Sex Offender Recidivism Forecasts: Inexact Science


After Brent J. Brents, a 35-year-old convicted child molester, was arrested in Colorado on suspicion of being a serial rapist, some parents demanded that Colorado’s system for investigating and registering sex offenders be drastically overhauled. Changes are in the works, the Denver Post reports. Over the past decade, high-profile molestation cases have triggered tougher sex-crime bills calling for extended prison terms, along with extreme measures such as chemical castration and mandatory confinement in mental institutions.

There also has been significant change in sex-offender research, including progress in the ability to predict which offenders will repeat past behavior, as well as considerable improvement in reducing this behavior. Some sex offenders are extremely dangerous; some remain predators even into old age; others are certifiable psychopaths. Concern about their release into society is justified, experts say. Most do not revert to the same criminal behavior. “It is noteworthy that recidivism rates for sex offenders are lower than for the general criminal population,” says a report from the Department of Justice’s Center for Sex Offender Management called “Myths and Facts About Sex Offenders.” The problem, experts say, is that all sex offenders have been lumped into one criminal category, creating hysteria in communities. Many experts believe that mandatory group therapy – both inside and outside prison – is particularly effective. “Better than any therapist, sex predators can tell when another guy is ready to reoffend,” said one expert. “In mandatory group counseling, they can say, ‘I know what you’re doing, and I know what you’re ready to do.’ ”


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