Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Startling new statistics on sex offender recidivism

I just ran across an article in the Albany Times Union, Did the government fail to protect victim from predator? The article described the case of Keith Dare, who was recently convicted of a repeat sex offense. The article shared some statistics which were related by Peter Cutler, a spokesman for the state prison system:

Cutler said statistics suggest Dare's case is an anomaly. Of the 663 inmates who were released in 2006 after serving prison time for sex offenses, only 49 -- or 7.3 percent -- returned to prison over the next three years, Cutler said. And of those 49, he said, only three returned for sexual offenses.

I discovered that the Department of Corrections report on 2006 releases was available online.

Mr. Cutler's figures were a little off. The recidivism rate is actually lower.

A total of 990 sex offenders (not 663 as indicated by Mr. Cutler) were released from state prisons in 2006. Mr. Cutler was correct in stating that 49 of these were returned to prison within 3 years for a new crime, making a recidivism rate for any new crime of 4.9% (not 7.3% as the article indicates).

The article was correct that only 3 of these were returned for new sex offenses. This indicates a recidivism rate of 0.3% for sex offenders released in 2006 in terms of committing new sex crimes.

You can check these figures for yourself by looking at the charts on pages 10, 45, & 46.

This is notable in that the NY legislature keeps passing new sex offender legislation which includes such language as "The rate of recidivism among sex offenders is very high."

P.S. There is a chart on page 11 of the report that indicates that sex offenders have a "return rate" of 37.1%. It is important to note that this includes those who have been returned to prison for parole violations, not just those who were convicted of new crimes. This overall return rate is somewhat less than that for all prison releases. When anyone (politicians or otherwise) quotes recidivism rates, it is important to pay attention to the details.