Office of Justice Programs (OJP)
Sex Offender Management Assessment and Planning Initiative, Office of the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART)
Sex Offender Management Assessment and Planning Initiative Office of the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART)

by Roger Przybylski, Scott Matson and Christopher Lobanov-Rostovsky

Sex offenders have received considerable attention in recent years from both policymakers and the public. This is due to the profound impact that sex crimes have on victims and the larger community and also due to the increased identification and apprehension of sex offenders. Perpetrators of sex crimes have come to be viewed by policymakers, practitioners, and the public as a unique group of offenders in need of special management practices. As a result, a number of laws and policies focusing specifically on sex offenders have been implemented across the country in recent years, often with extensive public support.

There also has been a growing recognition in the criminal justice community that crime control and prevention strategies—including those targeting sex offenders—are far more likely to be effective and cost-beneficial when they are based on scientific evidence about what works. Indeed, crime control policy and program development processes are increasingly being informed by scientific evidence; in addition, many practices in policing, corrections, and other areas have been and continue to be shaped by evidence generated through research. Incentives and mandates for evidence-based programming are now frequently used by funding sources, and the demand for trustworthy, research-generated evidence about what works is rapidly increasing (Przybylski, 2012).

Recognizing the important role scientific evidence plays in the development and implementation of effective policies and practices, including those focused on sex offenders, the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and OJP's Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART Office) began to identify and disseminate information from state-of-the-art research on central and emerging issues in sex offender management to inform policy and practice in the field.

Since 1996, OJP has worked to promote advances in the field of sex offender management. In the 1980s and 1990s, several high-profile sex crimes led to the enactment of state and federal legislation directed toward tracking and controlling sex offenders. These laws were passed without the benefit of strong research to support particular approaches to managing sex offenders. In response to this flurry of legislative activity and heightened public concern, OJP convened a national summit in 1996 that brought together nearly 200 practitioners, academic researchers, and other experts to discuss the most effective management strategies for this offender population.1 During the summit, OJP received recommendations about the needs of the field regarding sex offender management training and technical assistance. In response to these recommendations, OJP initiated research projects on sex offender management, developed sex offender-specific grant programs, and supported the Center for Sex Offender Management's training and technical assistance to the field.

In the ensuing years, OJP sponsored more than 100 research projects, publications, and training curricula related to sexual assault and sex offender management. Grant programs provided funds to approximately 200 state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to enhance and improve the management of sex offenders in their communities. These jurisdictions have created standards for the treatment and supervision of adults and juveniles, employed sex offender-specific assessment and truth-verification tools, enhanced victim advocacy and support, developed specialized sex offender courts, and improved information sharing and collaboration within and across disciplines and jurisdictions.

In 2006, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA) authorized the establishment of the SMART Office—the first federal office devoted solely to sex offender management-related activities. The office is responsible for helping to implement the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (Title I of AWA) and also for providing assistance to criminal justice professionals and the public about the entire spectrum of sex offender management activities needed to ensure public safety.

Building on OJP's efforts, the SMART Office began work in 2011 on the Sex Offender Management Assessment and Planning Initiative (SOMAPI), a project designed to assess the state of research and practice in sex offender management and to inform OJP's research and grant-making efforts in this area. As part of this effort, the office gathered information about research and practice in the field and enlisted practitioners to (1) provide details about sex offender management programs and practices that are promising or effective, and (2) identify the needs of the various disciplines involved.

The SMART Office contracted with the National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA) and a team of subject-matter experts to review the scholarly literature on sexual offending and sex offender management and to develop annotated summaries of the research for dissemination to the field. To gain insight into emerging issues, promising practices, and pressing needs in the sex offender management field at the state and local levels, NCJA conducted an informal national inventory of sex offender management professionals in 2011. Finally, the SMART Office hosted the Sex Offender Management Research and Practice Discussion Forum (SOMAPI forum) in February 2012. At this event, national experts—both researchers and practitioners—gathered in the District of Columbia to discuss the research summaries and inventory results in order to further refine what is known about the current state of sex offender management, gaps in research and practice, and the needs of the different disciplines involved in this work.2 Recommendations from the SOMAPI forum informed this report and will help guide OJP's sex offender management research, policy, and grant-making efforts in the future and provide direction to the field on how best to protect the public from sexual violence.

Organization of the Report

This report is divided into two main sections. A review of the literature on adult sex offender topics is presented in section 1 and a review of the literature on topics pertaining to juveniles who commit sexual offenses is presented in section 2. Given the fundamental differences between adults and juveniles, it is critically important to distinguish between these two populations when describing their characteristics or discussing research on issues such as etiology, recidivism, risk, or intervention effectiveness.

Section 1: Adult Sex Offenders

This section reviews contemporary research focused specifically on adult sex offenders and presents key findings and policy implications in the following eight topic areas:

  1. Incidence and prevalence of sexual offending and victimization.
  2. Etiology of sexual offending.
  3. Sex offender typologies.
  4. Internet-facilitated sexual offending.
  5. Recidivism.
  6. Risk assessment.
  7. Treatment effectiveness.
  8. Sex offender management strategies.

Section 2: Juveniles Who Commit Sexual Offenses

This section reviews contemporary research focused specifically on juveniles who commit sexual offenses and presents key findings and policy implications in the following five topic areas:

  1. Etiology and typologies.
  2. Recidivism.
  3. Assessment of risk for sexual reoffense.
  4. Treatment effectiveness.
  5. Registration and notification.

Chapter Organization

Each topic area addressed in sections 1 and 2 is presented in a separate chapter,3 and all chapters are generally structured in a similar manner. Each begins with a summary of the chapter's key findings followed by a brief introduction to the topic being addressed and, when relevant, a description of the key issues that need to be considered when interpreting research reviewed in the chapter. Contemporary research on the topic is then described, and findings and key recommendations for policy and practice are presented. Each chapter closes with a narrative summary of the chapter's key findings, the research or data limitations that need to be considered when interpreting the findings, gaps in the knowledge base pertaining to the topic area, and future research needs, where appropriate. Key insights and recommendations drawn from both the 2012 SOMAPI forum and the national inventory of sex offender management professionals are noted throughout each chapter, where appropriate. References are included at the end of each chapter.

It is important to note that each chapter has been prepared by a different author and may reflect their individual writing styles. Further, any opinions, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the authors and contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the SMART Office or U.S. Department of Justice.

Review Methods

Each chapter is based on a review of the scientific literature that addresses the chapter's topic area. Source materials for the literature review were identified using several methods. Chapter authors—

  • Conducted keyword searches of abstract databases such as the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, the Social Science Research Network, Academic Search Complete, Criminal Justice Abstracts, Google Scholar, JSTOR, PubMed, PsycNET, ScienceDirect, Wiley Online, and Sage Online.
  • Performed Internet searches using common search engines.
  • Reviewed websites of organizations such as the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, Center for Sex Offender Management, Civic Research Institute, and Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
  • Reviewed reference pages and bibliographies from both online and print documents for potential source material.
  • Contacted experts in the field to obtain guidance and insight regarding the acquisition, relevance, and interpretation of source material.4

This process produced a number of published and unpublished documents deemed potentially relevant for this report. Documents written from 1990 to the present that could be obtained with a reasonable investment of resources were collected and reviewed with a focus on study characteristics and findings. Because literature reviews on selected sex offender management topics have been undertaken in the past, this report focuses primarily on studies conducted within the past 15 years. The key criteria for discussing a particular study in this review were the saliency of the research findings, the recency of the research findings, and the study's methodological characteristics. With regard to the latter, emphasis was placed on individual studies that employed scientifically rigorous methods and on synthesis studies (e.g., systematic reviews, meta-analyses) that examine the results of many individual studies.

Issues To Consider

Although there is growing interest in crime control strategies that are based on scientific evidence, it is not uncommon for studies of the same phenomena to produce ambiguous or even conflicting results. In addition, there are many examples of empirical evidence misleading crime control policy or practice because shortcomings in the quality of the research or limitations concerning the trustworthiness of findings were overlooked (see, e.g., Sherman, 2003; McCord, 2003; Boruch, 2007). Hence, both the quality and consistency of the evidence must be considered when interpreting the research findings presented in this report, and conclusions and their implications for policy and practice must be appropriately drawn—and often tempered—based on the trustworthiness of the evidence. While the specific methodological and data quality issues that need to be considered vary by topic, the limitations of official statistics on sexual offending tend to be relevant in every chapter of the report.

The terms "evaluation" and "evaluator" are used throughout the report. In the chapters on risk assessment, these terms refer to the risk assessment process and the clinician or practitioner performing the risk assessment, respectively. In all other chapters, these terms refer to evaluation research (typically focused on a program or other intervention) and the researchers conducting an evaluation study, respectively.

In conclusion, this report is designed to advance the ongoing dialogue related to effective interventions for the sex offender population. Although the report was developed primarily to provide policymakers and practitioners with trustworthy, up-to-date information they can use to identify what works to combat sexual offending and prevent sexual victimization, it also identifies knowledge gaps and unresolved controversies that emerge from the extant research and that might serve as a catalyst for future empirical study.

It is hoped that the culmination of the SOMAPI project will help guide OJP's and the SMART Office's sex offender management research, policy, and grant-making efforts in the future and provide direction to the field on how best to protect the public from sexual violence. To learn more about the SMART Office, visit For more information about OJP's grant-making efforts, visit


1 The national summit, "Promoting Public Safety Through the Effective Management of Sex Offenders in the Community," was held November 24–26, 1996, in the District of Columbia.

2 See the appendix for a list of the forum participants.

3 Section 2 also includes an overview chapter.

4 The "Etiology of Sexual Offending" chapter in section 1 draws heavily on two published volumes of relevant literature: Theories of Sexual Offending by Tony Ward, Devon L.L. Polaschek, and Anthony R. Beeck; and Sex Offending: Causal Theories to Inform Research, Prevention, and Treatment by Jill D. Stinson, Bruce D. Sales, and Judith V. Becker.


Boruch, R. (2007). Encouraging the flight of error: Ethical standards, evidence standards, and randomized trials. In G. Julnes & D. Rog (Eds.), Informing Federal Policies on Evaluation Methodology: Building the Evidence Base for Method Choice in Government Sponsored Evaluation (New Directions for Evaluation Series, Number 113). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

McCord, J. (2003). Cures that harm: Unanticipated outcomes of crime prevention programs. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 587, 16–30.

Przybylski, R. (2012). Special issue on evidence-based policy and practice: Editor's introduction. Justice Research and Policy, 14(1), 1–16.

Sherman, L.W. (2003). Misleading evidence and evidence-led policy: Making social science more experimental. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 589, 6–19.

Appendix: Participant List for the 2012 SOMAPI Forum

Kevin Baldwin
Senior Researcher
Applied Research Services, Inc.
663 Ethel Street NW.
Atlanta, GA 30318

Elizabeth Barnhill
Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault
515 28th Street, Suite 107
Des Moines, IA 50312

Elizabeth Bartholomew
Criminal Justice Information System/Central Repository
Sex Offender Registry
Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
6776 Reisterstown Road, Suite 205
Baltimore, MD 21215

Greg Brown
Chief Probation Officer
Judicial Department
Colorado Courts
1777 Sixth Street
Boulder, CO 80306–4249

Suzanne Brown-McBride
Deputy Director
Council of State Governments
Justice Center
100 Wall Street, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10005

Kurt Bumby
Senior Manager
Center for Effective Public Policy and Center for Sex Offender Management
2113 Oak Cliff Drive
Columbia, MO 65203

Kelly Burke
Program Manager
Juvenile Justice and Sex Offender Management
International Association of Chiefs of Police
515 North Washington Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Maia Christopher
Executive Director
Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers
4900 Southwest Griffith Drive, Suite 274
Beaverton, OR 97005

Kay Chopard Cohen
Deputy Executive Director
National Criminal Justice Association
720 Seventh Street NW., Third Floor
Washington, DC 20001

Randy Cole
Executive Officer
Special Services Division
Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services
901 29th Avenue SW.
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

Terry Cowman
Special Agent in Charge
Division of Criminal Investigation
Sex Offender Registry Unit
Iowa Department of Public Safety
215 East Seventh Street
Des Moines, IA 50319

Georgia Cumming
Program Director
Department of Corrections
State of Vermont
50 Cherry Street
Burlington, VT 05401

David D'Amora
Division Director
National Initiatives
Council of State Governments Justice Center
100 Wall Street, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10005

Deborah Donovan Rice
Executive Director
Stop It Now!
351 Pleasant Street, Suite B–319
Northampton, MA 01060

Angelyn Frazer
State Legislative Affairs Director
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
1660 L Street NW., 12th Floor
Washington, DC 20036

Naomi Freeman
Bureau of Sex Offender Evaluation and Treatment
Division of Forensic Services
New York State Office of Mental Health
44 Holland Avenue
Albany, NY 12229

Leilah Gilligan
Senior Manager
Center for Sex Offender Management
8403 Colesville Road, Suite 720
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Douglas Grimes
Operational Records Division
Bureau of Records and Identification
Pennsylvania State Police
1800 Elmerton Avenue
Harrisburg, PA 17110

Dawn Handa
Regional Administrator/Sex Offender Specialist
Probation and Parole Bureau
Adult Community Corrections
Montana Department of Corrections
219 Fifth Street South, Suite A
Great Falls, MT 59405

Karl Hanson
Senior Research Scientist
Corrections Research
Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate
Public Safety Canada
340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Canada K1S 1Z3

Andrew Harris
Assistant Professor
Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology
University of Massachusetts Lowell
870 Broadway Street, Room 225
Lowell, MA 01854

Michael Johnson
Youth Protection
Boy Scouts of America
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane
Irving, TX 75038

Barbara Kahn
County Court of Suffolk County
New York State
210 Center Drive
Cromarty Court Complex, Criminal Courts Building
Riverhead, NY 11901

Candice Kane
University of Illinois at Chicago/CeaseFire
1603 West Taylor Street
Chicago, IL 60612

Jim Kouril
Criminal Investigator
Idaho Office of the Attorney General
700 West State Street, Fourth Floor
Boise, ID 83720

Elizabeth Letourneau
Associate Professor
Department of Mental Health
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
624 North Broad Street, Suite 850
Baltimore, MD 21205

Larni Levy
Alternative Commitment and Registration Support Unit
Private Counsel Division
Committee for Public Counsel
44 Bromfield Street
Boston, MA 02108

Christopher Lobanov-Rostovsky
Program Manager
Colorado Department of Public Safety
Colorado Division of Criminal Justice
Colorado Sex Offender Management Board
700 Kipling Street, Suite 3000
Denver, CO 80215

Jenifer Long
AEquitas: The Prosecutors' Resource on Violence Against Women
1100 H Street NW., Suite 310
Washington, DC 20005

Robert Lonski
Assigned Counsel Program
170 Franklin Street, Suite 400
Buffalo, NY 14202

Robert Maccarone
Deputy Commissioner and Director
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives
New York State
Fourth Tower Place
Albany, NY 12203

Robert McGrath
Clinical Director
Vermont Treatment Program for Sexual Abusers
Vermont Department of Corrections
105 Happy Valley Road
Middlebury, VT 05753

Anne McKeig
Fourth Judicial District
State of Minnesota
110 South Fourth Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Brent Myers
Director, Registration and Victim Services
Indiana Department of Correction
Indiana Government Center South
302 West Washington Street, Suite E334
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Nicole Pittman
Soros Senior Justice Advocacy Fellow
Human Rights Watch
1441 Sansom Street, Suite 729
Philadelphia, PA 19119

Carol Poole
National Criminal Justice Association
2595 Pierson Street
Lakewood, CO 80215

Roger Przybylski
President and Consultant
RKC Group
7227 West Eighth Avenue
Lakewood, CO 80214

Kecia Rongen
Program Administrator
Department of Social and Health Services
Community Programs
Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration
P.O. Box 45720
Olympia, WA 98504

Erin Runnion
The Joyful Child Foundation
P.O. Box 12680
Westminster, CA 92685

Staca Shehan
Case Analysis Division
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
699 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Jeanne M. Smith
Director, Division of Criminal Justice
Colorado Department of Public Safety
700 Kipling Street
Denver, CO 80215

Jane Silovsky
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
940 NE. 13th Street
Nicholson Tower, Suite 4900
Oklahoma City, OK 73104

Dominique Simons
Contract Researcher and Program Evaluator
Sex Offender Treatment and Monitoring Program
Colorado Department of Corrections
404 Stone Creek Drive
Allen, CO 75002

Michelle Spidell
Probation Administrator
Office of Probation and Pretrial Services
Administrative Office of the United States Courts
One Columbus Circle NE.
Washington, DC 20544

Basyle J. Tchividjian, J.D.
Assistant Professor of Law
School of Law
Liberty University
1971 University Boulevard
Lynchburg, VA 24502

Suzanna Tiapula
National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse
National District Attorneys Association
44 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 110
Alexandria, VA 22314

Derek VanLuchene
Ryan United
800 East Sixth Avenue
Helena, MA 59601

Ed Varela
Assistant Commissioner
Westchester County Department of Probation
Criminal Operations
Westchester County
111 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Sixth Floor
White Plains, NY10601

Victor Vieth
Executive Director
The National Child Protection Training Center
Winona State University
Maxwell Hall, Second Floor
Winona, MA 55987

Robin Wilson
Wilson & Associates
4047 Bee Ridge Road, Suite C
Sarasota, FL 34233

Jane Wiseman
255 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02116

Robin Wosje
Director of Grant Projects and Special Initiatives
The National Judicial College
Judicial College Building 358
Reno, NV 895