Two recent editorials – one by Radley Balko in the Washington Post and the other by David Feige in Slate – explain that the common justification for harsh sex offender registries – “frightening and high” recidivism rates – is a lie.
Feige highlights some relevant statistics.
In reality, sex offenders have among the lowest same-crime recidivism rates of any category of offender. Indeed, in the most comprehensive single study on reoffense rates to date, the U.S. Department of Justice followed every sex offender released in almost 15 states for three years. The recidivism rate? Just 3.5 percent. These numbers have been subsequently verified in study after study. The state of Connecticut Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division did a five-year study that found a recidivism rate of 3.6 percent. A Maine study found that released sex offenders were arrested for a new sex crime at a rate of 3.9 percent. Government studies in Alaska, Delaware, Iowa, and South Carolina have also replicated these results—all finding same-crime recidivism rates of between 3.5 and 4 percent.
Also, read the 2013 University of Nebraska-Omaha study.