Experts: New Sex Offender Laws Unlikely To Cut Recidivism


Several states have passed residency restrictions on sex offenders, and at least nine have enacted 25-year minimum prison terms for certain sex crimes against children, says the Children’s Beat magazine of the Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families. There is little evidence that these laws will reduce recidivism rates that are not high to begin with for that class of offenders. A 2003 Bureau of Justice Statistics report that followed the arrest records of male sex offenders in 15 states for three years after they were released from prison in 1994 found that only 5.3 percent were rearrested for a sex crime. By contrast, 68 percent of the non-sex offenders released were rearrested.

Much of the recent legislation is what Wayne Bowers of the Sex Abuse Treatment Alliance calls “tracking laws,” passed on the “stranger-danger” theory, the beief that sex offenders seek out random victims. David Finkelhor of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire says victim-offender relationships account for about 80 ercent of cases. He adds that “sex offenses in general and sex offenses against children have been declining and declining fairly ddramatically over the last 15 years.” Finkelhor advocates journalism that gives the basic facts of sexual abuse. He said, “the legislation looks like it’s doing something, but I don’t think (people) really have a sense of what else is being done or what the realities are. There’s still a considerable amount of ignorance.”


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