Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Redemption Threshold

Forensic psychologist Karen Franklin reports today that the authors of the STATIC-99, the most popular instrument for estimating the recidivism risk of sex offenders, have concluded that recidivism rates decline rapidly as a former offender remains in the community.

While incredibly long terms of supervised release are common for federal sex offenders, the new evidence suggests that this practice is misguided.  In a study tracking 7,740 former sex offenders, the researchers concluded that even the highest-risk offenders saw their recidivism rates drop precipitously the longer that they were in the community.  High-risk offenders who had a 22% recidivism rate at release had only an 8.6% rate five years later, and a 4.2% rate ten years later.  

Two conclusions emerge from the research.  First, as the study authors note, " If high risk sexual offenders do not reoffend when given the opportunity to do so, then there is clear evidence that they are not as high risk as initially perceived."  Second, this research indicts the necessity of long-term, intensive supervision for many offenders.  Does directing a massive amount of resources at a person who is succeeding in the community, and who is 91.4% likely to not recidivate, make any sense?

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