What Factors Affect Sex Offender Recidivism Rates?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 January 2020
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Factors that affect sex offender recidivism rates vary widely by type of crime committed, age of the offender, and his or her criminal history. The offender’s deviate sexual preferences also figure into sex offender recidivism rates. If an offender abused strangers, especially if multiple victims were involved, his or her odds of re-offending increase. Substance abuse, lack of employment, and poor social skills represent other factors that affect sex offender recidivism rates.

Studies on sex offenders show mixed results because sex offenses fall into various categories. Some research found rapists more likely to re-offend, with one study reporting non-violent rapists more prone to commit future crimes than violent offenders. Prior sex offenses and the criminal’s mental condition also determine the rate of recidivism for rapists.

Researchers who study factors that affect sex offender recidivism rates typically identify traits that can be changed and static factors that cannot be resolved. An offender’s age and the age when he or she first committed a crime represent static factors. When a sex offender commits a crime as a juvenile, he or she is more likely to re-offend. This risk becomes more pronounced if the offender was a victim of sexual abuse as a child.


Dynamic, or changeable, factors that affect sex offender recidivism rates include drug or alcohol abuse. The offender’s attitude might also change with therapy, such as learning to empathize with a victim, which might lower recidivism rates. If he or she forms strong social relationships it might prevent re-offending because lack of social support is a risk factor linked to recidivism rates.

Sex offender treatment programs and their effectiveness on recidivism rates vary, but cognitive therapy that reduces arousal shows some success. Offenders who focus on deviant sexual preferences might resist treatment and pose a greater risk of committing future crimes. Sex offenders who target both male and female victims, or victims of all ages also show higher rates of recidivism.

The type of therapy and where it takes place might determine its success or failure. Forced therapy in a prison or mental institution generally proves less successful than therapy sought independently by the offender. Even when therapy is voluntary, drop-out rates tend to be high, which affects recidivism.

Sex offenders are more likely to commit additional crimes than other types of criminals, one study showed. When looking at child molesters, the study found offenders who are sexually preoccupied with children face a higher risk of re-offending. Attempts to assess the sex offender recidivism rates of child molesters prove difficult because these crimes commonly go unreported or underreported.


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Post 8

There are some fallacies with the above article.

“Sex offenders are more likely to commit additional crimes than other types of criminals, one study showed..."

First of all, in a country where people are innocent until proven guilty, only proven crimes can be constitutionally used to pass and enforce punitive measures against someone. So while considering unreported crimes as an issue to deal with is reasonable, it is not reasonable to use it to pass extreme harsh punitive laws.

Secondly, it has been broadly proven that sex offenders have a lower rate of overall recidivism for any type of crime than most other criminals as well as a for the same type of crime as convicted of.

For example: In

the State of New York, Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, 1985 through 2001 in the report “Three-Year Recidivism Follow-Up Of Sex Offenders” they found:

Ex-homicide criminals had an overall recidivism for any new crime of 6.6 percent. Ex-robbery criminals had an overall recidivism for any new crime of 17.1 percent. Ex-burglary criminals had an overall recidivism for any new crime of 18.9 percent. Ex-sex offending criminals had an overall recidivism for any new crime of 5.5 percent. Ex-drug criminals had an overall recidivism for any new crime of 15.4 percent. Ex-weapons criminals had an overall recidivism for any new crime of 14.2 percent.

Out of all the released criminals, 253 of the 11,898 released sex offenders committed new sex crimes (2.1 percent); 637 of the released 306,114 non-sex offenders committed a new sex crime (0.2 percent).

Depending on how you want to look at it, one could say that the non-sex offending ex-criminals committed 2.5 times more sex crimes than the sex offending ex-criminals.

However, to really compare, one should be comparing the rate of committing the same type of crime.

Looking at the recidivism for committing the same type of crime, ex-homicide criminals had a recidivism rate for the same type of new crime of 0.4 percent. Ex-robbery criminals had a recidivism rate for the same type of new crime of 6.7 percent. Ex-burglary criminals had a recidivism rate for the same type of crime of 11.5 percent. Ex-sex offending criminals had a recidivism rate for the same type of new crime of 2.1 percent. Ex-drug criminals had a recidivism rate for the same type of new crime of 12.6 percent. Ex-weapons criminals had a recidivism rate for the same type of new crime of 1.8 percent.

Post 7

I recognize the study referred to in the last paragraph of the article. The US Department of Justice study indicated that the recidivism (conviction data) for sex crime specific repeat offense is 3.5 percent of those who had been convicted of earlier sex crimes. Arrest for a second sex crime was 5.3 percent. This is 5.3 percent of the number of those who committed previous sex crimes, or 517 crimes. The actual number of felons who had not committed previous sex offenses who then committed a sexually oriented offense was 3,328 (1.3 percent of those not previously convicted of a sex crime). As you can see, the actual number of offenses committed that were of

a sexual nature was about 6 times as many for the group which had never committed a sex offense as for the sex offender group.

Sex offenders were, in fact, less likely to be arrested for any new offense than other felons, with 43 percent for all new arrests (including technical violations and those which did not result in a new conviction) of sex offenders, but 68 percent for all new arrests for non-sex offenders.

Factors affecting recidivism we can expect to be the same as with any crime, since they are the basic needs: housing, food, employment. If you remove any of these, you increase the likelihood that repeat offenses will happen.

The subgroup of sex offenders with the highest recidivism tend to be those who have had multiple male victims who are strangers to the perpetrators. This group represents an extremely small subgroup within the total. More than 90 percent of offenders are well-known to their victims or the victim’s family. However, even within this subgroup, the sex offense-specific repeat offense is far below the recidivism rates for most criminals.

Post 6

This author hasn't done her homework. Juveniles have the lowest rate of recidivism of all sex offenders. The recidivism for a sex offender is between 3-5 percent nationally (varies from state to state). Adding treatment, support, a job and housing all helps with ensuring the prior offender doesn't re-offend.

Post 5

I'm trying to understand why there are no sources cited for this information. I've been researching sex offenders for years, and worked with policy and treatment experts, and some of this is inaccurate.

Juvenile sex offenders have been proven multiple times to have lower recidivism rates than adults, not higher. This is for several different reasons. I would like to know what study claims juveniles are more likely to re-offend. Please check out "Juveniles Who Commit Sex Crimes Against Other Minors" by the US Department of Justice, from 2009 which proves the opposite.

Post 4

There are serious problems with rational and logical truths about this issue. This is because a moral panic over this issue has gripped the entire country and many people are deliberately using the moral panic to benefit their personal reputations, increase their personal power and increase their personal financial wealth. This is happening with politicians, bureaucrats, professionals and other individuals and groups. It greatly clouds the truth as the moral panic has created 90 percent false panic based upon 10 percent real truth.

To begin with, over all sex offenders, young offenders are more likely to re-offend because chances are that at some time in their lives they will do something sexual which lies within the current moral panic

level of criminal behavior. This has less to do with a real danger to society than human nature. Human beings seek sexual relationships and sometimes make poor choices, while at the same time not really meaning to harm anyone.

Many sexual offenses actually end up involving no real harm to anyone. A 12 year old plays doctor with an 11 year old -- why is it even a sexual crime? An 18 year old is having sex with a 15 year old, whom he has been dating for two years and has known for eight years and eventually ends up marrying and having children with her. Why is it a sex crime? A 14 year old takes pictures of herself and sends them to her 14 year old boyfriend. Why is it a sex crime?

Some 37.97 percent of perpetrators whose victims are age 0 to 11, are themselves under 18. About 22,000 sex offenders per year (by FBI records) are under 18. If you extend the victims’ ages to under 18, then more than half of the perpetrators are also under 18. Most perpetrators have no previous conviction, and more than 90 percent are first time offenders.

Despite what anyone claims about sex offender recidivism, it is very low, and it rapidly decreases to even lower levels after several years of not re-offending and these values have been pretty much the same since prior to the huge number of convoluted and unconstitutional sex offender laws that have been passed.

The best estimate from the analysis results are:

Most Likely Case Recidivism : Error Margin : Time Period

4.00 percent : (-2.66 percent ; +6.00 percent ) : from time of release through end of life

2.55 percent : (-2.16 percent ; +5.16 percent ) : after 1 year of no new sex crimes through end of life

1.63 percent : (-1.51 percent ; +4.32 percent ) : after 2 years of no new sex crimes through end of life

1.04 percent : (-1.00 percent ; +3.55 percent ) : after 3 years of no new sex crimes through end of life

0.66 percent : (-0.65 percent ; +2.87 percent ) : after 4 years of no new sex crimes through end of life

0.42 percent : (-0.42 percent ; +2.30 percent ) : after 5 years of no new sex crimes through end of life

0.27 percent : (-0.27 percent ; +1.83 percent ) : after 6 years of no new sex crimes through end of life

I am prepared to defend this in a rational debate using math on government sources of sex offender recidivism statistics.

I have an analysis of dozens of studies from seven different states covering 56,006 released sex offenders and their recidivism for new sex crimes. Pick one of the seven states and let us examine the results in detail: Ohio (8.3 percent), Arizona (3.25 percent), Minnesota (10 percent), California (three studies 3.35 percent, 4.05 percent and when technical offenses were removed, 1.34 percent), Washington (3.72 percent), Maine (5.10 percent), New York (2.10 percent which takes into account 24 studies).

Or we could discuss reports from other states or sources, like Colorado (2.61 percen ), Connecticut (2.7 percent), Indiana (1.05 percent), Iowa (3.23 percent), Tennessee (3.5 percent rapists and 4.7 percent statutory rapists), Michigan (2.5 percent), Australian Broadhurst and Maller Study 1992 (8.4 percent), Australian Broadhurst and Loh Study 1997 (9.4 percent), Florida Levenson and Shields 2012 (5.2 percent & 13.7 percent), Virginia 2005 (8.17 percent and 3.6 percent).

Post 2

It is too bad the only way to get this sort of information is by studying people who have already committed a crime.

Pedophilia seems to be a sexual preference in some people, but many of them never become child predators because they recognize that sexual abuse is absolutely wrong. They suffer in silence, because who could they possibly tell?

If there was some way to get information from people like that, who manage their own conditions, it could go a long way towards helping to rehabilitate people who do commit crimes, with medication if nothing else.

But it is such an awful crime, the public would probably would never give such a person the benefit of the doubt (and understandably so). It just doesn't seem likely there could be a compromise.

Post 1

Unfortunately, some of the laws governing sexual behavior are so strict at the moment, it probably throws off the relevance of these statistics.

For example, an 18 year old who has consensual sex with a 17 year old is committing statutory rape according to some laws, and can be labeled a sex offender for life.

Most people wouldn't actually consider this much of a crime. Yet, these people would be counted in these statistics, even though they will probably never commit another sex crime.

This kind of law should be looked at again to make it more reasonable for real life and obvious exceptions.

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