In the past two decades, the federal government and states have enacted a wide range of new laws that target sex offenders. A series of U.S. Supreme Court cases has addressed the constitutionality of such legislation and, in so doing, contributed to the current policy landscape.
The Court’s influence is noteworthy in part because of the calls during this same time period for evidence-based policy. Does the influence, however, reflect not only the legal considerations that necessarily attend to these cases but also an accurate and balanced assessment of social science theory and research?
We address this question by examining Supreme Court cases from 1991 to 2011 involving sex crime laws. The findings indicate that the Court demonstrates an awareness of scientific research by referencing it in almost all decisions involving sex offender legislation, yet the Court frequently overstates or misinterprets empirical findings. Implications for research and policy are discussed. ..Source.. by CHRISTINA MANCINI* & DANIEL P. MEARS**