Collateral Damage in America's War on Sex Crimes

More on Recidivism Rates

In followup to the post below about the Zgoba study’s findings about recidivism among sex offenders, it might be helpful to have a more comprehensive set of data about what the studies that are out there have found.

That’s because this recidivism issue is key to our policies regarding sex offenders. Sex offenders have high recidivism rates, say defenders of the current policies, so we as a community deserve to know where they live and what they look like. Not so, say opponents—their rates are lower than those of other offenders.

What’s the truth? (Or at least, what’s the overall picture given that in science, the “truth” varies from study to study.)

That’s what the chart below tries to get at.

Some of these came from a great set of links at here, and the others were the results of my searching. I didn’t include studies that looked only at a subset of crime types (like possession of child pornography) or types of offenders (female or youth offenders, for example). I included only studies that provided reconviction, rearrest, or reincarceration data for another sex offense (versus any offense, since preventing future sex offenses is the reason for our sex offender laws). And I included only real studies done by real researchers—not analyses done by advocates. If you have others to share, please do. Here’s the summary—for the full titles of these, click the links:


Author Recidivism rate (% rearrested, reconvicted, or  reincarcerated for a sex crime) Time since release
State of Connecticut 2.7% (reconvicted) 5 years
McGrath et al. 4.6% (rearrested) 3 years
Muskie School of Public Service 3.8% (reconvicted) 3 years
LeTourneau et al. 4.0% (reconvicted) 8.4 years
California Department of Corrections 5.0% (reincarcerated) 3 years
Orchowsky and Iwama 2.3%−9.0% (rearrested; 9 states studied) 3 years
California Sex Offender Management Board 3.4% (reincarcerated) 10 years
McKelvie 3.4% (rearrested) 3 years
Indiana Department of Corrections 1.1% (reincarcerated) 3 years
Indiana Department of Corrections 5.4% (reincarcerated) 3 years
Arizona Department of Corrections 5.5% (reconvicted) 15 years
Minnesota Department of Corrections 5.7% (reconvicted) 3 years
Alaska Judicial Council 9% (rearrested, reconvicted, or  reincarcerated) 3 years
New York State Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives 8% (rearrested) 8 years
Washington State Institute for Public Policy 2.7% (reconvicted) 5 years
U.S. Department of Justice 3.5% (reconvicted) 3 years
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction 8% (reincarcerated) 10 years
Levenson and Shields 5.2% (rearrested) 5 years


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