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Sex Offense Recidivism Rates LOWER than Previous Estimates According to Recent Bureau of Justice Study

Recently, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report entitled, “Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from State Prison: A 9-Year Follow Up (2005-2014).”

“Notwithstanding the sensationalist headline (“three times as likely”), the statistics reported are actually quite favorable. Full Summary

BJS Report

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” So in terms of risk to the public, a citizen is much more likely (six times more likely) to be sexually assaulted by an ex-felon without a sex offense than one with a sex offense.”

And we have a registry why?

I haven’t been able to read the information yet so take this as sort of a question ….

I’d say they are 6 times more likely to be assaulted by a (non-$EX) ex-felon because the Registries are working and keeping “$EX offenders” in line.

According to the article, the post-release re-offense rate of new sex offenses among the population of former sex-offenders is about 3 times higher than it is for non-sex offending ex-felons.

The reason that people are six times more likely to be sexually assaulted by a non-sex offending ex-felon is because there are many times more of those released from prison than there are sex offending ex-felons.

there fore the registration is working and should be apply to every crime

I do not believe registries affect recidivism rates. Just being listed on a registry does not cause a person to not commit a crime. You guys are looking for a correlation and a cause-and-effect that does not exist in my opinion. Whether or not I am on the registry has no impact on whether or not I have a desire to commit another similar crime. Registries are not designed to prevent crime, they are designed to help investigators find the culprit faster. The threat of punishment is what is used to prevent crime.

@Will Allen:
“the Registries are working and keeping “$EX offenders” in line.”
This is the line we need to fight and debunk. To me, the best way to argue against it is to find out the recidivism among RCs who have failed to maintain registration. If it’s the same (or lower?) than those in compliance, then the registry cannot be said to have any effect. Of course we already have this sort of data courtesy of NJ and its 21-year study…which I’m sure critics will say is old and outdated. I feel having data from concurrent samples (current vs lapsed registration) would be powerful.

Too often, a casual relationship between items is understood to be a causal one. Not so.

Right. And of course I was being facetious when I said that.

I think the best way to prove that Registries don’t work is to show that the recidivism rate was lower before the Registries were created. And really, it is well founded common sense to know they don’t work.

I don’t think it is fair to look at what absconders are doing. Mainly because those people are probably obviously living a chaotic life. They are on the run and hiding. Some of them likely have decided that everyone can go f*ck themselves and that they are going to go crazy and really hurt people. I could easily see that.

@Will Allen:
Oh I knew full well where you’re coming from. That’s still the “argument” the other side makes and we need to defeat.

I disagree with absconders not being a valid comparison. If recidivism is the same or lower among someone who is willing to violate a non-punitive regulatory scheme and yet they still do not recidivate (possibly at all, never mind solely sex offenses), it certainly helps to hollow out the other side’s argument. I’d love to hear the argument how people who flout the registration laws and still do not recidivate provide any support for registries. They can’t.


I have an argument. People who have absconded need to stay away from law enforcement so they are going to be very careful and not break any laws. Perhaps.

Speaking of absconding, I feel I could buy a property on some coastal water in a country somewhere and then just take my private boat there one day. I’d pull the boat up to the dock, park it, and then be gone from Amerika forever. Seems easy but can’t say I’ve thought much about it yet.

@Will Allen:
“People who have absconded need to stay away from law enforcement so they are going to be very careful and not break any laws.”
Too late. They have to stay away from law enforcement because they already HAVE broken a law: FTR. They’ve already shown a propensity to break a law with which they disagree in some manner, so I’ve got to think they’re already a higher recidivism risk than those who comply. Given their (assumed) increased recidivism risk, their actual recidivism would be interesting and perhaps helpful.

Sex offender registries are not supposed to be a deterent. If they in fact are a deterent, that according to the US Supreme Court, they are Unconstitutional. So let’s not make that argument.

Secondly, these stats use the general label of ‘sex offender’ but include data only for rape/sexual assault. In real life most people on the registries are not in that group. Many, in fact, are there for very benign offenses including public urination, indecent exposure, making a lewd comment, etc.

It would appear by the data that registries for violent offenses of all types should have a registry, but makes no sense for nonviolent offenses.

$EX Offender Registries are supposed to be a deterrent. That is the only legitimate, significant reason that they could have to exist. There are no others. “Solving crimes” certainly is not.

Oh silly Steve, don’t you know the purpose of the Registry is serve as ex post facto, extra-judicial punishment and continuous community shaming!? I thought everyone understood that ( except lying, fear-mongering, desperate-low-hanging-fruit-grabbing politicians and their torch and pitchfork public mob constituents.)

Wow! This is great information and yet another confirmation in how messed up all this is. Hopefully, courts will actually listen to all this data instead of blindly punting it because “if there was something wrong, legislature would surely correct it”. I’m really tired of our legal system using the Nuremberg Defense when it comes to all of this.

The article comments on Hansen’s research that “… found that over time, sex offenders reach a level of offending indistinguishable from the general population of ex-felons (a level he calls “desistance”) and thus cannot be justifiably treated differently from other ex-felons.”

I was under the impression that the “desistance” level that Hansen referred to was a comparison against the general population in total, not just the general population of ex-felons. So if it is actually a measure against other ex-felons, and not the general population in total, then I wonder what the sex offense rate is for the latter (primarily of those among the general population who have never been convicted of any felony, i.e., those who are not ex-felons), and whether there is eventual desistance among former sex-offenders with respect to that population.

“I was under the impression that the “desistance” level that Hanson referred to was a comparison against the general population in total, not just the general population of ex-felons.”
I had thought that was the situation, too. However here are some quotes from Hanson’s paper, “Not Always A Sex Offender”, that was part of a court case:
Desistance for general offenders has also been defined as a reduction of risk (individual propensity to commit crime) that is equal to or less than the rate of spontaneous new offenses among individuals who have never been apprehended for a criminal offense. [Citations Omitted]

For sexual offenders, a plausible threshold for desistance is when their risk for a new sexual offense is no different than the risk of a spontaneous sexual offense among individuals who have no prior sexual offense history but who have a history of nonsexual crime.

These analyses also allowed us to estimate the length of time at which desistance can be presumed, specifically, when the risk of a new sexual crime is no different than the spontaneous rate of first-time sexual offenses among felons with no history of sexual crime.

However he also states:
Risk in most individuals with a history of sexual crime will eventually decline to levels that are difficult to distinguish from the risk presented by the general population.

Clear as mud? 🙂

Thank you for that, AJ. It’s that last excerpt, which I’ve seen quoted numerous times here, that muddies the waters. But only a bit, and only in juxtaposition with the former excerpts. The last statement can still be true, even if it is not what he means when he speaks of desistance in general.

You’re welcome. Yes, the two statements are not mutually exclusive. After all, if one is below the offense rate of someone who has never committed any offense, then one must also be below the rate of someone who has committed some sort of non-sexual offense. Funny how they don’t mention the last statement about being below the general public…

Unfortunately even a 0% risk isn’t necessarily enough to overcome rational basis review, since it allows for even hypothetical situations where something *could* happen.

I was thinking about how we can maybe bring these facts to those that can help make changes, was wondering what people on here thought of organizing a sit down protest at state capitols across the Country all on said organized day who knows what could come of it.

Quick, someone send this to Justice Kennedy to read, both the report and the summary. Send to Uncle Joe, too, who co-sponsored 1994 bill while he is now running for higher office.

Now, for the masses here, what is the take away bumper sticker we want people to know when it comes to percentage? 2.3%, 7.7%, or other? This is not an apple to an orange comparison as stated since the data sets and process are different.

Also, this is not indicative of ML working or anything else. That would be a false front by those who want to mislead and wrongly exploit the data for their own gain.

Sounds to me then, That with it being 6x more likely to be sexually assaulted by a X felon then for Public safety as they claim it to be then all felons should register (just to be safe, sarcasm) just my thoughts!

These numbers are still way over inflated and not relevant. The only real number we need to object to the registry and all of the laws is not about sex offenders released from prison. It is about registered sex offenders. Period.

And that number is BELOW 1 percent.

Thanks @Chris f for the report. I agree with your bottomline.

What do you want to bet that even if the dead and incarcerated registrants were removed, the number would still be below 1 percent?

I appreciate this article and commentary, as it accurately explains that lifetime registration requirements are punitive and are indeed a form of punishment. This reminds me of the “frightening and high” statement that was made during a Supreme Court ruling in reference to recidivism amongst the sexual offender population, a dishonest attempt to mislead the public.

Further, it is my opinion that there are some instances where a person convicted of a sexual crime should indeed be placed on a registry for the duration of their lifetime. For example, although a person who has committed one sexual crime and subsequently completed the terms of their probation or post-release supervision should be relieved from their duty to register, a repeat offender should be required to register for life. It is ridiculous to state that a repeat sexual offender should not be punished for his or her actions, including remaining on the registry.

I know this is not a popular idea on this board, but, consider this – if a person is convicted of a sexual crime when they are 19, learns from their mistake, and proceeds to lead a productive and meaningful life, they should be removed from the registry. However, if this 19 year old reoffends during the commission of a seperate crime, has this individual learned from their poor choices and/or mistake that got them on the registry? The commission of a crime once is a forgivable mistake, but, additional lapses in judgement warrant a stronger response from our legal system.

It is important, however, to understand that not all sexual crimes are the same and therefore should not be treated in the same manner. If one chooses not to learn from their mistakes and continues to commit sexual crimes, they should not be granted relief from the consequences of their previous actions.

A problem with your argument is that Registries do nothing useful. So, what really is your motive for wanting a person to be listed on one? To make the person more dangerous? In hopes that the person will murder someone someday and then we can imprison them for life?

Sorry, Registries aren’t acceptable. As long as they exist, people must pay.

@Steven V:
Based on your statement about recidivists being subject to lifetime registration, logic dictates you have in mind a first-time offender who is *not* subject to lifetime registration (otherwise, what’s the added burden of lifetime for recidivating?). So, this offender is subject to 10, 15, 25 or however many years on a registry. If this person is willing to re-offend while under registration with an expiration date, what makes you think this person will suddenly stop if on for life?

If, on the other hand, you envision someone who was on the registry for however many years, timed out, then recidivates some span of time later, I believe this is a small sub-group of offenders. This person indeed hasn’t learned the lesson, but what’s to say a lifetime registration period will change that? Many social scientists would say taking away the hope of relief actually increases the risk of recidivism, so putting such a person on for life may not only do nothing, it may worsen the situation.

IMO, there are incredibly few RCs who hold back from recidivating due to being on ML. Likewise, IMO there are overwhelmingly many RCs who hold back from recidivating regardless of being on ML. I would say this person held back only by ML is tough, if not impossible, to discern among all RCs regardless what method (assessment, interview, etc.) is tried. For me, they are a rare, bad needle in a haystack of needles. How is public safety improved and/or protected by giving citizens diluted, unreliable, and/or inaccurate information?

As I see it, the flaw in your reasoning is that the more serious sex crimes you’re referring to already carry significant penalties that are enhanced when committed again, usually up to (at a minimum) life on parole / probation even if released after the second conviction. Anyone convicted of a third (or more) will be in prison for life anyway.

There are already existing means to keep such individuals on shorter leashes. Registration is not required and is ultimately pointless anyway, just as it is in all other cases.


I believe that, in addition to repeat offenders being subjected to lifetime supervision and parole, it is important that those with more serious crimes remain on a public registry. For example, conviction of an offense involving a minor that did not involve force or intimidation (i.e.: oral copulation with a minor) is substantly different then a case involving rape against a minor. It is common sense that the latter should be prosecuted differently and more harshly, even if it is a first offense. It is my belief that the violent offender poses a danger to society in a way that a consensual act simply does not and as such warrants greater scrutiny and public notification.

Further, it is my opinion that a person convicted of a sexual act by force has a greater chance or reoffending and, although it should not be for one’s lifetime, it would be prudent to notify the public of this individual’s behavior and crime through a registry. Sexual offenses are not all the same and should therefore not be treated in the same way.

Choices have consequences, like it or not. While these consequences should not be arbitrary in nature or permanent, each case and crime should be treated on an individual basis, not with a one size fits all approach.

Even so, the registry is not the solution. And you contradict yourself when you bemoan a “one size fits all approach” while saying the registry is suitable for some but not others.

Another flaw with registration is that it presumes no effect of the time the registrant spent in prison. Registration doesn’t notify anyone of a registrant’s CURRENT behavior, or even past behavior. All it does is list the specific code section violated, leaving to the imagination the circumstances around it. It does not and never will reflect if a person is behaving himself or not AT PRESENT.

No offense intended, but your approach is exactly how the registry got so bloated in the first place. You seem to suggest doing the exact same thing done in the public registry’s earliest days (only registering the “worst” offenders), despite the demonstrable failure it has become in terms of its original intents – public safety and recidivism reduction. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t see any difference in what you’re saying now and what was said by the registry’s earliest supporters when it was first enacted, nor how things would be different than now 20+ years afterward.

Steven, you do realize that the state often does not differentiate between genuine force and coercion on the one hand and consent and willingness, on the other? Their records for these distinctions are also notoriously unrecorded or factually unreliable/outright lies. So it stands to reason that if legal consequences flow from those salient factors then there will be a massive misattribution of violence. Beyond that, you seem to have a faith in the effectiveness of a registry concept which is unfounded.

Mind you, I’m all for making distinctions between violent and non-violent acts and I’m constantly on about the smearing of those whose acts were non-violent as “sexually violent.” This should be reflected in criminal penalties in a way which rarely is. This is a very great injustice which is not even well-appreciated by reformers in our community and has become something of my own personal cause i.e. to bring awareness to this injustice. But the registry system provides no benefit, regardless of who is on it.

Registries are not needed or beneficial. They also harm all of America.

Registries are idiotic social policy. People who support them are stupid. I pray that you are listed on one for life. No peace.

Not sure I understand – and I am making the assumption that you are on this forum because you are or your loved one is required to register.

So it is a good idea for you or your loved one to be on the (public) registry? Or is the (public) registry a good idea and deserved for some people, but not for you or your loved one?

Exactly on what do you base your opinion about reoffending? And why is it prudent to notify the public of those people and not of you or your loved one? And why is it prudent to notify the public of a (violent) sexual offender, but not of an offender of regular violence – say a murderer or wife beater or drunk driver?

Assuming that you are here because you or your loved one is on the registry, I hate to break it to you – the “beauty” of the registry is that it treats all the same. So you are no better or worse than the worst of the worst or the ridiculously mild offender. Isn’t that special!

Yes, choices have consequences. Which is the reason you are or your loved one is on the registry – of which you apparently approve. Good thing you are so understanding about that.

@Steven V

“Further, it is my opinion that a person convicted of a sexual act by force has a greater chance or reoffending and, although it should not be for one’s lifetime, it would be prudent to notify the public of this individual’s behavior and crime through a registry.”

Your opinion is based on what, e.g. stats, studies, documents, thin air, etc? Please, tell us why you think that way. Glad we live in Amerika where everyone can opine freely w/o repercussions to their opinions, but their opinions have consequences as illustrated by those here who have replied already. Just saying.

Using your same statement, someone who commits a felonious assault with a deadly weapon, manslaughter, some other forceful act, or even murder has a greater chance of reoffending and should be listed publicly based upon your belief and opinion. Is that about right? Would that include anyone under the influence of medications, mind altering drugs, alcohol, previous brain trauma, PTS, being triggered by events in their past which create crimes of passion (as they are called), etc? Does it have to be physical force or can verbal intimidation force qualify? Where is your line? It can all be forceful behavior. Doesn’t the rest of the world, all 7B+, need to know, want to know, deserve know?

Actually, they don’t and these lists are not a solution as those here have said multiple times, which I strongly agree with.

@Steven V.:
“While these consequences should not be arbitrary in nature or permanent…”
Huh? You advocate for lifetime (i.e. permanent) inclusion on a registry, but say consequences should not be permanent. A registry, just like any other law, is only as good as a person’s willingness to follow it. You could put someone on a “double secret” registry and it would still only be as effective as the person’s willingness to follow it. Ever speed, @Steven V.? If so, why? After all, there is a permanent regulatory scheme stating one must not exceed whatever posted limit. Ever cheat on your taxes? Ever jaywalk?

Nobody should be subject to the current registration system. Not even the most heinous offender, because the current registration system does nothing to protect the public and only sets that person on a permanent ban list without regard to any facts of the case or the individual. It hurts re integration to the point of making them MORE likely to re offend.

How about those that recidivate get put in jail longer and be kept under government supervision longer and with treatments and restrictions determined by a judge based on the individual and circumstances? If the individual is truly incapable of reform and will always be a danger, then keep him locked up in a constitional way and dont just let him back into public and expect putting him on a list of shame will somehow keep him under control.

The mean number of arrests was 9!??!! Yeah, wow. Does this include technical parole violations?

I would think it would have to, in order to be so high. Also, when multiple charges are stacked based on the same event, it’s likely counted as a separate arrest.

It’s worth pointing out that the MEAN (number of arrests of all registrants divided by the number of registrants) is irrelevant. It (grossly) overstates the arrest rate of compliant registrants and understates the rate of the small handful of those who are not, creating the false impression that all registrants are getting arrested left and right at various times.

I would think it more appropriate and accurate to use the MODE (number occurring the most often in a series) when determining the average arrest rate of registrants. Betting that number is in the neighborhood of 0 or 1 across the entire 900,00+ registry.

“It’s worth pointing out that the MEAN (number of arrests of all registrants divided by the number of registrants) is irrelevant.”
Exactly. Mean numbers are usually suspect, as they can easily be skewed by an outlier (think of the boost to the mean net worth in a homeless shelter when Jeff Bezos enters). Mode or Median would be much more helpful.


Yes, all situations involving aggravated assault should have consequences. I am sure that you do not actually believe that verbal abuse is the same as physical violence as your comment implies. And, yes, a person who is convicted of a heinous crime such as murder or aggravated sexual assault does indeed have a high probability of reoffending.

According to the National Institute of Justice (, those who were convicted for a violent crime are 43.9% more likely to reoffend and be rearrested within the first 5 years following their release then those convicted of committing any other crime. So, to follow your argument, yes, the public has the right to be notified of violent offenders.

However, as I have noted in several of my posts, this consequence should not be permanent. There should be an expiration of this notification period, much like what exists within the Tiered registry bill that was passed in 2017 by the California Legislature. The tiered registry, much like what I am stating here, seeks to place different consequences on different type of criminal offenses.

In the same way that a person who gets a simple speeding ticket should not receive the same consequences as a person who commits a hit and run with a vehicle, an individual that commits a crime by force should not receive the same consequences as a person who commits a nonviolent sexual offense. The logic behind a one size fits all approach to criminal justice and its consequences is simply flawed thinking.

Steven, you’re falling into several logical fallacies here and getting confused about the way the word “violence” is used statutorially and not differentiating between regular violent crimes and so-called “violent” sex crimes. You appear not to have read up on recidivism rates for strictly sex crimes which should not be confused with other “aggravated” or violent crimes. On the other hand, I’m not willing to spend any more time explaining this. However, the truth is out there.

@Steven V.

“And, yes, a person who is convicted of a heinous crime such as murder or aggravated sexual assault does indeed have a high probability of reoffending.” Really not. Really, really not. Where are you getting this from? Murderers have the lowest reoffense rate (perhaps because they spend so long / life in prison), and those convicted of sexual crimes – which includes those convicted of aggravated offenses – have the second lowest. As documented by the report in question.

“So, to follow your argument, yes, the public has the right to be notified of violent offenders. ” So where does that “right” originate from, and if it truly does exist, why are we not notified of violent offenders?

Yes, individual actions should have individual consequences. And they do, as in criminal sentences handed down by a judge presiding over the entire criminal life of a case, taking into account individual factors start to finish. Which is how the simple speeding ticket draws a much less severe punishment than the hit and run driver.

It is only the registration part that is a one-size-fits-all. Because it is not punishment. But then again, not for all crimes, but only for a select few. Why are not all crimes not-punished equally?

Allow me to repeat my question(s):

Assuming you are required to register, are you okay with that consequence of your conviction? If so, this forum may not be the place for you.

If not, are you okay with registration for some and not for others / you? If so, this forum is definitely the place for you.

If your reason is heinousness of crime, why don’t murderers register? If your reason is risk of reoffense, why don’t drunk drivers register?

Oh, and has as has been pointed out in this forum before, the Tiered Registry is full of quirks and inconsistencies. I am sure many will wake up to a nasty surprise being stuck in the lifetime tier – that they / a sane person never expected in a million years.

Steven V., “aggravated” is a matter of statutory definition. It is not individually determined based on actual circumstances of a particular offense. It is not possible to tell from the charge whether violence was involved.

@Steve V

You still did not answer your own statement to which I asked you to expound upon:

“Further, it is my opinion that a person convicted of a sexual act by force has a greater chance or reoffending and, although it should not be for one’s lifetime, it would be prudent to notify the public of this individual’s behavior and crime through a registry.”

Again, your opinion is based on what, e.g. stats, studies, documents, thin air, etc? Please, tell us why you think that way.

This group here loves stats and the parsing of them as given by the recent BJS 9 year study published and discussed in this forum. All you did was dump a stat from a mass category into your reply to answer the second part of my reply to you without any cavets as I gave you to chose from, “According to the National Institute of Justice (, those who were convicted for a violent crime are 43.9% more likely to reoffend and be rearrested within the first 5 years following their release then those convicted of committing any other crime. So, to follow your argument, yes, the public has the right to be notified of violent offenders.” This reply sounds much what a government wonk would say to justify their job and budget without understanding the details or fully citing a source to a politician who would use it to justify more money. Been there seen that in action. Here is your chance to delve into the details and break them out to be read here. The masses here are waiting.

And yes, verbal abuse/violence and physical abuse/violence are much the same in the aftereffects when the words are gone and the physical wounds have healed because the mental and emotional trauma with scars that remains still need to and should be dealt with. You don’t have to physically assault someone to get the same result as a verbal assault will.

Let’s not forget that these numbers are elevated to keep the lazy gov. worker working, the stock prices up of the gps, software and prison, etc… companies that these lazy gov workers n their family invest in

I like this statement,
“The study clearly demonstrates that most sex offense recidivism is committed by young offenders (under 25 years old) and within the first 3 years of release. Rates of re-offense decline steadily over time offense-free in the community, and with age. >>This data would support various types of as-applied and facial challenges to Megan’s Law-type statutes and can be a useful tool in the arsenal of defense attorneys working in this area.<<"

Attorneys that have a brain. I still like how the data is buried in that BSJ report so deep you have to read the entire report just to find the actual facts. And using arrest rates is deceptive at best and down right useless in reality as arrest is not conviction. Anyone and everyone can be arrested, that does not make them a conviction statistic.

It was about constitutional approach to “The government USES of a database.”
The SOR s are but one USE! There are many.
The term ” Registry” is ubiquitous, none the less it is a machine database(s humans are compelled by Law to maintain under threat of possible incarceration.

Machine\databae\ property. – Thrives purely on data.
Hired men take the commodity to market(SOR) & hunt or locate abscounders.(FTR)
Registrants (Slaves.?) produce sovereign personal information data as the hired men direct.

Hardly a ” New” concept ( Smith v Doe) regime, just a new dress.

Great policy for machines and machine producers, but not so great for humans nor human liberty. SCOTUS claimed ” lack of affirmative disability, nor retribution in INTENT.


The registry is a big scam. Hope all this bullshit catches up to the political lies though. As well as everything else that comes with the registry… like “treatment,” the Static-99R scam, compliance checks, and public notification.

This section **Rates of re-offense decline steadily over time offense-free in the community, and with age.***

So how come someone’s Static99 score does not change????

Because the STATIC-99, et al was never designed to assess risk years after release from prison. It was to be a tool to evaluate contemporaneous risk, i.e. at the time of getting out, not to predict risk for an aging subject well into the continuous, indefinite future. It’s a really shitty tool, regardless.

The score itself does not change, but the risk changes as time moves forward. There is a chart in one of the 2014 Hanson papers which is also on the risk assessment section on the ML website describing it. The results on the chart seem to be in line with the coding rules statement that risk halves roughly every 5 years.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x