The criminal justice system manages most convicted sex offenders with some combination of incarceration, community supervision, and specialized treatment (Knopp, Freeman-Longo, and Stevenson, 1992). While the likelihood and length of incarceration for sex offenders has increased in recent years,1 the majority are released at some point on probation or parole (either immediately following sentencing or after a period of incarceration in prison or jail). About 60 percent of all sex offenders managed by the U.S. correctional system are under some form of conditional supervision in the community (Greenfeld, 1997).
While any offender’s subsequent reoffending is of public concern, the prevention of sexual violence is particularly important, given the irrefutable harm that these offenses cause victims and the fear they generate in the community. With this in mind, practitioners making decisions about how to manage sex offenders must ask themselves the following questions:
- What is the likelihood that a specific offender will commit subsequent sex crimes?
- Under what circumstances is this offender least likely to reoffend?
- What can be done to reduce the likelihood of reoffense?
The purpose of this paper is to examine the critical issues in defining recidivism and provide a synthesis of the current research on the reoffense rates of sex offenders. The following sections summarize and discuss research findings on sex offenders, factors and conditions that appear to be associated with reduced sexual offending, and the implications that these findings have for sex offender management. Although studies on juvenile sex offender response to treatment exist, the vast majority of research has concentrated on adult males. Thus, this paper focuses primarily on adult male sex offenders.
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Referencing the Graphic above (Prentky Study) found on pg-6:
Conversely, Prentky, Lee, Knight, and Cerce (1997) found that over a 25-year period, child molesters had higher rates of reoffense than rapists. In this study, recidivism was operationalized as a failure rate and calculated as the proportion of individuals who were rearrested using survival analysis (which takes into account the amount of time each offender has been at risk in the community). Results show that over longer periods of time, child molesters have a higher failure rate—thus, a higher rate of rearrest—than rapists (52 percent versus 39 percent over 25 years).
in a civil commitment center in Massachusetts.
..Source..PDF by CSOM
Note the following from a study "Sex offense recidivism, risk assessment, and the Adam Walsh Act" by Jill Levenson -in part- covering the Prentky study above:
pg-2-3: Sex crime policies are often driven by the belief that the overwhelming majority of sex offenders will reoffend. Sex offense recidivism statistics are frequently declared in legislative preambles without citing a source, and even when properly attributed, statistics are sometimes misinterpreted or misrepresented. For example, in the Alaska case of Smith v. Doe in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Megan’s Law, the opinion cited the reported findings of a study funded by the National Institute of Justice (Prentky, Knight, & Lee, 1997). While the 25-year recidivism rate of 115 predatory child molesters in that study was cited as 52%, it is important to note that this was a projected, not actual, recidivism rate.
As the authors explained on p. 11 of the article, the reported 52% recidivism rate describes the estimated probability that this particular sample of child molesters would “survive” in the community without being charged, convicted, or imprisoned for a sexual offense over a 25-year period. In actuality, 32% of the child molesters in the sample reoffended, and they did so relatively quickly – within 4 years. Ray Knight, one of the authors of the NIJ study, stated in a recent email correspondence to this writer: “There are several things about the ‘97 study that are important to mention. First, the sample is a civilly committed one. The recidivism rates for those referred to the Treatment Center for evaluation and released are significantly lower (see Knight & Thornton, 2007:) ..Source..