Collateral Damage in America's War on Sex Crimes

Another Eye-Popping Statistic

Earlier this year, I talked to the press spokesperson for a state senator who was proposing a new ban targeting those on the state’s sex offender registry. I asked her about the purpose of the legislation–why focus on this group of ex-offenders? The question seemed to catch her off guard: “Oh! Well these people reoffend at very high rates compared with others!” she replied.

It’s not just that the statement is wrong as it relates to other groups of ex-offenders–we have more than 20 years of solid data to show that recidivism rates among registrants are lower than re-offense rates for nearly every other population of ex-inmates. It’s also that thousands of offenders have recidivism rates as low as the first-time offense rate among the population at large.

Here’s a key sentence from a 2013 study led by recidivism researcher Karl Hanson: “Previous large sample studies have found that the likelihood of an ‘out of the blue’ sexual offence to be committed by offenders with no history of sexual crime is 1% to 3%: 1.1% after 4 years (Duwe, 2012); 1.3% after 3 years (Langan, Schmitt, & Durose, 2003); 3.2% after 4.5 years (Wormith, Hogg, & Guzzo, 2012).”

So how does that 1-3% compare with the rate for someone convicted of a sex crime who hasn’t reoffended? Hanson and company looked at a sample of almost 8000 ex-offenders to get the answer–among those who hadn’t reoffended after 10 years, the subsequent re-offense rate was 2.8 percent. In other words, those who haven’t reoffended in 10 years since they’ve been out are no different than the rest of the population in terms of risk.

That, of course, is a bombshell. Hanson and company draw this laconic, but explosive, conclusion: “The current findings suggest that certain long-term supervision and monitoring policies (e.g., lifetime registration) may be being applied to a substantial number of individuals with a low risk for sexual offending.”

In other words: Any registry or other restriction, any condition of probation or Internet use, any monitoring regime that’s applied to someone who’s been offense-free for 10 years represents demonstrated nonsense, arbitrary discrimination, and pointless cruelty.

Our current laws, of course, do all of that and more.

Perhaps the best line of the study, then, comes on page 1. It has nothing to do with offenders. Instead it trains the lens in the other direction–society: “The reasons that sexual offenders are treated differently from other offenders are not fully known,” they write.

Why indeed do members of the public believe that official mistreatment, exclusion, and abuse are justified when directed at this group of offenders? Now that is an area for fruitful research.

11 thoughts on “Another Eye-Popping Statistic

  1. Momintexas

    I think that as a society there always has to be a group of people to target.
    The legislators were given an inch and took a mile.

    1. embedmettled

      Thanks. Yes, and I’d like to see some researcher take it on as a case study of how stigma gets created, usually in the absence of evidence. (Or perhaps that’s been done? If anyone knows, feel free to share.) -Steven

  2. Echo Moon

    for the general public the so called ‘masses’, offenders have taken the place of lepers or those inflicted with the plague.
    they all fear ‘it’ but have no concept of what there is to truly fear.

  3. kat

    I hope after you “grilled” the press spokesperson for the senator as to where they got their incorrect information, that you then “enlightened” them with the truthful statistics.
    It’s wrongful press like this that causes society to paint all registrants with the same brush.
    Time to take these people to task instead of allowing them to make wrongful accusations about a population.

      1. kat

        This is Kat/blogger for The Scarlet Echo/WAR website. I’ve “commented” on your site before (which is excellant by the way).
        I think your articles have the energy to make change for registrants, momentum seems to be building across the country, an article for a major newspaper seems in order.

  4. mr howard

    The courts may note consider this ex post facto but it definitely is esp as a single dad raising kids as I am, leyvin you’re cruel beyond words, hatefully scorning those you hv’nt a clue of their (my) life nor hv you any clue what insanity you’re persuing, I still maintain my innocense even after 26 + yr’s, I deal weekly w my kids sch’s, who the hell are you to take that away ? societies cruelty will end 1 day. !!!!

  5. Katherine

    It is very disturbing in the way that sex offenders are treated! First of all, being that now because of SORNA, they are all clumped together, therefore a young man who was of age and had a relationship with a girl a few months younger, and was arrested whether it was instigated by her parents or perhaps a break up, now has to be on the registry, perhaps for life! Whereas, violent rapists are in the same category which does not seem to make sense! Every offender on the registry are flagged, causing problems with landlords and neighbors, and eventually are forced out! As far a trying to obtain a place to live is almost impossible, no-one wants them in their neighborhood! Ever job application asks if you are a felon, and most decent companies do not want this liability! The places in which they can live is very limited and most have found themselves homeless and penniless! How is this helping them to move on and create a life without all of these cruel restrictions? Again, this is for life!!!! many offenders who are married, and did their time in prison were put back on the registry and their lives fell apart! You read about ex offenders who are limited to where they can go, and are sleeping under a bridge because the new law states that they can not live with their family as there is children in the home! Their children! My fiancé was accused of marital rape back twenty years ago, he did his time and was on the registry for ten years! But once the new SORNA came into effect, he is back on the registry for life! He has not been able to gain employment and the few short jobs that he had, he was fired for “other reasons” no, that was not the case! He could not even keep a job at a fast food restaurant as there were underage workers there! He is 43 now, has no car, no home, no money, no socially security, no retirement he may as well stay in prison as at least he has a roof over his head!!!!! He tried to put in home plans to enable him to live with friends or relatives, but all plans were turned down!!! Why, well I set up a home plan with a good friend of mine who had a spare room and she was aware of his circumstances, and I told her that she will receive a visit from a probation officer to check out her place, it never got to that as on the initial telephone interview, the probabtion officer read her word for word from his court transcipts 20 yrs ago, and she got scared!!!! Exactly what they wanted! He has been in and out of prison for the past seven years since this SORNA law came into affect and was violated by his probation officer for not being able to obtain a state license, one of their requirements in addition to registering a permanent address, he was 800 miles from his hometown where his family lived and because they denied all home plans in his home town, he was given thirty days to find employment and a permanent address, he was released from prison with not a penny to his name, no clothes, no documents as they were at his mothers house and he was refused a travel plan to go and retrieve these documents so that he could get a drivers license, his mother tried to find his documents, and eventually had to apply for new ones, but by the time that she obtained them, he had a warrent out for his arrest for being non-compliant I:e no documents, so, back to prison yet again, for two years! Once he was released he was sent to a halfway house. He found a Job, and the manager was extremely happy with his performance and congratulated him on the Saturday, on Monday his probation officer questioned as to where he was working, which was already cleared through his case manager, this was the same probation office who violated him for failing to obtain a state license and who recommend to the judge to give him the maximum sentence, which he did! So, he went into work the next day, he felt that something was wrong, his manager could not even look him in the face, and in fact sent one of my fiances co-worker to fire him! It was obvious that this probabtion officer made a visit to his place of employment, despite the fact, the area in which he was now living was not in that probation officers juristriction! Anyway, he was now out of a job! Yet again! He managed to get a job at a restaurant making $2 an hour,plus tips which was all he could get and was hoping that there would not be any other problems! Then one of the staff members at the halfway house accused him of assaulting by bending her hand back whilst performing a breatherlizer test, which was not true! He was never given the opportunity to address this, so he woke up to the us marshalls holding him down and handcuffing him, they never revealed the reason for this! He was taken to jail, lost his job and his car that his mother had just bought, was stranded out side, he was left in jail for 55 days, his court appointed attorney, went to the halfway house to try to obtain the video tape from the alleged assault, at first they would not release it, so he subpoenaed it and lo and behold, it was viewed by the DA and others and the came to the conclusion that there was absolutely no assault! He lost his job of course as he was in jail. I had to have his car towed and pick up his property as it would have been inmpounded after thirty days! So all of this added more to his record! It was his probation officer who put out the warrent for his arrest based on the staff members false claims! he was then released, he only had a few more months left to serve at the half way house and was sent to another halfway house over an hour away! Even though he was not going to be living in that area once released, his probation officer refused to let him retrieve his car so that he could find work! I ended up having to have it shipped to him! He had no intention of finding a job in that area just for a few months but his probation officer decided she did not want to allow him to drive an hour away to find a job in the town where he was planning on living! Eventually she did allow him, but claimed that he was not going there to apply! Not true! They make things very difficult and it seems that they use their authority to make your life miserable! So, end of story, he got write ups for apparently being out of place and sleeping during the day etc etc! So he was arrested once again and is now serving two years yet again! When does it ever stop????? It is bad enough that he has to face society with all of their prejudices, somehow find a place to live without no money, 800 miles away from the state in which he wants to live in to be close to family but that was all denied!!!! What I do not understand is why is there not a registry for murderers, or hardened criminals, not these people who made a mistake early in life and have to suffer the rest of their life whilst on this registry!!!!! My fiancé, five years ago after he was thrown out of umpteen residences, and was tired of being homeless and not able to work. He did not register, which has come back to haunt him, and was imprisoned for two years yet again. Because his guidelines had changed because of SORNA and now he is a lifer, whereas before SORNA he was only on the registry for 10 yrs and with a tier one, he got the minimum sentence, now he is doing the max every time he is in violation, and is a tier 3! So now, under the strict rules and with his lack of money etc, It appears that he will be sent back to prison for the rest of his life! In 2009/2010 when he failed to register because he was tired of being ostersized from socierty and felt helpless, he appealed to the court of appeals claiming that the ex pro facto law, violated his civil rights, but the appeals court upheld the original judges sentence of the maximum!!!!!!’ This is too crazy, he has never re-offended in twenty years apart from probational violations, which were due to this unjust system and yes, if he had committed any other offense, he would be out by now and free so to speak!!

  6. Chanta

    Thank you !!!! I am so tired of these lawmakers making laws that don’t make sense . Thank you so much for setting the record straight keep up with your good work . Every offender do not reoffend every offender are not dangerous some people just make mistakes they deserve a second chance And having a decent life


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