The role of formal social control mechanisms in deterring sex offending as part of the desistance process

Brooke N. Cooley, Sara E. Moore, Lisa L. Sample

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


This study explored the role of sex offender laws, particularly registration and community notification, in deterring individuals from sexual offending. Through qualitative thematic analysis of interviews with 77 registrants, findings suggest that the threat of prison and probation/parole serve as deterrents for some, even though they did not speak this directly. The majority of registrants stated the registry was not influential in stifling reoffending, however, they subsequently discussed how these policies made them cognizant of the rules and regulations associated with their situation, prompting compliance. Notably, the possibility of punishment due to registration violations acted as a stronger deterrent than public notification. In contrast, the threat of civil commitment negatively affects seeking therapeutic help when needed by registered citizens, and thus likely interferes with the desistance process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-157
Number of pages22
JournalCriminal Justice Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 3 2017



  • Desistance
  • deterrence
  • sexual offending
  • social control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law

Cite this