Many of the state laws are known as "Jessica's Laws" because they were passed or expanded after the slaying in Florida of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in 2005. Her neighbor, convicted sex offender John Couey, is on trial for the crime.
The surge in residency restrictions happened in the absence of research proving that they work.
"Residency restrictions have a lot of unintended consequences," says Jill Levenson, professor of human services at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. She says many offenders are "more likely to resume a life of crime" if pushed into rural areas, because they have less access to jobs and mental health services that bring them needed stability.
Levenson surveyed 135 sex offenders in Florida, which passed a law in 2003 barring those who hurt children from living within 1,000 feet of where kids gather. Most said they had been careful not to commit crimes near their homes, so residency rules made little difference. Others said that even outside restricted areas, they live near kids.
Sex offenders seeking victims are likely to go to another neighborhood so they won't be recognized, the Minnesota Department of Corrections found in a 2003 study.
In Colorado, convicted molesters who committed more offenses lived no closer to schools or child care centers than those who had not re-offended, according to a report in 2004 by the state's Department of Public Safety.
In Arkansas, however, Jeffrey Walker of the University of Arkansas found in 2001 that child molesters are nearly twice as likely to live near schools than those convicted of sexually assaulting adults. Walker says he doesn't know why that's the case, or whether proximity to kids makes them more likely to offend again.
There is some really good stuff in the article and it is great to see major media covering the issue this well.