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Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison

June 18, 2009

United States Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs Nov. 2003 Report

“Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994”

Rearrest for a new sex crime

Within the first 3 years following their release from prison in 1994, 5.3% (517 of the 9,691) of released sex offenders were rearrested for a sex crime. The rate for the 262,420 released non-sex offenders was lower, 1.3% (3,328 of 262,420). The first 12 months following their release from a State prison was the period when 40% of sex crimes were allegedly committed by the released sex offenders.

Recidivism studies typically find that, the older the prisoner when released, the lower the rate of recidivism.
Results reported here on released sex offenders did not follow the familiar pattern. While the lowest rate of
rearrest for a sex crime (3.3%) did belong to the oldest sex offenders (those age 45 or older), other comparisons between older and younger prisoners did not consistently show older prisoners’ having the lower rearrest rate. The study compared recidivism rates among prisoners who served different lengths of time before being released from prison in 1994. No clear association was found between how long they
were in prison and their recidivism rate.

Before being released from prison in 1994, most of the sex offenders had been arrested several times for different types of crimes. The more prior arrests they had, the greater their likelihood of being rearrested for another sex crime after leaving prison. Released sex offenders with 1 prior arrest (the arrest for the sex crime for which they were imprisoned) had the lowest rearrest rate for a sex crime, about 3%; those with 2 or 3 prior arrests for some type of crime, 4%; 4 to 6 prior arrests, 6%; 7 to 10 prior arrests, 7%; and 11 to 15 prior arrests, 8%. Rearrest for a sex crime against a child

On average, the 4,295 child molesters were released after serving about 3 years of their 7-year sentence (43% of the prison sentence). Within the first 3 years following release from prison in 1994, 3.3% (141 of 4,295) of released child molesters were rearrested for another sex crime against a child. The rate for all 9,691 sex offenders (a category that includes the 4,295 child molesters) was 2.2% (209 of 9,691). The rate for all 262,420 non-sex offenders was less than half of 1% (1,042 of the 262,420).

Released child molesters with more than 1 prior arrest for child molesting were more likely to be rearrested for child molesting (7.3%) than released child molesters with no more than 1 such prior arrest (2.4%).

Again, these Federal Studies refute the common lie that sex offenders have an enormously high recidivism rate.

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