Tough Sex Offender Registration Laws Might Put Victims At Risk
There are few categories of crimes that elicit the level of public outrage and condemnation prompted by sex offenses. The public disclosure of the identity and residence of sex offenders on the Minnesota Predatory Offender Registry is presumed to protect victims. While sex crimes are serious offenses, the most common rationale offered for imposing registration requirements on those convicted of sex crimes is the notion that offenders are particularly prone to high recidivism rates. However, recent research not only calls this assumption into question but also suggests that registration might interfere with the reintegration of sex offenders into society and the protection of potential victims.
Sex Offender Recidivism Rates
The U.S. Supreme Court has taken a central role in perpetuating what might constitute a myth about the high recidivism rates of people who commit sex crimes. In McKune v. Lile, Justice Kennedy’s opinion asserted that the likelihood of a repeat sex offense by an untreated offender has been estimated to be as high as 80 percent. However, the only authority cited to support this statistic in the McKune decision was the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, A Practitioner’s Guide to Treating the Incarcerated Male Sex Offender, which was published in 1988. However, the sole source relied on by the U.S. DOJ publication was an article published in Psychology Today, which offered absolutely no supporting reference for this assertion. Despite the lack of data or references supporting the high recidivism rate assumption, this citation by Justice Kennedy has been repeatedly used by lawmakers and judges to support the notion that the tendency to commit future offenses is qualitatively different when the offense is a sex crime.
Evidence To the Contrary
However, a recent report from researchers suggests that this assumption is a myth. The Canadian Department of Public Safety has sponsored a number of studies regarding the propensity of sex offenders to re-offend, including longitudinal studies that followed subjects over many years. One of these studies found that the recidivism rate among those who commit sex crimes was only slightly over one in ten over a five year period, which is substantially lower than the national recidivism rate for individuals convicted across all categories of crimes.
Studies conducted in the United States not only confirm these results but also indicate that the propensity to commit repeat offenses is even lower for those convicted of sex crimes. A study conducted by the Indiana Department of Corrections found that only 2 of 71 juvenile sex offenders committed a repeat offense during the next three years, which amount to only a 2.7 percent recidivism rate. Similar data for adult sex offenders during the same period was an even more modest 1.05 percent during the three years after release for a prior sex crime.
What is the True Value of Sex Offender Registration?
Sex offender registration and banishment zones might do more harm than good by denying access to communities where offenders have support networks which impedes their rehabilitation. The process of transitioning back into society is difficult because individuals released from prison have limited financial resources and a criminal record. Public branding as a sex offender and residential restrictions intensify barriers to establishing stable homes, family relationships, and jobs. Further, the stigma and threats of vigilantism associated with registration can force an offender underground and away from the watchful eye of parole officers and police.
If you have been arrested for a sex crime or you are concerned you might be required to register as a sex offender, we invite you to speak to a Minnesota Sex Crimes Lawyer at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible. Contact us today at (612) 440-3212 to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.