In Minnesota, Megan’s Law was a community-notification intervention for sex offenders who have re-entered society. The objective of the program was to reduce reoffending (including sexual and nonsexual offenses) of sex offenders following release from jail or prison.
The notification program was passed under Minnesota’s Community Notification Act of 1997 that targeted released sex offenders in the state. The program was a state response to the federal requirements of Megan’s Law (passed in 1996) and authorizes law enforcement to notify local communities about where released sex offenders will be living.
In 2007, Megan's Law was repealed by the Sex Offender Notification and Registration Act (SORNA).
In Minnesota, sex offenders are required to be assigned a risk level before their release from prison by an End of Confinement Review Committee (ECRC). The ECRC includes the prison warden or head of the treatment facility where the offender is confined, a law enforcement officer, a sex- offender treatment professional, a caseworker with experience supervising sex offenders, and a victim’s services professional. Risk is assessed using the Minnesota Sex Offender Screening Tool–Revised (MnSOST–R). Sex offenders who receive a score greater than 7 are placed in Level III (high public risk); those with scores between 4 and 7 are placed in the Level II category (moderate public risk); and those with scores of less than 4 are placed in Level I (low public risk).
Megan’s Law in Minnesota consists of three tiers of notification. Released sex offenders receive a Level I, Level II, or Level III assignment that coincides with a low, moderate, or high public-risk categorization, respectively.
For Level I offenders, notifications are sent to victims, witnesses to the crime, law enforcement agencies, and anyone else identified by the prosecutor. For Level II offenders, notifications are sent to all stakeholders encompassed by Level I and local schools, daycare centers, and any other establishment where there are potential victims. For Level III offenders, notifications are sent to all stakeholders encompassed by Level I and Level II; additionally, information is released to the media, and a public meeting is held by law enforcement. This top-most tier is considered broad community notification.
Megan’s Law was developed based on evidence that suggests that sex-offender recidivists often access their victims by first establishing a relationship with the victim’s parent, guardian, or family member. Community notification inhibits the formation of these relationships as the notified residents are more likely to engage in cautionary behaviors (Duwe, Donnay, and Tewksbury 2008).
Duwe and Donnay (2008) found mixed results when examining the impact of Megan’s Law on various measures of recidivism (sexual and nonsexual). However, overall results suggest the notification program did impact recidivism of sex offenders through the implementation of Megan’ Law in Minnesota.
The notification group had significantly lower rearrests rates for sexual crimes (5.2 percent), compared with both the pre-notification group (58.4 percent) and the non-notification group (15.5 percent).
The notification group had significantly lower reconviction rates for sexual crimes (3.2 percent), compared with both the pre-notification group (52.8 percent) and the non-notification group (13.5 percent).
The notification group had significantly lower reincarceration rates for sexual crimes (2.6 percent), compared with both the pre-notification group (42.4 percent) and the non-notification group (9.0 percent).
The notification group had significantly lower rearrest rates for nonsexual crimes (28.4 percent), compared with the pre-notification group (57.6 percent). However, the notification group rearrest rate was not significantly different from the non-notification group (34.2 percent).
The notification group had significantly lower reconviction rates for nonsexual crimes (27.1 percent), compared with the pre-notification group (53.6 percent). However, the notification group reconviction rate was not significantly different from the non-notification group (32.9 percent).
The notification group had significantly lower reincarceration rates for nonsexual crimes (16.1 percent), compared with the pre-notification group (41.6 percent). However, the notification group reincarceration rate was not significantly different from the non-notification group (14.8 percent).
Duwe and Donnay (2008) used a retrospective, quasi-experimental research design to evaluate the impact of Megan’s Law in Minnesota on sex-offender reoffending (including sexual as well as nonsexual offenses resulting in rearrests, reconvictions, and reincarcerations). Sex offenders released from jail in Minnesota between 1990 and 2002 were eligible for the study. Data was collected electronically through December 31, 2005, via the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the Minnesota Department of Correction’s Correctional Operation Management System. The follow-up period ranged from 3 to16 years.
The experimental group, referred to as the notification group, consisted of 155 Level III sex offenders who were subject to broad community notification upon their release between 1997 and 2002, after the Community Notification Act was passed. The evaluation used two control groups. The first control group, referred to as the pre-notification group, consisted of 125 sex offenders who were released between 1990 and 1996, before the Community Notification Act was passed. The second control group, referred to as the non-notification group (they were not subject to broad notification or the highest tier of notification, Level III), consisted of 155 Level I and Level II offenders (37 and 118, respectively) released between 1997 and 2002, after the Community Notification Act was passed.
The majority of the notification group (99.4 percent) was male, and 35.5 percent were minority. The average age at release for the notification group was 34.2 years, and 87.1 percent had committed prior sex crimes. The entire pre-notification, control-group sample was male, and 40.8 percent were minority. The average age at release for the pre-notification group was 32.8 years, and 32.8 percent had committed prior sex crimes. The majority of the non-notification group (98.7 percent) was male, and 35.5 percent were minority. The average age at release for the non-notification group was 35.5 years, and 87.7 percent had committed prior sex crimes. There were statistically significant differences between the notification and pre-notification groups and between the notification and non-notification groups. Notification and pre-notification group members were matched on sexual recidivism risk using the 16-item Minnesota Sex Offender Screening Tool-Revised (MnSOST-R). A Cox proportional hazards model evaluated whether sex offenders reoffended and the amount of time from release to rearrest.
There is no cost information available for this program.
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:Study 1
Duwe, Grant, and William Donnay. 2008. “The Impact of Megan’s Law on Sex Offender Recidivism: The Minnesota Experience.” Criminology
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
Duwe, Grant, William Donnay, and Richard Tewksbury. 2008. “Does Residential Proximity Matter? A Geographic Analysis of Sex Offense Recidivism.” Criminal Justice and Behavior
Minnesota Department of Corrections. 2008. Megan’s Law in Minnesota: The Impact of Community Notification on Sex Offender Recidivism.
St. Paul: Minnesota.