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The Stigma Of A Sex Offender, Is there A Life after Prison? By: Susan Kulkowitz

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

If you are Returning Citizen on the Sex Offender Registry, where might you call home?

Unfortunately, being on the Registry creates an obstacle when looking for a place to live.

Community response to returning citizens on the Sex Offender Registry moving into their area has been one of concern and fear. Most people don't realize that the Registry is multi-tiered and only a percentage of sex offenders are violent criminals. Many previous offenders are working toward healing and growth.

If you are on the Sex Offender Registry, your housing will be affected depending on what State you reside in. Each State has rules regarding housing for returning citizens, and every county is entitled to establish local housing regulations. Knowing the expectations of the area you are living in is essential.

Most people know there are proximity limits for specific places like schools and parks that will affect where a returning citizen can live.( Check with your local law enforcement to learn the regulations in your area.)

Megan's Law, enacted on May 17th, 1996, mandates notification of child offenders living in any State and county, and the Adam Walsh Act, enacted July 27th, 2006, gives the public access to the exact residence of anyone on a Sex Offender Registry. Because of these public policies, many Returning Citizens on the sex registry find re-immersion into society challenging.

If you owned your home before sentencing, most states would allow you to return unless your home is in a restricted area. There are rentals advertised as second-chance rentals, and some places do not ask for background checks. People can often be supportive when meeting you in person, and compassionate landlords will help you with housing. Realtors can also help navigate housing. If you find yourself homeless, you will need to research to find accommodations. Transitional housing and recovery support programs are steps toward getting your life back on track. (See the list below to get started in your search)!

Current Federal law prohibits anyone subject to state sex offense registries from admission to public housing. According to HUD, if a citizen is required to remain on the Registry for life, they are terminated from HUD housing no matter their tier. If required to be on the Registry for a limited time, a citizen can be re-admitted to the HUD housing list once no longer on the Registry. This denial of HUD housing affects thousands of returning citizens who struggle to find housing yearly.

The National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws, or NARSOL, is working on redefining the Registry so returning citizens who have paid their debt can get housing without being confronted with stigma based on a past offense already paid for.

Returning Citizen's housing and other re-entry needs has been a back-burner issue politically because of public opinion related to felons in general. As sex offenders have often been considered social outcasts,

social stigma has pushed them out of communities. Historically, the judicial system created "safe places" to separate sex offenders from the general population. Many of these places, like McNeal Island in Washington State, are downsizing due to budget issues, leaving susceptible communities with an increased need to adapt and create pathways to having returning citizens and people on the sex offender registry engaged in their community.

Though the specific and general recidivism rates for sex offenders depend on multiple factors, they are often significantly lower than for most other offenders. Still, public belief is that many convicted sex offenders will go on to commit another sexual offense. (Duwe, Gonnay, & Tewksbury, 2010; Huebner et al., 2014).

Community awareness of the benefits of supporting returning citizens in growth and wellness is expanding. According to SMART (Sex Offender Management Strategies), returning citizens' issues are gaining attention in the judicial system. There is a need for science-based testing rather than determinations based on human fear and denial. Risk assessments and tests are being specifically developed for the sex offender population based on different violations and levels of offenses, hopefully leading to clearer guidance in supporting this sizeable underserved population. There are approximately 780,00 citizens on the sexual offender registry in 2022. The goal of integration and adequate housing has left this group of citizens needing help.

A Few Housing Resources I found online:

·   Once Fallen has a list of transitional housing updated in 2021.

·   Sex Offender Hope offers housing and counseling.

·   Sex Offender One Stop Resource provides each State's accommodation listings and general information.

·   Aspire Austin- RSO community housing in Austin Texas

·   City of Refuge- (Miracle Village) community outside Pahokee Florida

Websites used in this Article.

Scholarworks. Merrimack College -sex offenders are significantly lower than recidivism rates for most other types of offenders (Duwe, Gonnay, & Tewksbury, 2010; Huebner et al., 2014).

Common Sex Offender Questions/City of Webster-

Once Fallen -

Youtube Video-

Sex Offender Management and Treatment- Adult Risk Assessment and Adult Recidivism.

Sex Offender Hope -

Sex Offender One-Stop Resource-

Understanding Sex Offender Classification-National Search -

Aspire Austin -


Please feel free to leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.



29 views2 comments


John Warbritton
John Warbritton
Apr 21, 2023

It is tough to find housing in So Cal, I am trying right now.

Apr 25, 2023
Replying to

Please reach out to once fallen,

I have provided a link to help you locate housing in your area.

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