Sex Offender Recidivism Lower than for Other Released Prisoners: BJS Study

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tent camp

Sex offenders in Miami-Dade were forced to live in makeshift encampments and tent village because of residency restrictions. Still photo from video courtesy of ACLU of Florida, John Lantigua, and Daniel Oliveras de Ita.

Released sex-offenders are less likely to be rearrested than other released prisoners, according to new data released by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

But sex offenders who do return to prison are more likely to be guilty of another rape or sex-related crime than others who recidivate, the data show.

The study, titled “Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from State Prison: A 9-Year Follow-Up (2005-14),” followed prisoners throughout the nine years after their release in 2005, comparing prisoners whose most serious offense was rape or sexual assault to other prisoners. It examined a sample of about 68,000 former prisoners representing some 401,000 state prisoners released in 30 states in 2005.

The BJS found that released sex offenders were over three times as likely to be re-arrested for rape and sexual assault than other released prisoners. Some 7.7 percent of released sex offenders were re-arrested on sex-crime charges compared to only 2.3 percent of other prisoners.

Released sex offenders made up only 5 percent of the population released from prison in 2005, yet accounted for 16 percent of the arrests for sexual assault or rape in the nine years following.

However, sex offenders were less likely to be arrested in general. The data shows 67 percent of released sex offenders were arrested for any crime during the nine-year period, compared to 84 percent of other released prisoners.

Only half of released sex offenders were convicted following a re-arrest.

The study said the statistics are consistent with findings from a 2003 BJS analysis, which examined another sample of sex offenders following their release from prison in 1994.

That analysis found that 43 percent of released sex offenders were arrested, compared to 68 percent of other released prisoners. But the sex crime re-arrest rate for released sex offenders was four times higher than the rate of other released prisoners.

The figures come in the midst of a debate over the restrictions imposed on released sex offenders, with some advocates saying rules governing where they live and requiring them to be permanently placed on a sex offender “registry” represent unconstitutional and extra-judicial forms of punishment.

In Florida, for example, housing restrictions effectively turn many released sex offenders into homeless persons, according to a recent Crime Report investigation.

And in an amicus brief filed earlier this year, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel argued that sex offender registrants “are no longer simply shamed in the public square of one’s own community; they are shamed in the eyes of their county, their state, their nation— and in our global economy, the world.”

Other critics challenge algorithm-based risk tools that purport to assess the likelihood of re-offending by an individual convicted of a sex offense.

“This looks an awful lot like advance punishment for a future crime, like the science fiction film “Minority Report,” wrote a TCR columnist.

“It also looks like a second punishment for a past offense—a practice the Constitution frowns on in the Double Jeopardy Clause.”

See: “How Pseudo Science turns Sex Offenders into Permanent Outlaws.’ The Crime Report, May 25, 2018

The BJS study can be downloaded here.

One thought on “Sex Offender Recidivism Lower than for Other Released Prisoners: BJS Study

  1. Good job on allocating resources to assess the likelihood of sex offenders reoffending. But a better job would be to focus resources on evaluating “why” these people commit sexual offences. If you claim to be able to predict the likelihood of a future offending, surely you should be able to figure out the root cause of the criminal behaviour. Address the root cause of the issue.

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