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Post-Release Controls for Sex Offenders in the U.S. and UK

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Roxanne Lieb, Hazel Kemshall, Terry Thomas - June 2011

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Lieb, R., Kemshall, H., & Thomas, T. (2011). Post-release controls for sex offenders in the U.S. and UK. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 34, 226-232. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2011.04.006

In recent years, both the United States and United Kingdom have developed numerous innovations in legal efforts to protect society from sex offenders. Each country has adopted special provisions for sex offenders. In particular, governments have focused on forms of social control after release from incarceration and probation. These policy innovations for this category of offenders have been more far reaching than those for any other offender population. The two jurisdictions have adopted policies with similar goals, but the selected strategies have important differences. Generally speaking, the U.S. has favored an ever-expanding set of policies that place sex offenders into broad categories, with few opportunities that distinguish the appropriate responses for individual offenders. The UK government observed the proliferation of Megan’s Laws in the U.S., and deliberately chose to establish carefully controlled releases of information, primarily relying on governmental agencies to work in multi-disciplinary groups and make case-specific decisions about individual offenders. Although the UK policy leaders expressed significant concern that the public’s response to knowing about identified sex offenders living in the community would result in vigilantism, to date the results have not born out this fear. Both governments have turned to other crime control measures such as polygraphy testing, electronic monitoring, and civil protection orders as a means to prevent further sexual violence.

Report ID: 11-06-1101
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Competency to Stand Trial and Conditional Release Evaluations: Current and Potential Role of Forensic Assessment Instruments

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Roxanne Lieb, Mason Burley - May 2011

In response to a 2010 legislative direction, the Institute and DSHS are investigating options regarding the use of mental health assessment tools for two DSHS reports to the courts:

- Competency to stand trial assessments of criminal defendants whose competency is in question, and

- The Secretary’s recommendations to the courts concerning the potential conditional release of criminally insane patients from inpatient treatment.

This document summarizes results of an October 2010 survey of state forensic evaluators concerning their use of assessment instruments. Thirty-one (of the 35) mental health experts who conduct forensic evaluations for the three state psychiatric hospitals (Western State, Eastern State, and Child Study and Treatment Center) responded to the online survey; this represents an 89 percent response rate.

We present three options for assessment strategies and instruments, with advantages and disadvantages of each option. A detailed comparison of instruments is included.

Report ID: 11-05-3401
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Washington State Recidivism Trends: Adult Offenders Released From Prison (1990 – 2006)

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Elizabeth Drake - January 2011

In this report, we examine recidivism rates for close to 70,000 adult offenders who released from prison in Washington State over a 17-year-period. Our analysis reveals quite notable and favorable recidivism trends.

Report ID: 11-01-1201
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WSIPP’s Benefit-Cost Tool for States: Examining Policy Options in Sentencing and Corrections

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Steve Aos, Elizabeth Drake - August 2010

Can knowledge about “what works” to reduce crime be used to help states achieve a win-win outcome of lower crime and lower taxpayer spending?

The Washington State Institute for Public Policy has constructed an analytical tool for the Washington legislature to help identify evidence-based sentencing and programming policy options to reduce crime and taxpayer criminal justice costs. With additional financial assistance from the MacArthur Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts contracted with WSIPP to: (1) develop the tool, (2) apply it to a policy process currently underway in Washington State, and (3) help Pew make the tool available to other interested states.

This report describes the tool (as of August 2010) in detail and illustrates its use by applying it to two hypothetical sentencing policy options in Washington State. The tool assesses benefits, costs, and risks. Results from the two hypothetical examples point to possible win-win policy combinations.

Report ID: 10-08-1201
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Fight Crime and Save Money: Development of an Investment Tool for States to Study Sentencing and Corrections Public Policy Options —Progress Report—

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Steve Aos, Elizabeth Drake - April 2010

Can knowledge about “what works” to reduce crime be used to help a state achieve a win-win outcome of: (1) lower crime, and (2) lower taxpayer spending? This progress report describes the work underway by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) to develop an analytical tool for Washington, and perhaps other states, to identify evidence-based policy options to reduce crime rates and lower the taxpayer costs of the criminal justice system.

The Pew Charitable Trusts contracted with WSIPP to: (1) develop the tool, (2) apply it to the policy process currently underway in Washington State, and (3) help Pew make the tool available to other states.

This progress report describes the structure of the tool being constructed. The current plan calls for initial estimates by August 2010. In addition, the tool will be used to support the work of the legislatively directed study being conducted by the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission.

Report ID: 10-04-1201
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Washington's Offender Accountability Act: Final Report on Recidivism Outcomes

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Elizabeth Drake, Steve Aos, Robert Barnoski - January 2010

The 1999 Offender Accountability Act (OAA) directs the Department of Corrections (DOC) to perform a formal assessment of each offender’s risk for recidivism and then to allocate agency resources accordingly. The law also requires the Institute to evaluate the OAA and provide results by 2010.

This report presents our findings on whether the OAA has had an effect on recidivism. On average, offenders today have a greater risk for recidivism than historically; the general rise in recidivism over the last 20 years is largely explained by the increased underlying risk of DOC’s offender population. Since the OAA was implemented, however, something favorable has happened to cause recidivism rates to be lower than expected. Unfortunately, our statistical analysis does not allow us to identify whether this beneficial change can be attributed specifically to the OAA or other policies, or other unknown factors that occurred during the same time period. Regardless, the good news from our evaluation is that, after at least a decade of increasing recidivism, Washington is now beginning to observe improvements in adult felony recidivism.

Report ID: 10-01-1201
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Impacts of Housing Supports: Persons with Mental Illness and Ex-Offenders

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Marna Miller, Irene Ngugi - November 2009

After the 2009 Legislative session, the Institute was asked to participate in a Housing Focus Group, and provide a summary of research findings on the effectiveness of housing programs for populations at risk of homelessness. In this report, we examine the impact of housing supports for persons with mental illness and for ex-offenders returning to the community following incarceration.

In this initial review of the literature, we found:

• Housing assistance for persons with mental illness significantly reduced homelessness, hospitalization, and crime when compared to similar individuals who did not participate in a housing program.

• Reentry programs that included housing support for the general population of ex-offenders did not affect the incidence of recidivism.

• Reentry programs for serious violent ex-offenders significantly reduced recidivism.

Report ID: 09-11-1901
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Does Sex Offender Registration and Notification Reduce Crime? A Systematic Review of the Research Literature

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Elizabeth Drake, Steve Aos - June 2009

The Sex Offender Policy Board asked the Institute to evaluate the effectiveness of sex offender registration and community notification laws on reducing crime. We conducted a systematic review of all research evidence and located nine rigorous evaluations. Some studies address whether the laws influence “specific” deterrence—the effect of a law on the recidivism rates of convicted sex offenders. The remaining studies analyze “general” deterrence—the effect of a law on sex offense rates of the general public, as well as recidivism rates of convicted sex offenders.

At this time, we tentatively conclude that existing research does not offer much policy guidance on the specific deterrent effect of registration/notification laws. For general deterrence, there is some indication that registration laws lower sex offense rates in the public at large. Additional research is necessary before definitive conclusions can be drawn.

Report ID: 09-06-1101
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Going Home: The Washington State Reentry Project
Interim Report: 18-Month Recidivism Rates for Program Participants

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Elizabeth Drake - June 2009

The Institute was contracted to evaluate the effectiveness of the Department of Corrections’ “Going Home Project.” The program was designed to transition younger, high-risk, violent offenders into the community. To date, not enough time has passed to conduct an outcome evaluation with a comparison group and 36-month follow-up. This interim report outlines our research design and provides 18-month recidivism rates for program participants.

Report ID: 09-06-1201
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Increased Earned Release From Prison: Impacts of a 2003 Law on Recidivism and Crime Costs, Revised

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Elizabeth Drake, Robert Barnoski, Steve Aos - April 2009

The 2003 Washington State Legislature passed ESSB 5990, which increased “earned early release time” for certain types of offenders. The bill authorizes the Washington State Department of Corrections to release certain eligible offenders earlier if they have demonstrated good behavior in prison.

The Institute was directed by the Legislature to evaluate the effect of the 2003 law. Our overall recidivism findings remain consistent with those in the original November 2008 report; we strengthened the cost-benefit analysis for this revised version and find that the law generates benefits of $1.88 per dollar of cost.

Report ID: 09-04-1201
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