The Washington Post says that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr.’s concurring opinion this week in a sex-crime case “reflects a common misrepresentation of sex offender recidivism.” Alito wrote that sex offenders “are much more likely than any other type of offender to be rearrested for a new rape or sexual assault.” The case involved a registered sex offender in North Carolina who was arrested for posting his photo on Facebook, a violation of a 2008 state law banning convicted sex offenders from accessing websites where minors can sign up. The court ruled the arrest was a violation of his First Amendment rights.
The Post says Alito’s reference to sex offender rearrest trends is “quite misleading.” In fact, federal Bureau of Justice Statistics data suggests that only those convicted of homicide have a lower rate of rearrest for the same crime (within five years of release) than sex offenders. The BJS rearrest figures for violent crimes: homicide, 2.1 percent; rape or sexual assault, 5.6 percent; robbery, 13.1 percent, and assault, 34.4. The figures were even higher for some nonviolent crimes–auto theft and larceny, 41.4 percent, and drugs, 51.2 percent. The Post concludes that Alito used outdated data going back to the 1980s.