We now have added "Informational Posts" which are tidbits of information that may come in handy at some point.


December 2005:

This report examines the relationship between recidivism and Washington’s passage of sex offender registration and community notification statutes.

Have these policies reduced the recidivism rates of sex offenders?

We tracked 8,359 sex offenders released from Washington prisons before passage of the statutes (1986–1989), after passage of the 1990 law (1990–1996), and after passage of the amendments in 1997.

Statistical techniques are used to determine the effect of the law by controlling for observed differences in offenders. Recidivism is defined as a conviction in Washington State for an offense committed during the five-year period after the offender leaves prison.

Three types of recidivism are measured: (1) any new felony conviction, (2) any new violent felony conviction, and (3) any new felony sex conviction.


• Felony recidivism rates remained the same before and after enactment of the statutes.

• The violent felony recidivism rate of sex offenders released after the 1997 amendments is 2 percentage points below the pre-1990 rate— equivalent to a 20 percent reduction in violent felony recidivism.

• The felony sex recidivism rate for post-1997 offenders is 5 percentage points below the pre-1990 rate— equivalent to a 70 percent reduction in felony sex recidivism.

Violent and sexual felony recidivism by sex offenders in Washington has decreased since passage of the 1997 statute. The causal link to notification laws is not proven by this research. Other conditions may be contributing to this reduction, such as the national and state drop in crime rates and the state’s increased incarceration (incapacitation) of sex offenders.

However, the drop in recidivism rates by sex offenders is clear, and the influence of community notification laws cannot be ruled out.

The 2004 Legislature directed the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (Institute) to evaluate the effectiveness of sex offender sentencing policies in Washington State.1

A previous report covered recidivism rates of sex offenders in Washington State.2 This report examines the influence of sex offender registration and community notification statutes on recidivism.

The 1990 Community Protection Act and subsequent amendments to the law require sex offenders to register with the sheriff in their county of residence.3 The Act authorizes law enforcement to release information to the public regarding dangerous sex offenders (“community notification”).4

Decision-making by government officials related to community notification has evolved over time. In the early 1990s, a multi-disciplinary committee in the Department of Corrections (DOC), the End of Sentence Review Committee (ESRC), issued three types of notifications to law enforcement: Special Bulletins (highest risk), Law Enforcement Alerts, and Teletype.5

In 1997, the notification law was significantly modified to establish a more consistent statewide approach; the ESRC was directed to set the offender’s risk level (I, II, or III).6 Local law enforcement is allowed to modify the level of sex offenders living in their jurisdictions. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs created model policy for release of information.7 This study examines recidivism rates of sex offenders during three periods: before passage of the 1990 Community Protection Act, after 1990 but before passage of the 1997 legislation, and after the 1997 amendments.

Measuring recidivism requires a five-year period of time in the community (and one additional year for processing in the courts). As a result, only offenders released from prison before October 1999 are included in the analyses.8 We measure three types of recidivism: a conviction in Washington State for (1) any new felony offense, (2) any new violent felony offense, and (3) any new felony sex offense.9 This follows legislative definition of recidivism.10

For the remainder of this study: by Washington State Institute for Public Policy

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