Let’s talk sexual offense recidivism

By Sandy . . .  Arguments centering around recidivism or reoffense rates are problematic at best and useless at worst. Understanding all of the factors includes the vocabulary and the definitions. Are we talking any offense, including parole violations, that results in a re-arrest, or only a repeat sexual offense? Are we talking re-arrest, re-conviction, or re-incarceration before it is labeled “recidivism”? Was the study group a cross-section of all offenders, or did it focus on special populations? Were control groups in place? Was proper procedure followed? Was there peer review?

Proponents of ever-increasing stringency and monitoring of former offenders claim that most studies track recidivism only for three years, and that with each year, the rate increases. However, while it is true that, due to the cumulative nature of studies, recidivism increases a little each year for the group, for every individual in the study group, and actually for individuals everywhere, the risk or chance of re-offending goes down every year they remain in the community offense-free. Even high-risk individuals reach the point where their risk to reoffend is no greater than someone who has never been charged with a sexual crime.

Invariably, when discussing sexual recidivism, the issue of unreported offenses is brought up, as though that totally changes the numbers.  It seems to me to be totally irrelevant. Since approximately 95% of new sexual crime [p.15] is committed by those with no previous sexual crime convictions, unreported offenses have little to no impact on reoffense rates. Indeed, if every sexual crime were reported, there is no evidence that the rate of reoffense would alter in the slightest. The very reason that so much sexual assault goes unreported is that it is often committed by those with family or other close connections to the victims.

When you add to this the fact that the vast majority of those who are committing sexual offenses right now and will in the future are those not on a sexual offense registry, and this is even more true in cases of child sexual abuse, the focus and resources expended on maintaining a registry is money, time, and, by this point in time, millions of lives wasted.

The real bottom line, however, is regardless of whether the recidivism rate is high, low, or unknown, public notification and registration do not reduce it. A plethora of evidence supports this. What reduces it is a combination of victim support services, meaningful re-entry initiatives for registrants, and research-based education/prevention programs in schools and communities, including the use of relevant PBS programming initiatives.

In the food-for-thought category, these are two accurate statements about chances and risks as they involve children and persons on the registry.

The person who will sexually molest your child is many times more likely to be found sitting around your table at holiday meals than on a sexual offense registry.

Your child is more likely to end up on a sexual offense registry him or herself than he or she is to be harmed by someone on the registry.

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Sandy is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.

  • This topic has 0 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated 1 month ago by Sandy Rozek.
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    • #83334 Reply

      Tim in WI

      Someone wanted the people to believe the machine database couldn’t be used for unconstitutional purposes. Those same folks understood the people’s general attitudes toward big brother and government surveillance. In short, they decided knowingly and intelligently to alter that general distrust in favor of unfettered use.
      They demanded precautionary release from liability in federal law regarding it’s potential misuse.

      Naturally, the machine could not impact human recidivism no more than law itself can act as deterrent. The registry notion was a fantasy but it made a great marketing strategy as if to say, “do not be afraid we’ve removed the threat.”

    • #83337 Reply


      Kalifornia marketing. They have learned to integrate marketing tactics into everything, the art of the sell is key in all of this rso mumbo jumbo. Marketing tactics that are basically aimed at exploiting democracy and mob rule mentality. “Recidivism” or whatever other buzzword they want to throw around it’s all about getting people worked up over solutions seeking problems. That’s how we got over-legislated, constantly passing the buck and using “precedent” as an excuse. In the end the supporters will find a way to continue justifying the system.

    • #83352 Reply


      Hi All,

      I believe recidivism is not the question as much as the excuse and really blinds those suffering under the registry from seeing the big problem. The bigger problem is that everyone has been scammed that is on the registry beyond their sentence and the original law that existed during their conviction.

      The scam is a conspiracy in itself to make a new undeclared race of people to accept the hate that has always been targeted at identifiable groups in the past.

      But not to get off topic, many of the registry nuts and bolts are state government’s enacted statutes, the problem with statutes is that they are not laws. Laws are what create sentences. A statute is created by local legislators and is amended into an already made law (Take note that a statute may not violate a state constitution in even the simplest form of rights). A statute(s) that violate a state constitution can make a law that it has been added to void.

      The reason these statutes have been added to the laws in amendments is because they all violate state Constitutional law.

      Recidivism and other excuses made by political groups seeking election are to mask the sloppy truth they are leaving so many open ended ways to challenge these laws against each state constitution. The SORNA law is not legal if the state law is in question.
      The truth is SORNA was sort of pushed on states anyway to get the funding behind using it.

      I wish more lawyers cared about this issue, the registry is a sham and it’s not providing as many jobs as many believe. What it is doing is insulating a way for political gain and more complicated issues before getting to the heart of the issue in each state.

      Please know that if you are stuck on this registry, things will get better. If I can see all these things and I’m no legal person that eventually someone that can do something about this terrible registry will begin to fix and heal all. I’m just bringing up very valid points.

      Recidivism has been a long time excuse and so has reoffending. Neither is true as statistically we have numbers now to prove it. When these arguments were made the list was not even 5x what it is now.

      I’ve seen so much in all my years. I’m hoping I see a end to this permissible public shaming before I go.

      Take care all.

    • #83413 Reply


      I find that arguing about recidivism kind of loses the point. Here is an example of a conversation I had once:

      “By all metrics, my recidivism rate is super low, like 4 percent or less according to studies, and will only get lower.”

      “Oh, so it isn’t zero and will never be?”, she asked. “Not taking my chances”.

      I did it once… and if there is even a miniscule chance it can happen again according to experts, I have lost all credibility. The public doesn’t care. Arguing the numbers means nothing. It doesn’t matter if a non-offender has a greater chance of committing an offense than me, because me, as a known offender, still has a statistical chance to re-offend according to the experts.

      I lost before I even started.

      • #83415 Reply

        Tim in WI

        Recidivism as a statutory concern is fantacy because law itself struggles to alter human decision making in the instant case. We’ve laws intended to impact behavior away from what has been deemed “crime acts” yet the courts a chalk full of offenders of every sort as evidence of identifying a lack of efficacy in the use of law to alter human behavior.

        Obviously the registries DO NOT specifically identify the actual wrongful act(s) committed, rather the database refers to a statutes codified number the person was found to be guilty of violating. The registry in essence does not describes the offenders behavior but the States behavoir. Technology made the electronic registry regime possible but there is a vast difference between the people’s right to have a database property versus the people’s right to indentured servitude for some of the people. Less obviously the relative disposition could never stop at just some of the people. It will swallow all of the people’s republic.

    • #83437 Reply

      Dwayne Daughtry

      In academics, we often hear the word “recidivist” or “reoffender” when applied to an array of habitual crimes with multiple victims. In some cases, we could listen to the word “serial” used to describe numerous crimes.

      Today society is seeking a new label since it has become or becoming sanctioned by politically incorrect language. Therefore, some people want to use recidivist or reoffender only in the context of sex crimes. Most disturbing is the misuse of the word recidivist. To the academic world, a recidivist is someone who has committed crimes in the past and has begun to commit crimes again, for example, after a period in prison.

      If a person breaks into a home and then continues to break into other neighborhood homes during the same day or week, we would rarely, if ever, hear “a recidivist breaking and entering subject”? Then why use the word recidivist for a sex crime with the same victim? The problem is that society often doesn’t understand the meaning of words and uses them to weaponize an action or an ineffectual attempt to simplify. Recidivist is, in my opinion, a modern effort of clever language to label someone accused or convicted of a sex offense.

    • #83459 Reply

      Tony From Long Island

      I did a chapter in my Masters Thesis on this very topic. It was very similar to your premise here.

      I also did an analysis of the origins of the “frightening and high” quote that you always see in court decisions. Great topic

    • #83471 Reply


      nobody in a state that sets the age of consent at 16 will be convicted in a state that considers them sex offenders so recidivism would be 0.

    • #83473 Reply


      someday i would like to talk about some innocent bystanders killed as a direct and foreseeable consequence of SORNAs unlawful enactment.

    • #83474 Reply


      I wish I could travel to Raleigh and speak at some Senate or House hearing to share this kind of info. Have speech (with the statistics to it back up), will travel. Thank you, Sandy!

    • #83490 Reply


      So sad, that the laws for those on the registry are so prejudicial and burdensome. Recidivism is so low for those on the registry. I’m pretty sure that those that are so-called reoffending have violated some kind of registry law that has no bearing on why they ended up on the registry in the first place. There needs to be some legislation that makes it illegal to charge someone with a felony for some minor registration violation, the details need to be worked out of course.

    • #83655 Reply


      an article in the wall street journal a few years back says there are so many laws on the books that the average american unwittingly commits felonies per day and we all recently saw how politically bias prosecutions are. and it shouldnt be too difficult for one to see the crimes against the person SORNA has perpetrated against its targets. so to me a prior conviction is no more than a target on my back that makes me easy prey for gang affiliated cops on the street and a coked out pos in the DAs office who gets sexual jollies from prosecution and running for office. so, “recidivism” is rarely more than a perpetuation of the same bs.

    • #83656 Reply


      cops, DAs, public defenders and judges should be required to routinely submit to a plesizemograph (phonetic) testing to alleviate the obvious potential for abuse and widespread public harm.

    • #83806 Reply

      Robert A.

      Last year this guy Henry Dinkins kidnapped his would’ve been step daughter and killed her (presumably after raping her). The state of Iowa (as they customarily do) enacted what I like to call a tribute law in Brea Taylors name. Basically sex offenders are forbidden to babysit. They just passed this law about 3 weeks ago. What makes this law stupid is that they already had a law on the books that did what this law does. It was already a crime to “supervise” or otherwise watch over a minor who was not the child of the offender. The whole thing is ignorant. The law looks at it like just because a guy was caught in the back seat of a Camero with a 15 year old, automatically he’s a compulsively habitual offender who will boff anything from 6 months old to the ripe old age of 99! I’m on the registry for statutory. I live in a very nice house with my wife and 4 kids aged 2-13. The one thing I worry about more than anything is some random registrant doing something stupid and the rest of us having to pay for that mistake. If Iowa went the route Florida went where registrants can’t live with their own kids, that’d kill me. My 2 year old girl has autism and that’d kill her too. I guess the point I’m trying to get across is the registry don’t make any sense and it’s based completely on ignorant assumptions. It’s a scary world to live in when you’re on the SOR.

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