The Risk of Recidivism among Sex Offenders is Remarkably Low

The Risk of Recidivism among Sex Offenders is Remarkably Low

Each year the State of Connecticut produces a report on recidivism in the state.  This year Connecticut focused on sex offender recidivism and came up with some eye-opening statistics.

The study tracked 14,398 men for a five-year period following their 2005 release or discharge from a CT prison. Every subsequent arrest, criminal conviction or reincarceration event was captured and analyzed to produce the 5-year recidivism rates for the group. Out of this group, 746 had served their sentence for a sexual offense.

Over the course of five years, 134 of the 14,398 men studied were convicted for a new sex offense and 99 were returned to the prison to begin a new prison sentence for a sex crime. But, of these 99 men, only 13 were former sex offenders. Eighty-six had no prior sexual offense record. Of the 13 sex offenders convicted of a new sex crime, 4 were convicted of non-contact offenses (possessing child pornography and public indecency).  So the 5-year new victim re-offense rate for sex offenders was just 1.2%, or roughly a 1 in 400 chance of reoffending per year.  

These low numbers suggests sex offenders respond well to supervision and treatment, and don't commit new sex crimes at the rate the public thinks they do, said Michael Lawlor, Connecticut’s chief of criminal-justice policy.

The myth that sex offenders have a high recidivism rate has entered the realm of urban legend. But, unlike most urban legends, this myth has had serious public policy ramifications. In a 2004 challenge to Alaska’s sex offender registry, the United States Supreme Court based its decision on “grave concerns over the high rate of recidivism among convicted sex offenders and their dangerousness as a class. The risk of recidivism posed by sex offenders is frightening and high. When convicted sex offenders reenter society, they are much more likely than any other type of offender to be rearrested for a new rape or sexual assault” (internal citations omitted.) Could it be that the high court was misled, intentionally or otherwise?

And what erroneous belief about the future dangerousness of sex offenders has resulted in the federal Adam Walsh Act and its draconian and costly registration requirements?

One has to wonder how sex offender laws would differ if they were based upon reality instead of myth.

For a full copy of the Connecticut study, go to: