In 1994, prisons in 15 States released 9,691 male sex offenders. The 9,691 men are two-thirds of all the male sex offenders released from State prisons in the United States in 1994. This report summarizes findings from a survey that tracked the 9,691 for 3 full years after their release. The report documents their “recidivism,” as measured by rates of rearrest, reconviction, and reimprisonment during the 3-year followup period.
This report gives recidivism rates for the 9,691 combined total. It also separates the 9,691 into four overlapping categories and gives recidivism rates for each category:
- 3,115 released rapists
- 6,576 released sexual assaulters
- 4,295 released child molesters
- 443 released statutory rapists.
- Of the 9,691 released sex offenders, 3.5% (339 of the 9,691) were reconvicted for a sex crime within the 3-year followup period.
- Compared to non-sex offenders released from State prisons, released sex offenders were 4 times more likely to be rearrested for a sex crime. Within the first 3 years following their release from prison in 1994, 5.3% (517 of the 9,691) of released sex offenders were rearrested for a sex crime. The rate for the 262,420 released non-sex offenders was lower, 1.3% (3,328 of 262,420).
- NOTE: Those released for a sex offense were responsible for 13% of the sex crimes committed the by the total released from prison. Put another way, non-sex offender parolees were responsible for 87% of the sex offenses. However, sex offenders [are] predominantly first time offenders (73% of sample, PDF) so cracking down on all parolees would not prevent the vast majority of sexual offending.
- The study compared recidivism rates among prisoners who served different lengths of time before being released from prison in 1994. No clear association was found between how long they were in prison and their recidivism rate.
- Before being released from prison in 1994, most of the sex offenders had been arrested several times for different types of crimes. The more prior arrests they had, the greater their likelihood of being rearrested for another sex crime after leaving prison. Released sex offenders with 1 prior arrest (the arrest for the sex crime for which they were imprisoned) had the lowest rearrest rate for a sex crime, about 3%; those with 2 or 3 prior arrests for some type of crime, 4%; 4 to 6 prior arrests, 6%; 7 to 10 prior arrests, 7%; and 11 to 15 prior arrests, 8%.
- Compared to the 9,691 sex offenders and to the 262,420 non-sex offenders, released child molesters were more likely to be rearrested for child molesting. Within the first 3 years following release from prison in 1994, 3.3% (141 of 4,295) of released child molesters were rearrested for another sex crime against a child. The rate for all 9,691 sex offenders (a category that includes the 4,295 child molesters) was 2.2% (209 of 9,691). The rate for all 262,420 non-sex offenders was less than half of 1% (1,042 of the 262,420). [Again, when counting the total number of child molestation crimes, non-sex offenders had the majority (1,042 compared to 209.
- Released child molesters with more than 1 prior arrest for child molesting were more likely to be rearrested for child molesting (7.3%) than released child molesters with no more than 1 such prior arrest (2.4%).
- Of the 9,691 released sex offenders, 24% (2,326 of the 9,691) were reconvicted for a new offense. The reconviction offense included all types of crimes.
- Compared to non-sex offenders released from State prison, sex offenders had a lower overall rearrest rate. When rearrests for any type of crime (not just sex crimes) were counted, the study found that 43% (4,163 of 9,691) of the 9,691 released sex offenders were rearrested. The overall rearrest rate for the 262,420 released non-sex offenders was higher, 68% (179,391 of 262,420).
- Within 3 years following their release, 38.6% (3,741) of the 9,691 released sex offenders were returned to prison. They were returned either because they received another prison sentence for a new crime, or because of a technical violation of their parole, such as failing a drug test, missing an appointment with their parole officer, or being arrested for another crime.
- The 9,691 released men were all violent sex offenders. They are called “violent” because the crimes they were imprisoned for are widely defined in State statutes as “violent” sex offenses. “Violent” means the offender used or threatened force in the commission of the crime or, while not actually using force, the offender did not have the victim’s “factual” or “legal” consent. Factual consent means that, for physical reasons, the victim did not give consent, such as when the offender had intercourse with a sedated hospital patient or with a woman who had fallen unconscious from excessive drug taking. “Legal” consent means that the victim willingly participated but, in the eyes of the law, the victim was not old enough or not sufficiently mentally capable (perhaps due to mental illness or mental retardation) to give his or her “legal” consent.
- State statutes give many different names to violent sex offenses: “forcible rape,” “statutory rape,” “object rape,” “sexual assault,” “sexual abuse,” “forcible sodomy,” “sexual misconduct,” “criminal sexual conduct,” “lascivious conduct,” “carnal abuse,” “sexual contact,” “unlawful sexual intercourse,” “sexual battery,” “unlawful sexual activity,” “lewd act with minor,” “indecent liberties with a child,” “carnal knowledge of a child,” “incest with a minor,” and “child molesting.” “Violent” sex offenses are distinguished from “nonviolent” sex offenses and from “commercialized sex offenses.”
- Nonviolent sex offenses include morals and decency offenses (for example, indecent exposure and peeping tom), bestiality and other unnatural acts, adultery, incest between adults, and bigamy. Commercialized sexual offenses include prostitution, pimping, and pornography. As used throughout this report, the terms “sex crimes” and “sex offenders” refer exclusively to violent sex offenses.
- Among inmates who were in prison for a sex crime against a child, the child was the prisoner’s own child or stepchild in a third of the cases. Seven percent of the inmates reported their child victims to have been strangers. Among adult victims, 34% were
strangers to their attacker.