A geographical look at sex offender policies

June 11, 2012

A March 2011 news posting from Kingman, Ariz., reports that a convicted sex offender broke into a home, kidnapped an eight-year-old girl, and molested her outside. Such an unfortunate event and others like it have spawned a flurry of sex offender laws at the federal, state and local levels in recent years designed to prevent this type of incident. Common strategies range from sex offender registries and other public notification to spatial restriction zones.

Restriction zones are meant to prohibit offenders from residing either too close to sensitive facilities, such as schools and playgrounds, or too close to other offenders. The goal is to minimize community vulnerability as well as limit potential contact with children and other at-risk groups. Map with sample spatial analysis Download Full Image

These legislative efforts are not without controversy, however, and opponents of these laws argue that restrictions produce unintended or collateral consequences for offenders that range from public shaming to the lack of affordable housing options. In this respect, spatial restriction zones are the subject of much attention because they are believed to reduce housing options for offenders and produce sex offender clusters in the few areas where offenders are permitted to reside.

Geographical analysis can provide useful decision support tools to help craft and evaluate sex offender policies, argue Alan Murray, Serge Rey, Luc Anselin and Elizabeth Mack of ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and Marie Griffin of ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, along with co-investigator Tony Grubesic of Drexel University’s College of Information Science and Technology.

A recent article in Cityscape is the culmination of research on this topic funded by a two-year $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation that produced some 14 articles. The paper provides an overview of how sex offender residency laws interact with local geography and city forms, creating both intended and unintended outcomes. The key lesson to be gleaned from this body of research is the highly contextual nature of restriction zone impacts and the utility of geographic analysis in assessing laws before they are enacted.

Professor Murray notes that “our research found that about 65 percent of registered offenders changed residences over a two-and-a-half year study period.” He adds that “what is particularly curious about these moves is that approximately one-third of them were into spatial restriction zones, or rather areas that are deemed off limits to convicted sex offenders. Some might consider this predatory.”

Barbara Trapido-Lurie

research professional senior, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


Re-accreditation affirms quality of Teachers College Preschool

June 12, 2012

The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Preschool on ASU’s Tempe campus has earned re-accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This accreditation is valid until 2017.

“We are very proud of this accomplishment,” said Chari Woodward, director of the preschool. “NAEYC accreditation helps improve the quality of early childhood education throughout the country and the world and helps parents make the right choices of childcare for their children. NAEYC accreditation is a mark of excellence parents can trust. Lessons learned in early childhood programs last a lifetime.” Children playing outdoors Download Full Image

The Teachers College Preschool is one of 122 in Arizona and one of two programs in Tempe to have earned NAEYC accreditation. The NAEYC Academy judges childcare centers on ten standards including a caring and well-trained staff, comprehensive and effective curriculum and regular communication with parents.

“We obtained ratings of 100 percent or 100 percent-plus in each of the ten standards,” Woodward said. “Some special features of our program we offered for evaluation included the exceptional way we use the educational opportunities to be found here at ASU, including those through the music, drama and science departments. Our philosophy of learning through constructive play and our comprehensive assessment of children’s learning were a plus in the accreditation review process.”

The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Preschool is currently enrolling for the fall 2012 semester. Enrollment is open to children ages two-and-a-half to five years old.

Located in Room 104 of the Farmer Education Building, the preschool has three brightly lit classrooms with age-appropriate furniture and equipment. The preschool playground is located between the Farmer Education and Payne Hall buildings, and facilitates open-ended play and exploration in a large, fenced-in, grassy area.

Visit http://education.asu.edu/preschool or call (480) 965-2510 for more information about the preschool and to schedule a tour.

For a listing of NAEYC-approved programs, visit http://www.rightchoiceforkids.org/accredited_program_search.