Recidivism, Risk and Registries
Public Conviction-Based Registries Don’t Work
Public sex offender registries do not reduce sex offending or make the community any safer. In fact, modern scientific research shows that public registries may actually increase sex offending.
Researchers believe this is so because public registration makes it harder for people to return to their families and communities, and harder for people to get school¬ing, housing, and jobs. All people with records, including sex offenders, are less likely to recidivate when they have strong family and community support, stable housing, educational opportunities, and good jobs.
Research suggests that some non-public registries that base registration on risk assessments rather than on a past conviction may reduce recidivism.
Most Child Sex Offenses Are Committed by Non-Registrants Who Know the Victim
Research shows that about 93 percent of child sex abuse cases are committed by family members or ac¬quaintances, not strangers. By far the greatest danger of sexual abuse of children is not from strangers, but rather from relatives, sitters, friends, etc.
While a Small Percentage of People Convicted of Sex Offenses Pose a Significant Risk to
Public Safety, Most Do Not
Research has shown that about 95 percent of individuals arrested for sex offenses do not have a prior sex offense or are not on a registry. In other words, the great majority of sex crimes are committed by new offenders, not repeat offenders. The risk of a new (first) sex offense is about 3 percent in the general male population. The risk that someone will commit a new sex offense varies significantly among offenders. Most people convicted of sex offenses do not reoffend sexually.
The Likelihood of Reoffending Drops Dramatically Over Time
From the outset, low-risk former sex offenders have a lower risk of committing a new sex offense than a baseline group of non-sex offenders. Even medium-to-high risk offenders become less likely to offend than the baseline of non-sex offenders over time. Individuals who reoffend usually do so within three-to-five years.
Experts have concluded that lifetime registration is unnecessary because after 17 years, reoffend¬ing is very unlikely, even for people who were originally high-risk offenders. The graph attached as Exhibit 1 shows how the recidivism rates of offenders at different risk levels compare to the baseline risk of non-sex offenders.