stop provision of the Georgia law. As of July 2007 the rest of the restrictions are in effect, banning registered offenders “from living within 1,000 feet of schools, child care facilities, churches, swimming pools, and areas where minors congregate, including public and private parks, recreation facilities, playgrounds, skating rinks, neighborhood centers, gymnasiums, and similar facilities providing programs or services directed towards persons under 18.”388


Human Rights Watch spoke with John A., who was convicted of rape in 1984 and who has spent the past 20 years working at a faith-based shelter for homeless men.389 His home near the shelter fell within 1,000 feet of a church and he was unable to find another place to live that was affordable and within a reasonable distance from his workplace. John A. has become a devout Christian since his conviction for rape, and he wanted to continue to work for a Christian organization. He told Human Rights Watch, “I did not see how it would be possible to continue to live in Georgia and be allowed to work with Christian-based shelters.” He thought about moving to another state, “but I had a feeling that Georgia will not be the last state to pass a law restricting where sex offenders can live.” With the support of his mentor, the Rev. Jim Lewis, who runs a number of faith-based community programs, John A. applied to become a missionary in Costa Rica. He was accepted and he left the United States in August 2006.390

Human Rights Watch also spoke with another person in Georgia subject to the residency restrictions, a man in his 70s who had been convicted of molesting his granddaughter a decade ago. The residency restriction law forced him to leave his home and he moved to a trailer in a wooded area outside of Atlanta, Georgia. “I couldn’t afford to move to a trailer park. I didn’t know where to go. I feel like there is no other place I can go except here. But here I am isolated. I don’t have easy access to the world. What if I fall down and break my hip? I will admit that at first I considered not registering, going underground. But I wanted to do the right thing, whatever that is in this situation, and so I am trying to abide by the law.”391


Sheriffs in Georgia, who are responsible for enforcing the residency restrictions, are not uniformly supportive of the law. “I think anyone who knows anything about tracking and monitoring sex offenders would not support this law,” one county sheriff told Human Rights Watch. “It’s going to be a disaster for us. We are certainly going to lose track of the sexually violent offenders.”392



In November 2006 California voters by a large measure (70 percent) passed Proposition 83, a ballot initiative that, among other things, prohibits any registered sex offender from living within 2,000 feet of any school, daycare facility, or place where children gather.393 The law applies to all 90,000 of the state’s registered sex offenders.394    

Proponents of Proposition 83 argued that residency restrictions are a tool to keep “dangerous child molesters … away from our children and monitored for life.”395 A rebuttal by the California Attorneys for Justice argued that Proposition 83 “ignores the sad lessons learned by other states … that [residency restriction] laws should be repealed because they have proven to be ineffective, a drain on crucial law enforcement resources, and far too costly to taxpayers.”396 The rebuttal also pointed out that “proponents claim that the law is directed at ‘child molesters’ and ‘dangerous sex offenders,’ but … would apply far more broadly: even to those convicted of misdemeanor, nonviolent offenses.”397

Opponents of Proposition 83 included the California Coalition against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), a state-wide coalition of 84 rape crisis centers and sexual assault prevention programs. Calling the law “a shortsighted approach to sex offender management that will place California communities in greater danger,” CALCASA believes the law will “waste valuable resources on sex offenders who are unlikely to reoffend, while leaving a deficit of treatment, supervision, and focus on offenders who we know should be receiving more intense scrutiny.”398

Before the election, analysts from the California Research Bureau399 concluded the residency restrictions limit would effectively prohibit registered offenders from living in many California cities. In August 2006 it released a study on the impact of residency restrictions in other states that have them.400 The report found that parole officers in those states have trouble finding housing for sex offenders just released from prison, and warned that the new law may actually place communities at greater risk by leaving some offenders homeless and driving others underground and off the registries.401 

A federal judge temporarily enjoined enforcement of Proposition 83, pending the conclusion of a suit challenging the constitutionality of the law.402 The suit was filed by an anonymous plaintiff, John Doe, whose sex offense occurred decades ago and who has lived in the same community for 20 years.403 In granting the temporary restraining order, the judge said, “‘John Doe’ has been a law-abiding and productive member of the community since his conviction and will suffer irreparable harm if forced to comply with Proposition 83.”404 

After the court order, then-California Attorney General Bill Lockyer declared that Proposition 83’s residency restrictions were not meant to be retroactive even though the law’s language would cover offenders who registered prior to its enactment.405 As CALCASA noted, “[Supporters of Proposition 83] cannot argue that the initiative … only affects future offenders and at the same time argue that it will protect the community from the threat of offenders currently in our community.”406 A federal judge eventually ruled that Proposition 83 may not be applied retroactively, meaning that those offenders living in the community prior to when the residency restriction law went into effect are not subject to the restriction.

Local Ordinances

An estimated 400 municipalities have enacted local zoning ordinances restricting where sex offenders can live within their boundaries.407 At least 113 municipalities in New Jersey alone have local residency restrictions.408 For example, the township of Jackson, New Jersey, restricts sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of any park or playground, movie theater, or amusement park (Jackson is home to the Six Flags Great Adventure Park).409 In Florida, where more than 60 municipalities have residency restriction ordinances,registered offenders cannot live within specified distances of parks, playgrounds, churches, libraries, bus stops or any other place where minors normally congregate. In Snellville, Georgia, the city council implemented an ordinance banning sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of any school, over twice the distance of the restricted area under the state’s residency restriction law.410

Do Residency Restrictions Protect Public Safety?

As a city council member who supported restrictions for his district acknowledged, “If we can get these people out of our community, it’s not that these crimes won’t happen, [i]t’s just that they won’t happen in my community.”411 

There is no evidence, however, that these laws do in fact diminish crimes against children. For registered offenders, the main impact of the laws may be simply to drive them underground or to uproot them from their families and communities. Iowa’s experience with residency restrictions has caused at least one state to resist enacting such laws. In November 2006 lawmakers in Kansas decided not to adopt residency restrictions after reviewing evidence that Iowa’s law had doubled the number of registered offenders unaccounted for since it took effect.412

Residency restriction laws reflect an assumption that former offenders are most likely to commit new offenses against children who gather near where they live—either because the proximity of children tempts them or simply because they are easier to access. But this assumption is not borne out by research. The Colorado Department of Public Safety found that convicted child molesters in Colorado who reoffended while on probation were randomly scattered throughout the geographical area, and did not seem to live closer than non-recidivists to schools or child care centers.413  A small study by the Minnesota Department of Corrections found that the proximity of a former offender’s residence to schools or parks was not a factor in recidivism. In fact it found the opposite: sex offenders who recidivated were more likely to travel to another neighborhood to seek victims. During the study period, the only two recidivist acts of child sexual assault committed in parks on unknown victims occurred several miles away from the offenders’ homes.414

Most recently, a 2007 study by the Minnesota Department of Corrections analyzed the sexual reoffense patterns of 224 sex offender recidivists released between 1990 and 2002 to determine whether the crimes would have been prevented by residency restrictions.415 The study found that residential proximity had very little impact on a recidivist’s opportunity to reoffend. More than half the recidivists, 113, came into contact with their victims not through residential proximity but through “social or relationship proximity” to the individual.416 The most common example was that of a male offender who came into contact with his child victim(s) in the course of dating their mother.417

A few years before Proposition 83 was passed, a California newspaper reviewed the criminal histories in a one-year period of nearly 500 released sex offenders who lived near schools and daycare facilities to see whether they had tended to commit new abuses against children they lived near.418 The newspaper found that former offenders were not tempted into new offenses by proximity to children, and that only one of the 500 convicted sex offenders was arrested during the year, and that was for committing a parole violation and not another sex crime.419


Residency restrictions may also be counterproductive from a community safety perspective. As evident in the experience of Iowa and Oklahoma, residency restrictions can push former offenders into homelessness and transience, interfering with effective tracking, monitoring, and close probationary supervision.420 If registrants are forced to move to rural areas to find affordable places in which they can legally live, they may find themselves with diminished access to employment and treatment options, both of which help reduce reoffending.421 Sex offenders with positive, informed support systems—including stable housing and social networks—have significantly lower criminal and technical violations than sex offenders who had negative or no support.422 Yet residency restrictions upend such support and stability.  A survey of 135 sex offenders in Florida revealed that housing restrictions increased isolation, created financial and emotional stress, and led to decreased stability.423


As a psychologist who specializes in treating sex offenders noted, “Residency restrictions meant to protect the community may instead lead to banished sex offenders coming to believe their essential identity is as a sex offender, which then stimulates reoffense.”424

Impact on Family Unity

Human Rights Watch spoke to a number of families who were no longer able to live together because of residency restrictions.

Doug E., a registrant in Oklahoma, spoke to Human Rights Watch about his family’s decision to live separately rather than try to find affordable and safe housing outside the prohibited zone for sex offenders: “I want to live with my wife and kids very much.  But I didn’t want to make my kids move to a bad situation, a bad part of town. I didn’t want them to leave school, and I didn’t want my wife to have to give up our family home—the only one we have ever had. So I moved to the edge of town.”425 

Another registrant subject to residency restrictions in Michigan discussed the financial stress of trying to keep two households, “I could only find a place to live at a seedy motel, and I was not dragging my family there with me. The kids cry when I leave at night, and my wife worries sick that I have to stay away at night. This restriction only makes us more stressed. I think if I could just fall asleep next to my wife, with my kids in the house, everything would work out okay.”426

Rethinking Residency Restrictions

Residency restrictions that apply to whole categories of sex offenders should be abolished. This does not mean that limitations cannot be placed on where former offenders may live. Residency restrictions for convicted sex offenders should be determined on a case-by-case basis, for example by courts or probation and parole officers, and be subject to periodic review. The restrictions should be reasonably tailored to such factors as the specific crime the offender committed; an assessment of his or her employment, family and other support systems; the nature of supervision and treatment the offender is receiving; and the length of time the individual has lived in the community offense-free. For former offenders who are not subject to probation or parole supervision, states could create expert panels to undertake similar periodically reviewed assessments to determine whether any type of residency restriction is warranted for a particular individual and for how long.

Other Countries and Sex Offender Laws

The United States is one of just eight countries that have sex offender registries, and the only country besides South Korea known to have community notification provisions. Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Japan, and the United Kingdom have sex offender registries that are kept by the police. The European Union (EU) has voiced approval of the United Kingdom’s sex offender registry, and has encouraged EU Member States to implement registries “throughout the EU.” Victims’ rights groups in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Japan are advocating for community notification laws. Singapore is also considering a system of sex offender registration and community notification modeled on the US as well.427 Human Rights Watch knows of no other country besides the United States with residency restriction laws for sex offenders.  

Lawmakers in the United Kingdom recently considered and rejected adopting community notification laws, noting the United States’ experience with vigilante violence and the lack of proven effectiveness.

342 Dick Pettys, “Republicans Unveil First Draft of Proposed Sex Offender Law,” Associated Press, September 28, 2005.

343 Kavan Peterson, “Anti-Sex-Offender Zoning Laws Challenged,”, December 9, 2006, (accessed January 15, 2007).

344 Miami Beach, FL and Davie , FL, became the first jurisdictions to prohibit by local ordinance registered sex offenders from living within the jurisdiction’s limits. Several other cities in Florida have followed. Lori Sykes and Sallie James, “Dania Moves to Tighten Limits on Sex Offenders: Ordinance Wins Tentative Approval,” Florida Sun-Sentinel, June 15, 2005. Also, Annysa Johnson, “Two Suburbs Weigh Measures to Bar Sexual Predators,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February  15, 2005 (the Oak Creek and Franklin suburbs are just outside of Milwaukee). A new law in Binghamton, NY prohibits sex offenders “from being a quarter mile from any school, daycare center or park. That leaves few islands where they can live, and because they are not allowed to travel through the other areas, they are effectively banned from the city.” Marnie Eisenstadt, “80+ Sex Offender Bills: Will any Make Us Safer?” The Post Standard (Syracuse, NY), June 12, 2005.

345 For example, in Michigan, MCLS §28.734 applies a penalty to registered sex offenders working, loitering, or residing within a student safety zone.

346 Megan Woolhouse, “City Advances Revised Sex-Offender Limits: Wide Limits Posed in Marlborough,” Boston Globe, May 8, 2007, (accessed June 21, 2007); Megan Woolhouse, “Offender Plan Draws Questions,” Boston Globe, March 29, 2007.

347 Illinois, 720 ILCS 5/11-9.3(b-5); Indiana, Burns Ind. Code Ann. §35-42-4-11; Iowa, Iowa Code § 692A.2A(1); Tennessee, Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-39-211(a).

348 Curt Anderson, “Jury Votes for Death Penalty for Killer of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Florida,” Associated Press, March 14, 2007; Jim Ross, “Judge: Couey confession out,” St. PetersburgTimes, June 30, 2006. See also, The Jessica Marie Lunsford Foundation, (accessed January 15, 2007).

349 Susan Miller, “Doubts Emerge over Sex Offender Buffers,” Palm Beach Post, June 16, 2005; Joe Kollin, “Pines Favors Extending Ban on Sexual Offenders,” Florida Sun-Sentinel, June 9, 2005 (“The revised measure that they approved specifically requires the distance to be measured from property lines rather than doors. This increases the area where offenders are banned.”).

350 Paul A. Zandbergen and Timothy C. Hart, “Reducing Housing Options for Convicted Sex Offenders: Investigating the Impact of Residency Restriction Laws Using GIS,” Justice Research and Policy, vol. 8 no.2 (2006).

351 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Max C., September 14, 2006.

352 State v. Seering, 701 N.W. 2d 655, 660 (Iowa 2005). The court noted that Seering was ejected from the farm property.

353 Jill Levenson and Leo Cotter, “The Effects of Megan’s Law on Sex Offender Reintegration,” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, vol 21, no. 3 (2005), pp. 298-300.

354 Ibid.

355 John Pain, “Sex Offender Restrictions Leave 5 Men Living Under Bridge in Miami,” Associated Press, April 8, 2007.

356 Email communication from Cindy P. to Human Rights Watch, July 4, 2005.

357 Letter from William K. to Human Rights Watch, September 12, 2005.

358 Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler, “Hillsborough Shelters Shut out Sex Offenders,” St. Petersburg Times, June 16, 2005.

359 “Sex Offenders Banned from Storm Shelters,” Associated Press, August 7, 2005.

360 “Court Hears Sex Offender Challenge,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 1, 2004.

361 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with an Iowa lawmaker who requested anonymity, August 14, 2006.

362 Iowa Code § 692A.2A(1) (2006).

363 Ibid.

364 Ibid.

365 Ibid.

366 Sean Murphy, “Experts Say Sex Offender Zones Problematic,” Associated Press, November 9, 2006.

367 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Corwin Ritchie, executive director, Iowa County Attorney’s Association, September 11, 2006.

368 Sea Stachura, “The Consequences of Zoning Sex Offenders,” Minnesota Public Radio, April 25, 2006.

369 Emily Block, “Authorities Say New Sex Offender Law Flawed: Residency Limits Could be an ‘Enormous’ Waste of Time for Those Enforcing Them,” Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA), September 8, 2005.

370 Ibid.

371 “Statement on Sex Offender Residency Restrictions in Iowa,” Iowa County Attorney’s Association press release, December 11, 2006, (accessed January 15, 2007).

372 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Zane F., October 23, 2006.

373 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with an officer in the Des Moines, IA police department who requested anonymity, August 14, 2006.

374 Ibid.

375 On January 1, 2007, Human Rights Watch visited addresses in Des Moines, IA, that seemed to indicate an offender was officially living in a non-residential area of the city.

376 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with an officer in the Des Moines, IA police department.

377 Ibid.

378 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Gavin D., September 18, 2006.

379 Iowa Judicial Department of Correctional Services, “Discharge Report” of Gavin D., copy on file with Human Rights Watch.

380 Ibid.

381 Ibid.

382 Murphy, “Experts Say Sex Offender Zones Problematic,” Associated Press.

383 Ibid.

384 GA Code Ann. § 42-1-15 (2007).

385 Whitaker et al. v. Perdue et al., CA no. 4:06-140-CC, Brief in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, June 22, 2006, p. 9.

386 Ibid., p. 1.

387 Ibid.  

388 Email communication from Sarah Geraghty, attorney for the plaintiffs, Southern Center for Human Rights, to Human Rights Watch, January 4, 2006.

389 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with John A., June 15, 2006 and August 11, 2006.

390 Ibid.

391 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ralph F., August 11, 2006.

392 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a Georgia county sheriff who requested anonymity, August 9, 2006.

393 California Proposition 83: “Sex Offenders. Sexually Violent Predators. Punishment, Residence Restrictions and Monitoring. Initiative Statute,” passed by voters November 7, 2006.

394 Ibid. Proposition 83 also lengthens prison and parole terms for repeat and violent offenders and requires some convicted sex offenders to undergo satellite monitoring for life, by wearing a tracking device (GPS) on their ankle. State analysts estimate the provision will cost taxpayers at least $88 million a year, with some estimates as high as $300-450 million. GPS units cost approximately $3,500 each and have a total lifespan of six to nine months. Therefore, they would have to be replaced one to two times a year. If all registered sex offenders in California are required to wear the GPS unit, as required by Proposition 83, the annual cost for GPS hardware could range from $300-700 million, depending on how often the hardware needs to be replaced. GPS units lose reception like cellular telephones. They must be recharged every 6-12 hours. Each loss of reception or low-battery failure sends a false alarm to dispatchers who must alert law enforcement and decide whether  to respond to the call. California Coalition against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), “Proposition 83 CALCASA Position Paper,” 2006, (accessed January 2, 2007); and testimony from California probation and parole officials before the California High Risk Sex Offender Taskforce, July 14, 2006. Another provision makes sexually violent predators eligible for indefinite commitment to state mental hospitals. These aspects of the statute have not been challenged.

395 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and Harriet Salarno, president, Crime Victims United of California, “Argument in Favor of Proposition 83,” appearing on the November 7, 2006 ballot.

396 Carleen R. Arlidge, president, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, “Rebuttal to Argument in Favor of Proposition 83,” appearing on the November 7, 2006 ballot.

397 Ibid.

398 CALCASA, “Proposition 83 CALCASA Position Paper.”

399 The California Research Bureau (CRB) is a nonpartisan research service that provides reports to the Governor and his staff, to both houses of the legislature, and to other elected state officials. See (accessed March 23, 2007).

400 Marcus Nieto and Prof David Jung, CRB, “The Impact of Residency Restrictions on Sex Offenders and Correctional Management Practices: A Literature Review,” (accessed January 21, 2007). The report was issued at the request of California State Assembly member Mark Leno, who is the Chair of the Public Safety Committee.

401 Ibid.

402 Doe v. Schwarzenegger et al., CA no. 06-cv-06968-JSW, Temporary Restraining Order to Show Cause Why Relief Should Not Be Granted, November 8, 2006. 

403 Ibid. 

404 Ibid.

405 David Kravets, “Judge: Lockyer is Changing Interpretation of Sex Offender Law,” Associated Press, November 27, 2006.

406 CALCASA, “Proposition 83 CALCASA Position Paper.”

407 Nieto and Jung, CRB, “The Impact of Residency Restrictions,” p. 21.

408 “Tracking Sex Offenders: Town by Town Summary of Local Restrictions,” Home News Tribune (NJ), March 5, 2006.

409 “Township Adopts Ordinance to Create Residency Restrictions for Convicted Sex Offenders,” Atlantic Highlands Herald (New Jersey), October 20, 2005.

410 John Ghirardini, “No Room in the City for Sex Offenders, Council Toughens Living Restrictions,” Atlanta-Journal Constitution, May 21, 2006.

411 John-Thor Dahlburg, “Limits on Sex Offenders Spread in Florida,” Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2005.

412 Kansas Department of Corrections, “Twenty Findings of Research on Residential Restrictions for Sex Offenders and the Iowa Experience with Similar Policies,” 2006, (accessed June 21, 2007).

413 Colorado Department of Public Safety, “Report on Safety Issues Raised by Living Arrangements for and Location of Sex Offenders in the Community,” March 15, 2004, (accessed June 20, 2007).

414 Ibid.

415 Minnesota Department of Corrections, “Level Three Sex Offenders Residential Placement Issues: 2003 Report to the Legislature,” January 2003, (accessed June 20, 2007).

416 Ibid., p. 2.

417 Ibid.

418 Lois Gormley, “Where are Valley Sex Offenders?” The Desert Sun (Palm Springs , CA), June 13, 2004.

419 Ibid. The article indicated the rearrest was for a parole violation and did not specify what the violation entailed.

420 Jill S. Levenson, Civil Research Institute, “Sex Offender Residence Restrictions,” 2005.

421 Ibid.

422 Colorado Department of Public Safety, “Report on Safety Issues,” p. 15.

423 Ibid.

424 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Dr. Jill Levenson, September 13, 2006.

425 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Doug E., September 18, 2006.

426 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with James O., June 23, 2006.

427 Women’s rights advocates in Singapore have recently been calling for the establishment of a sex offender registry. Theresa Tan, “Aware Calls for Stiffer Laws on Child Sex Abuse,” The Straits Times (Singapore), September 9, 2006.