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.