Doctor of Philosophy
L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs
Jill A. Gordon
William Pelfrey Jr.
The mid-1990s brought sex offenders to the forefront of policy issues due to several highly publicized cases of abduction, sexual assault, and murder involving children. Following these cases, a number of sex offender management policies were passed to quell public concern over the safety of children due to sex offenders. Most notably, these new sex offender management policies mandated the creation of publicly available registries of sex offenders and enacted residence restrictions that forbid sex offenders from residing within certain distances from areas where children commonly congregate.
Although current sex offender management policies have been revealed to be largely ineffective in reducing sex offender recidivism and also create a number of collateral consequences for the successful reintegration of sex offenders back into the community, the public has been found to be largely in support of these policies and believe in their effectiveness. The available literature examining the perceptions of professionals toward sex offender management policies, however, has shown mixed support depending upon the specific profession of the sample.
Utilizing a sample (n=248) gathered from two professional organizations, this study aimed to explore and compare the perceptions of clinical specialists and non-clinical professionals in three areas: Support for current sex offender management policies, belief in collateral consequences that sex offenders may face due to these policies, and acceptability of collateral consequences as by-products of the current policies.
Bivariate analyses revealed significant differences between the professionals groups in all three of the above areas. Given the significant bivariate findings, ordinary least squares regression was conducted to examine the consistency of profession as a significant predictor of the attitudes of the professionals while considering competing variables. Against a number of control variables, profession remained a significant predictor of support for sex offender management policies and belief in collateral consequences involving residence restrictions, however, profession was not a significant predictor of acceptability of collateral consequences. Several other factors, including punishment philosophy and belief in the cause of sex offending, emerged throughout the multivariate analyses as having a significant influence on the perceptions of the professionals.
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