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Sex Offender Recidivism

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From this week's NCJRS accessions list:  Daniel B. Freedman, Determining the Long-Term Risks of Recidivism and Registration Failures Among Sexual Offenders, Federal Probation Volume:76 Issue:1 Dated: June 2012 Pages:14-18:

Recidivism, defined as new convictions in this study, was 28.49 percent. This is within the range of 20 to 40 percent found in many other studies (Hanson and Bussiere, 1998; Hanson and Morton-Bourgon, 2005). The current study found that the sample (191 individuals registered as sexual offenders in North Carolina) were at high risk for recidivism for an extended period; however, the greatest risk is during the first several years of tracking. Age was negatively associated with recidivism, but previous convictions had a positive association with recidivism. Registration failures occurred at a rate of 21.51 percent, which doubled the observations from other research (Duwe and Donnay, 2010); (Levenson et al., 2010). Registration failure increased the likelihood of recidivism by 64 percent. The correlates and predictors of recidivism and registration failures are race (Black and White), age, previous convictions, and offender type (adult victims or child victims). All data came from the North Carolina Department of Corrections, North Carolina Sex Offender Registry, and a county sheriff's department. Bivariate analysis and multivariate statistics were used in the study. Study limitations are noted, and implications are drawn for future research. 2 tables, 1 figure, and 28 references.
Note the definition of recidivism as new convictions within the 9 year period.  While the author considers that to be a "balanced" approach, it significantly understates the actual reoffense rate.  A new conviction requires not only a new offense but getting caught and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  The actual number of new offenses is higher, but we don't know how much higher.

What does "previous convictions had a positive association with recidivism" mean in plain English?  The more times he's done it before, the more likely he is to do it again.

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Other states, and national studies, report a sex offender recidivism rate of between one and 14-percent. Why is the rate so much higher in North Carolina? Is there a lack of treatment within the correctional facilities prior to release? Are post-release treatment providers in N.C. inadequate to the task? Are N.C. offenders just so much nastier? Or maybe there is something not balanced in the author's "balanced" approach. I note that old studies from 1998 and 2005 are cited to establish his baseline. Many of these old studies were found to be flawed. The flaws are the reason for doing new studies-- the studies that found a one to 14-percent recidivism rate. I recall the average rate was around five-percent.

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