Collateral Damage in America's War on Sex Crimes

Are the Reported Low Rates of Sex Offender Recidivism Due to the Sex Offender Registry?

One good question you may be asking: could the relatively low rates of sex offender recidivism shown in the previous post be the result of the sex offender registry itself? That is, maybe sex offender registries are doing exactly what they’re supposed to: making sex offenders think twice about committing another sex crime because they know they’re being watched.

But here’s one study whose results indicate that’s unlikely. Below is the study abstract, with the relevant sentence highlighted (“SORN” means “Sex Offender Registration and Notification.”):

The goals of the present study were to examine the recidivism rates of two matched samples of sexual offenders, those released prior to and after sex offender registration and notification (SORN) in New Jersey. The pre-SORN group (1990–1994) included 247 offenders, while the post-SORN group (1996–2000) included 248 offenders. The longitudinal analysis demonstrated that for sex offenders released from prison both prior to and after implementation of SORN, there are clearly two distinguishable groups of sex offenders in relation to patterns of recidivism. More than three-quarters of sex offenders were identified as at low risk of recidivism, with low rates of repeat criminal offenses. By contrast, the high-risk group of offenders was not only more likely to commit future criminal offenses, including sex offenses, but they were also more likely to commit significantly more offenses and to do so fairly quickly following release. Analyses also include an examination of the influence of demographics, substance abuse and mental health issues, treatment history, sex offense incident characteristics, and criminal history on recidivism. Finally, SORN status was not a significant predictor of sex or general recidivism. The study limitations and policy implications are discussed.

In essence, if sex offender registries work, the one in New Jersey should have reduced recidivism after it was started in 1995. But it didn’t.

2 thoughts on “Are the Reported Low Rates of Sex Offender Recidivism Due to the Sex Offender Registry?

  1. Kat

    No, the reported low rates of sex offender recidivism go back at least 24 years and the government knows this from their own reports. My father researched these reports and I’ve gone through them all with him, helping to write an analysis on it.

    The results of 33 studies performed by 7 different states following a total 56,006 “sex offenders” released back into the public population show that:
    Years from Release : Most Likely Case Recidivism : Error Margin
    0 : 4.00% : (-2.66%; +6.00%)
    1 : 2.55% : (-2.16%; +5.16%)
    2 : 1.63% : (-1.51%; +4.32%)
    3 : 1.04% : (-1.00%; +3.55%)
    4 : 0.66% : (-0.65%; +2.87%)
    5 : 0.42% : (-0.42%; +2.30%)
    6 : 0.27% : (-0.27%; +1.83%)

    The earliest studies going back 1985 show similar results and that the recidivism rates for new sex crimes was low and quickly became even lower over time, with the majority of re-offenses occurring within the first three years after release.

    The government knew this before destroying my childhood in 2007 for a crime my father was convicted of in 1984, for which he served 22 months, was released in 1989 and awarded a Certificate of Rehabilitation in 1997 after being found by an expert forensic psychologist to be no threat to either society or to children.

  2. Will Bassler

    The (1989) Furby, Weinrott, and Blackshaw study of studies was considered as being the most extensive and meticulously analytical. within that study was included The jacks study from 1962 it followed 3423 released sex offenders that were not in any treatment program and showed the re-offense rate of 3.7% over 15 years that’s 2/10 of 1% per year

    the Child Sexual Abuse treatment program (CSATP) from Santa Clara county, California. According to the (CSATP) data from 1971 to 1982, they treated over 12,000 individuals, both victims and offenders. More clients then any other single agency in its field. Jean M. Goodwin in her book “Sexual Abuse” (1990) stated that the CSATP was rated the best program in the country with a maintained re-offense rate of less than 1%.

    So the information about the low reoffend rates has been out there from the start. In a recent study in Nebraska that looked at the re-offense rate for PEOPLE ON THE REGISTRY in Nebraska they found a re-offense rate of 6/10 of one percent.


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