Do sex offender restrictions work?

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - When we talk about sex offenders emotion tends to take over.  Call it a protective instinct.  We don't want them living near our children or where our children go to school or play.

The thoughts are terrifying to any parent.  But as we found out, those fears, don't match the facts.

"There is no data, according to my knowledge, that sex offender registry restrictions prevent sexual assault," Sheri Flynn told Region 8 News.

Only 5-7% of all sex offenders re-offend.

It's the empirical argument that flies in the face of raw emotion when it comes to where sex offenders are allowed to live in the state of Arkansas.

The law state says level 3 and 4 sex offenders cannot reside within 2000 feet of a school, daycare or public park.  Level 1 and 2 offenders do not have any such restrictions.

"We're pushing sex offenders outside that net and occasionally creating pockets of sex offenders because there's only one area in a county that they may be able to live."

Sheri Flynn is with the Arkansas Department of Correction's Sex Offender Screening and Risk Assessment Program.  In laymen's terms, her office determines a sex offender's threat level.

"To me, it makes more sense to base where sex offenders can be based on what they do, the crime they commit with whom they commit it with. Those are the people we don't want around our minor children."

By forcing sex offenders farther away, because of the residency restrictions, they are less likely to be part of what Flynn and others in her field call "the containment approach".  A belief that circling the offender with professionals from the courts, law enforcement, treatment providers and others keeps better tabs on the most dangerous sex offenders, level fours.

"There is a small sub-group.  If they have a deviant sexual arousal to forced sexual contact or children, they are more than 50% likely to re-offend and they respond very poorly to treatment."

That's where Flynn sees a weakness in the residency restrictions.  Simply put, if they are forced too far out, it becomes that much harder to stay on top of a dangerous predator.

"I want to know where he is, not where he isn't."

"We don't know what he's going to do and that net disappears and those things that have been put into place by my office, by my brothers and sisters in law enforcement, we work very closely to keep an eye on these guys.  When they drop off the radar we don't know what they're doing or where they are they could be up to anything."

It's a loaded question. Where should they live? But Sherri Flynn offers this: maybe when we ask legislators, or even law enforcement what to do, we're asking the wrong people.

"Sometimes I think we need to ask survivors "how does this affect you?" If your dad or grandfather got treatment, if he could get a good job would that be better? I don't know the answers to those questions, but I think we need to be asking them and try to figure it out."

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