The secret behind deregistration is shocking but simple: Once a sex offender is caught, prosecuted, put on supervision and required to complete sex offender treatment, the sex offender is the type of offender least likely to re-offend. Given the media hype regarding all forms of human trauma, the secret of deregistration may seem counter-intuitive. However, when you turn your attention away from your television set and look at the scientific research, the myths about sex offending are quickly dispelled.
MYTH 1: SEX OFFENDERS ARE THE OFFENDER MOST LIKELY TO REOFFEND.
Does a sex offender have a greater chance of reoffending with a new sex offense as compared to the chance of a non-sex offender reoffending with a non-sex offense?
To answer this question, you have to come up with two numbers: the percentage of sex offenders released from prison who commit a new sex offense and percentage of non-sex offenders released from prison who commit a new non-sex offense. Do you have those two numbers in mind? Good. Here is what the research says.
In a longitudinal research study, the United States government studied 9,691 sex offenders and 262,420 non-sex offenders released in 1994 from state prisons in fifteen states, including Texas (Langan, Schmitt, & Durose; 2003). In the three year follow-up period, 5.3% of the sex offenders were arrested for a new sex crime and 68% of the non-sex offenders were arrested for a new non-sex offense.
MYTH 2: SEX OFFENDERS RELEASED FROM PRISON PRODUCE MORE SEX OFFENSES COMPARED TO NON-SEX OFFENDERS RELEASED FROM PRISON.
Using the same study conducted by the United States government as above, you can uncover the truth about this second myth. In this study, 517 sex offenders were arrested for a new sex offense and 3,328 “non-sex” offenders were arrested for a new sex offense. In other words, 92% of new sex offenders are individuals released from prison with no prior sexual offense history and 8% of new sex offenses are caused by known sex offenders. This study shows that non-sex offenders are responsible for committing a greater number of new sex offenses as compared with known sex offenders. No wonder that registration doesn’t work.
MYTH 3: IF YOU FOLLOWED SEX OFFENDERS FOR DECADES THEY WOULD ALL REOFFEND.
The government study used to explain the two myths listed above had a three year follow-up period. That is not long. What if researchers used longer follow-up periods? Surely, sex offenders would reach the same rate of re-offense as other offenders, wouldn’t they?
Dr. Hanson took a look at long-term recidivism of sex offenders, from six to twenty-seven years (Hanson & Bousierre, 1989; Hanson Morton-Bourgon, 2005). The average rate of sex offender recidivism was 13.55%, over the long-term. In other words, the short-term recidivism rate of non-sex offenders is about five times greater than the long-term recidivism rate of sex offenders.
|Researchers||# of scientific studies analyzed||# of sex offenders studied||Percentage of Sex Offenders with a New Sex Offense|
|Hanson & Bussiere, 1998||61 peer reviewed articles about sex offender recidivism||23,393 sex offenders studied||13.4%|
|Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005||82 peer reviewed articles about sex offender recidivism||19,267 sex offenders studied||13.7%|
MYTH 4: THE RATE OF SEX OFFENDING IS SOARING OUT OF CONTROL.
The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) collects data from state Child Protective Services. NCANDS reports that from 1990 to 2010, there has been a 62% decline in the rate of substantiated child sexual abuse cases.
Two researchers from the Crimes Against Children Research Center have analyzed the NCANDS data and compared it to other sources of data regarding child sexual abuse (Finkelhor & Jones, 2012). When comparing the NASCAND data to the National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, these researchers concluded that these data “almost completely confirmed what the NCANDS data shows.” When these researchers compared the NCANDS data to FBI data regarding rape, including rapes of persons under age eighteen, these researchers concluded “The FBI rape data show a sharp decline that, like the NCANDS data, started in 1992 and continued through 2010. The total drop was 35%, and the trend line is remarkably parallel to the NCANDS trend line.”
The Texas Legislature would not purposefully take action to put the public at risk. Deregistration of sex offenders is a good law because there is no proof that registration is part of the reason why the rate of child sexual abuse is on the decline in the United States.