Collateral Damage in America's War on Sex Crimes

An Important Correction on the Last Post

As new information comes in I’m going to update my numbers as needed. In my last post, I wrote this:

About 13 percent of new sex offenses are committed by someone who previously offended, according to an analysis by the Justice Policy Institute. That means the other 87 percent are committed by someone who is not on a registry.

Turns out those numbers are likely off. By a lot.

On July 26 Brian Collins, head of the Minnesota Department of Corrections’ program that notifies communities when someone on the state registry is released from prison, made a presentation to the group Reform Sex Offender Laws. Near the end, he dropped this bombshell:

From 1990 to 2005, there were about 10,600 sex offense convictions in Minnesota. Of those 10,600 offenses, 224 (2 percent) were committed by someone convicted of a previous sex crime.

In other words, the Minnesota sex offender registry did nothing to prevent 98 percent of the sex offenses in the state in that period.

So I’m revising the conclusion of my last post. It should read like this:

First, perhaps 2 percent of new sex offenses are committed by someone who’s previously offended—that’s according to data from a large study of sex crime convictions in Minnesota from 1990 to 2005. That means the other 98 percent of sex offenses are committed by someone who is not on a registry. 

Second, about 10 percent of children and adolescents experience some form of sexual abuse by age 18, according to a reputable 2013 analysis of a number of studies. 

That means that there’s about a 1/5th of 1-percent chance (2%x 10%) that an individual child will be abused by someone who is on a sex offender registry. Put another way, there’s a 99.8 percent probability that they won’t be.

If you want a smoking gun for why studies keep finding that sex offender registries have no impact on lowering sex crime rates, this is it.


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