An Examination of Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws: Can Community Sentiment Lead to Ineffective Laws?

  • Megan M. Armstrong
  • Monica K. Miller
  • Timothy Griffin


Crime control theater (CCT) refers to popular laws which appear to offer simple solutions to address serious crimes but are not empirically effective. Sex offender registration and notification laws meet each of the CCT criteria: reactionary response to a moral panic, unquestioned acceptance and promotion, appeal to mythic narratives, and empirical failure. These laws have resulted in unintended consequences including violence directed at offenders’ families, inability for offenders to reintegrate into society, misuse of the laws on unintended populations, and others. A theoretical explanation for why community sentiment toward CCT laws remains positive utilizes social cognitive mechanisms of schemas and heuristics in combination with cognitive-experiential self-theory. These theories suggest that people utilize cognitive shortcuts and emotive processing in forming their reactions to crime. Understanding how these theories work can help prevent adoption of CCT laws and promote more effective laws.


Crime control theater Heuristics Schema Cognitive-experiential self-theory Sex offender registration laws Community sentiment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Megan M. Armstrong
    • 1
  • Monica K. Miller
    • 2
  • Timothy Griffin
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Nevada, RenoRenoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminal JusticeUniversity of Nevada, RenoRenoUSA

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