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Sex Offenders: Recidivism & Collateral Consequences

March 2012 New Jersey:


This report examines the efficacy of sex offender registration and notification (SORN) through its influence on sex offender recidivism and collateral consequences. The first study examines the recidivism rates of two samples of sex offenders, those released prior to SORN and a sample released under SORN in New Jersey. It asks whether or not there are distinct risk profiles among sex offenders with regard to their recidivism trajectories, and if these profiles are similar or different for sex offenders pre- and post- SORN. Additional analyses also include an examination of the influence of demographics, substance abuse, mental health issues, treatment history, sex offense incident characteristics, and criminal history on recidivism trajectories. The second study looks at whether the recidivism trajectories post-prison release for post-SORN sex offenders are similar to or different from the recidivism trajectories post-prison release for post-SORN non-sex offenders who are released from prison via parole. It also specifically focuses on whether or not a series of collateral consequences are experienced similarly or differently among these post-SORN sex and post-SORN non-sex offender parolees.

Recidivism data for both studies in this report were obtained through the New Jersey State Police Computerized Criminal History System and the National Crime Information Center’s Interstate Identification Unit. The first study utilizes two samples of sex offenders, and each was provided by the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC). The pre-SORN group included a random sample of 250 male sex offenders released from prison by the NJDOC during the years 1990-1994, while the post-implementation group utilized the same sampling procedure and size and matched according to relevant demographics (age, race, and criminal history), with the exception that they were released during the years 1995-1999. For the second study, random samples of 247 post-SORN sex offenders and 250 post-SORN non-sex offenders released from prison in New Jersey via parole during 1995-1999 were drawn from the New Jersey Department of Corrections’ databases. The samples in both studies were followed for approximately eight years post-release for assessing recidivism. For both studies, official records of re-arrest for new offenses were employed as the measure of recidivism. Semi-parametric trajectory modeling was also used in both studies to estimate the recidivism trajectories of the pre- and post-SORN releasees, and the recidivism trajectories of the post-SORN sex offender and the non-sex offender releasees.

The first study finds that there are limited observable benefits of SORN regarding sex offender recidivism and general recidivism. With an overall low rate of sex offense recidivism, SORN status (e.g. whether an offender is or is not subject to SORN) failed to predict whether sex offenders would reoffend sexually. The results are consistent with previous research which has argued that sex offenders have relatively low rates of recidivism, typically significantly lower than non-sex offenders. SORN status was also not a significant predictor of which sex offenders would reoffend in general, including non-sexual recidivism. Although sex offenders and non-sex offenders share the experience of collateral consequences, results from the second study reveal that several collateral consequences including not living with friends, living in group facilities, and residential relocation appear to differentially impact sex offenders.

Policy makers and treatment providers should focus their efforts on those sex offenders identified as belonging to the high-risk trajectory with a particular interest in targeting the risk factors related to a high-risk trajectory. A targeted rather than universal application of SORN seems a viable alternative. Ultimately, the two studies in this report suggest that SORN is not likely to be an effective deterrent for sex offender recidivism and may produce an environment with specific collateral consequences that inhibit reintegration efforts post-prison release for sex offenders. ..Source.. by Richard Tewksbury, Ph.D. University of Louisville and Wesley G. Jennings, Ph.D. University of South Florida and Kristen Zgoba, Ph.D. New Jersey Department of Corrections

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