Sex Offender Recidivism and The Willfully Ignorant
According to [NY State Assemblyman Joseph Saladino], “the recidivism rate for sex offenders remains disturbingly high. He said statistics prove that most sexual predators . . . are extremely likely to strike again. The State Department of Correctional Services reported after nine years of follow-up study, that 49% of sex offenders released from prison in 1986 returned to prison for parole violation or for committing new crimes”. (1) The very next sentence, conveniently omitted by Assemblyman Saladino, reads “The rate of return for committing a new sex crime was 6%”.
Associated Content contributor Steve Thompson (6), thoroughly misrepresenting a 2002 US Department of Justice report (7), proclaimed that “Recidivism among sex offenders is quite high, according to the United States Department of Justice. Although not all sex offenders re-offend, they are four times more likely than a criminal convicted of robbery, murder, assault or any other charge”. On page 24 of the report, it does state that sex offenders were 4 times more likely to commit a sex crime than criminals not previously convicted of a sex crime; 5.3% v 1.3%. Nowhere in the report is the recidivism rate described as “quite high” or high at all. In fact the report said the 43% re-arrest rate of sex offenders for any crime “was low by comparison” to 68% for non-sex offenders. The authors also recognized that the 5.3% v 1.3% did not tell the whole story. They pointed out that there were 517 sex offenders who committed another sex crime and 3,328 non-sex offenders who did so. (517 out of 9,691 is 5.3% / 3,328 out of 262,420 is 1.3%) There were 6.4 times as many non-sex offenders committing sex crimes after being released. Correlative studies revealed that “Only 30.8% of persons arrested for a sex crime in 1990 were incarcerated in a state prison for some time during the period of the analysis, leaving almost 70% of offenders on the street with the opportunity to re-offend”. (8) “In fact, the overwhelming majority of sex offenders (93%) were not re-arrested for another sex crime”. (9)
Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh points out that many crimes against children go unreported, and so getting an accurate accounting of recidivism among sex offenders is not possible”. (10) “The Besserer and Trainor (2000) study showed that sexual assault had the highest percentage of incidents that were not reported to police (78%). When respondents were asked why they did not report sexual victimization to the police, 59% stated that the “incident was not important enough” to report. (11) “Approximately one in five (19%) of regular internet users [under age 18] said they had received an unwanted sexual solicitation or approach in the last year. “Juveniles made 48% of the overall and 48% of the aggressive solicitations. “Most of the adult solicitors were reported to be ages 18-25. About 4% of all solicitors were known to be older than 25. In response to questions about running away, seven youth (0.4%) of the sample) were offered assistance to runaway. One [of those] incident[s] may have involved sexual motives on the part of an adult”. Not all of the sexual aggression on the internet fits the image of the sexual predator or wily child molester. A lot of it looks and sounds like the hallways of our high schools”. (12) “All unwanted sexual advances are wrong, possibly criminal, and have the potential to do psychological harm to the victim. As a society, however, we need to decide whether we wish to count an unwanted touch on the buttocks as an unreported sexual crime. Setting the bar too low would criminalize social clumsiness and over-state the problem of sexual assault”. (13) If one is to gain any sense for reality, you must read the entire report, and not just the part that supports your stance.
As the end purpose for recidivism studies is to assess the risk to which we expose our children and ourselves, perhaps it would be relevant to consider the following. In a 2000 report from the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, it was revealed that among juvenile (under age 18) victims of sexual assault; 38.2% were assaulted by a family member, 58.7% by an acquaintance, and only 7% by a stranger. (14) An Associated Press story on 10 June 2009 proclaimed “77 Arrested in Child Porn Crackdown”. Buried in the text of the story was that only two were registered sex offenders. (15) A 2008 study out of the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany and published in the prestigious journal Psychology, Public Policy, and the Law compared recidivism between sex offenders whose offense/conviction dates were prior to registration and community notification laws and therefore not subject to those laws, and sex offenders who’s offense/conviction dates made them subject to those laws. They found no appreciable difference between the groups and “no support for the effectiveness of registration and community notification laws”. They did find that in more than 95% of arrests for all sex crimes, the arrestee was a first-time offender! (16)
Ottis Toole, the man finally attributed (posthumously) with the kidnap and murder of Adam Walsh was not a registered sex offender. No sex offender law would have enabled Reve Walsh to protect her son from Ottis Toole. But if she had kept Adam with her instead of leaving him to play at a video game display while she shopped in another part of the store, out of sight, that tragedy would not have happened. (17) If Carlie Brucia (Florida January 2004) or Sommer Thompson (Florida January 2010) had not been allowed to walk home without escort . . . No law currently in force or proposed would have protected them, nor Elizabeth Smart (Utah June 2002), Danielle Van Dam (California February 2002) and Samantha Runnion (California July 2002), none of their abusers were registered sex offenders. You cannot rely on any law to protect your child, but YOU can and YOU have to figure out how to do it!
In the same way that we never hear about the thousands of daily airline flights unless one crashes, the media doesn’t report the 93% of sex offenders who never commit another sex crime. The media, legislators and communities fixate on those sensational reports and ignore the danger posed by a vastly greater number of those sex abusers who are not identifiable to any post-conviction law. Once again, the willfully ignorant, by disregarding the greater danger, place your children at risk – and they are dragging most of you right along with them.
1. Saladino Announces Statewide Petition Drive to Keep Children Safe From Repeat Sex Offenders: New York State Assembly, Minority Communications; Accessed 18 March 2010 http://assembly.state.ny.us/member_files012/20050617/
2. The Globe and Mail; Exactly how often do sex offenders reoffend? 9 Novemberr 2004, pg A18
3. Ron Langevin; Suzanne Curnoe; Paul Federoff; Renee Bennett; et al; Lifetime Sex Offender Recidivism: A 25-year Follow-Up Study; Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice; Oct 2004; 46, 5; Criminal Justice Periodicals pg. 531
4. Cheryl Marie Webster; Rosemary Gartner; Anthony N. Doob; Result by Design: The Artefactual Construction of High Recidivism Rates for Sex Offenders; Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice; Jan 2006; 48, 1, Criminal Justice Periodicals pg. 79
5. R. Karl Hanson; Long-Term Follow-Up Studies Are Difficult: Comment on Langevin et al. (2004); Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice 2006
6. Steve Thompson; Recidivism Among Sex Offenders; Associated Content, 19 October
7. Patrick A. Langan, Ph.D; Erical L. Schmitt; Matthew R. Durose; Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994; U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 2003, NCJ 198281 http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsorp94.pdf
8. Lisa L. Sample; Timothy M. Bray; Are Sex Offenders Dangerous?; Criminology & Public Policy; Nov 2003; 3,1; Criminal Justice Periodicals, pg 59 (Quote pg 75)
9. Ibid, (Quote pg 76)
10. Stephen Gurr; How Well Do You Know Your Neighors?; 7 March 20; http://gainesvilletimes.com/news/article/30319, Acessed 18 March 2010
11. Harris, Andrew J.R.; Hanson, R. Karl; Sex Offender Recidivism: A Simple Question 2004-03; Public Safety and Emergenecy Preparedness Canada; http://publicsafety.gc.ca/res/cor/rep/2004-03-se-off-eng-aspx Accessed 18 March 2010
12. Finkelhor, David; Mitchell, Kimberly J.; Wolak, Janis; Online Victimization: A Report on the Nation’s Youth; National Center For Missing and Exploited Children, June 2000
13. See reference 11
14. Snyder, Howard N.; Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics; U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2000 NCJ 192990 http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf
15. © Associated Press 2010; 77 Arrested in Child Porn Crackdown
16. Jeffrey C. Sandler, Naomi J. Freeman, and Kelly M. Socia; “Does A Watched Pot Boil? A Time-Series Analysis of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law”; Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 2008, Vol. 14, No. 4, 284-302
17. John Walsh, “Tears of Rage”, 1997, Pocket Books, pg 44