Managing Risk of Sex Offenders Released from Prisons: An exploration of how local communities respond to these events
Throughout the main Anglo-American democracies, state power has been tested in recent decades by the presentation of the risks posed by sexual offenders. The capacity of the state to take decisive action in these jurisdictions has been significantly challenged by neoliberal restructuring from the 1980s onwards, and criminal justice has been one of many policy areas affected by the shrinking of central state power. The development of intolerance for risk of sexual harm posed specifically by offenders released from prison has provided an opportunity for the state to take unique action to maintain an impression of control. As governments have sought extraordinary legislative and policy measures to control or remove these specific risks of sexual harm from the community, communities and individuals have responded to their place in the ecosystem of the risk society.
The release of a high-risk sex offender into a community is a microcosm of the modus operandi of the modern state, providing a context through which the operation of the modern risk society can be examined. This thesis explores the reactions of three New Zealand communities to instances of de facto community notification of sex offender release, and explains the differences in their reactions through the lens of Zygmunt Bauman’s (2000a) Liquid Modernity. In each of the three case studies of Whanganui, Napier, and Ōtāhuhu I examine the processes around an instance of community release, the reactions of the community, and the impact of the incident within the community and the implications of this for our understanding of risk society.