A new Study by Danielle Arlanda Harris and Jill Levenson finds that our current practices likely and paradoxically increase risk for reoffending by producing traumatic stress that leads to emotional dysregulation.

In recent years, there has been a rapid expansion of increasingly restrictive laws managing the post release behavior and movement of individuals convicted of sexual offenses. In the US, this legislation has led to many barriers for people returning to their community as “registered sex offenders.” We consider the often ignored but undeniable traumagenic impact of life on “the list” and conceptualize this experience as Post-Conviction Traumatic Stress. We present a qualitative content analysis of secondary data collected from interviews with over 70 men. Emergent themes were first organized according to the human needs identified in Maslow’s hierarchy, and then by the established symptoms of PTSD, and finally in terms of resilient coping versus traumatic coping when basic human needs were unmet. We discuss the unexplored impact of traumatic instability on risk for recidivism and present recommendations for trauma-informed policies and practices with individuals required to register as “sex offenders.”

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