New research in California shows that only a tiny fraction - 3.38 percent - of released sex offenders are convicted of a new sex offense within 10 years of release. The study followed 3,577 prisoners who were released between 1997 and 2007 after serving time for sex offenses.
In an even larger parallel study by California's Sex Offender Management Board, tracking 4,204 paroled sex offenders, only 3.21 percent were convicted of a new sex offense within 5 years of release.
In both studies, almost all of the recidivism came within the first year post-release. Sex offenders were returned to custody for parole violations at a lower rate than other paroled prisoners, despite the fact that they were supervised more intensely. And they were more likely to be rearrested for crimes other than sex offenses.
The findings are consistent with a smaller study two years ago of recidivism by civilly committed Sexually Violent Predators. Of 93 such high-risk offenders released from Atascadero State Hospital without completing treatment, only 4.3 percent reoffended within six years.
"The data call into question the dramatically higher recidivism rates cited by state evaluators at Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) civil commitment trials. Those data are based on Canadian research with an actuarial instrument called the Static 99. The Static 99 recidivism base rates are 18 percent after five years and 21.3 percent after 10 years, many times higher than the California data."
The total five year recidivism rate for sex offenders in California was 4.69% (including sex and non-sex offenses), and the total technical parole violation rate over five years was 47.05% (compared with 60-70% for all CDRC parolees, many of whom are less intensely supervised).
The ten year study showed a 3.86% total recidivism rate in ten years (using a smaller data pool) and a 49.06% technical parole violation rate over ten years.
The pattern of recidivism in the five year study involving 4,024 released sex offenders in California was as follows: (sex offense, non-sex offense, technical parole violation):
Year 1: 86, 114, 1455
Year 2: 25, 57, 378
Year 3: 14, 24, 123
Year 4 & 5: 10, 2, 22
Five year total: 135, 197, 1978
% in first two years: 82%, 87%, 93%
% in first three years: 93%, 99%, 99%
The pattern of recidivism in the (overlapping sample) ten year study involving 3,577 released sex offenders in California was as follows (sex offense, non-sex offense, technical parole violation)
Year 1: 79, 89, 1316
Year 2: 26, 42, 291
Year 3: 10, 5, 115
Years 4 and 5 combined: 3, 1, 24
Years 6 through 10 combined: 3, 0, 9
Ten year total: 121, 137, 1755
% in first two years: 87%, 96%, 92%
% in first three years: 95%, 99%, 98%
The study casts serious doubt on lifetime sex offender monitoring statutes. Almost all of the risk of recidivism and parole violations is in the first three years after release, with the first two years being by far the most important.