Although recidivism among dangerous sexual offenders is generally reported to be low, clinical experience suggests otherwise. In order to assess the actual recidivism rate of offenders who commit sexual assaults, we administered to a sample of eighty-three convicted rapists and fifty-four convicted child molesters an anonymous questionnaire in which they were asked a series of questions pertaining to their history of sexual offenses. The results indicate that the majority of the offenders had been convicted more than once for a sexual assault. Furthermore, on average, they admitted to having committed two to five times as many sex crimes for which they were not apprehended. This study suggests that dangerous sex offenders usually commit their first sexual assault during adolescence, and that they persist in this criminal behavior, but that the offense has low visibility. For this reason recidivism, as judged by rearrests, is not a dependable measure of rehabilitation of the sexual offender.
Our sample of offenders was drawn from two different populations: men who were convicted of sexual assault but were committed to a security treatment center for rehabilitation before sentencing, the North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center in Gainesville; and men who were serving time for a sexual assault in a maximum security prison, the Connecticut Correctional Institution at Somers.
The subjects for this study not only come from different regions of the country, but also were in two different types of settings: one a mental health facility designed exclusively for sexual offenders, and the other a traditional correctional facility in which the sexual offenders were housed in the general population with other adult male felons.
Of those in the Florida center, 90 (100 percent) agreed to participate in this study; 49 of these men had sexually assaulted adult victims and 41 had sexually assaulted children. Of the first 50 inmates screened at the Connecticut institution in regard to their sexual offense, 47 (94 percent) agreed to cooperate: 34 had sexually assaulted adults and 13 had sexually assaulted children.
This produced a combined sample of 83 rapists and 54 child molesters, for a total of 137 subjects. All the participants were males between the ages of 16 and 57, with the average age being 29; 21 (15 percent) of the men were black; 79 (58 percent) were unmarried, 33 (24 percent) were married, and 25 (18 percent) were either divorced, separated, or widowed.
Each subject was administered a confidential, five-item questionnaire, instructed not to put his name on the answer sheet, and informed that the information obtained would not be identified with him or appear in his records or files. The following five questions appeared in our survey:
- 1. How old were you at the time of your first sexual assault or attempted assault, regardless if you were caught for this or not?
- 2. How many sexual assaults have you been convicted of, to date? (Include attempted sexual assaults, homicide, etc.)
- 3. How many sexual assaults have you attempted or committed for which you were never apprehended or caught?
- 4. How many sexual offenses (assaults or attempted assaults) have you been acquitted for, which, in fact, you did do?
- 5. How many offenses (assaults or attempted assaults) have you been found guilty of, which, in fact, you did not do?
A. NICHOLAS GROTH: Director, Sex Offender Program, Connecticut Correctional Institution, Somers.
ROBERT E. LONGO: Consultant to the State of Florida Sex Offender Treatment Programs; President, Sexual Assault Research Association, Inc., Melrose, Florida.
J. BRADLEY McFADIN: Vice-President, Sexual Assault Research Association, Inc. 1. State of New Jersey, Commission on the Habitual Sex Offender, Final Report (1950), cited in Federal Probation, September 1966, p. 55. ..Source..