Monday, October 15, 2007

The Iowa Sex Offender Registry And Recidivism

Few studies have addressed the impact of a Sex Offender Registry program on recidivism rates or other variables. It was the purpose of this first study to examine and compare two groups of individuals to determine what effect, if any, the requirement to register as a sex offender had on recidivism rates over a 3-4 year period. (PDF)

Key cites:

  • It appears that sex offense recidivism is relatively low when compared to other reoffenses. Several studies report recidivism rates for sex offenders as high as 45 percent but report recidivism for new sex crimes between three to seven percent (Arizona Department of Corrections, 1999, Eisenberg, 1997, Motiuk & Brown, 1996, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, 1996). The majority of reoffenses included other violent crimes, property offenses and/or probation or parole violations. Most of the studies reviewed used a time frame of 3-5 years for follow-up.
  • What follow-up period is adequate is not easily determined, as most recidivism research fails to go beyond three to five years. However, the Arizona Department of Corrections in 1999 published a fact sheet that outlined the rate of recidivism for new sex offenses by year after release using one to seven years. They found that the majority (79 percent) of recidivists committing new sex offenses did so within the first three years after release. On the other hand, Hanson (1992), in his long-term follow-up study of child molesters, found the greatest risk of recidivism to be between five and ten years from the convicted offense. The Hanson report also stated that 23 percent of the recidivists were reconvicted more than ten years after they were released. Clearly, time to recidivate will be one of the issues to be addressed in future research. [The statistic suggest a more rational basis for the registry would be to use it for leverage, to do follow-up therapy every 3 years or so as a reminder of the trauma and suffering the offense caused. If the person fails to follow-up, then his/her information could be published on the Internet. Treatment works (PDF).]
  • The key issue in studies of recidivism is the rate at which offenders continue behavior that placed them in the criminal justice system in the first place. Recidivism among sex offenders is perceived as a critical issue because of the possible consequences to the general public. It should not be assumed that all offenses committed by sex offenders are sex crimes. In a separate study of prison release recidivism, records indicated that of the 136 sex offenders released from prison in the state fiscal year 1996, slightly over two percent were convicted of sex crimes during a 3.83 year follow-up period.
  • The present study was designed to compare and contrast pre- and post-Sex Offender Registry samples and to identify differences that may be related to the development of the Registry. In order to capture a clearer picture of the behavior of sex offenders following the qualifying offense, multiple definitions of recidivism were included.
  • For the purpose of this study, recidivism was defined as:
    · Reconviction for any sex crime
    · Reconviction for any non-sex crime
    · Revocation of parole or probation
  • Sex-offense recidivism was low at 3.0 percent for the registry sample and 3.5 percent for the preregistry sample. The recidivism rate, including both sex-offense and non-sex-offense convictions, was 24.5 percent for the entire registry sample and 33.3 percent for the entire preregistry sample. The differences in recidivism were not found to be statistically significant.


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