Sex Offenders: Not As Significant a Threat to Reoffend As Often Thought?

You don't have to look any further than the names: Megan's Law, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, the Amber Hagerman Child Protection Act, to understand the concern raised by the issues involved with the release of sex offenders.

Few crimes carry longer lasting punishment than a Maryland sex offense. A lawyer can tell you the nearly indelible "Scarlet Letter" such an offense leaves on ones record.

These cases and the laws that stem from them, receive massive amounts of coverage in the day of our 24-hour news cycle, where cable news outlets need to fill 168 hours every week with something. These stories are popular because they attract lots attention, sympathy and outrage. The recent frenzy surrounding Penn State coach, Jerry Sandusky, has kept child molestation and other sex offenses at the top of headlines for weeks.

Nevertheless, there is new evidence to suggest that much of society's outrage is misplaced. Recent Department of Justice statistics suggest the perceived threat is worse than reality and that released sex offenders are not as great a threat to society as once thought.

Sex Offenders Least Likely to Reoffend

Contrary to popular belief, the treatment provided to sex offenders while in prison is often very effective. A DOJ study of recidivism of prisoners released in 1994 found sex offenders the least likely to reoffend. Only two and a half percent of individuals convicted of rape were found to have reoffended. By contrast, individuals charged with drug crimes reoffended at a rate of 41 percent. Larcenists reoffended at a rate of almost 34 percent and burglars at just over 23 percent.

Independent studies on treatment found that in-prison treatment helped reduce recidivism rates by 15 percent. That number doubled to nearly 30 percent when it was paired with after prison treatment. Unfortunately, that post-release intervention doesn't often happen. Instead, released sex offenders are often pushed to the margins of society.

Sex Offenders Seldom "Free" After Release

Sex offenders are seldom "free" after serving their time and being released. Society continues to view them with a nagging suspicion, doling out more punishment in the form of sex offender registries, housing restrictions and virtual/actual bans on employment.

Yet the evidence suggests that sex offenders have the lowest likelihood to reoffend. Sex offender registration requirements make it difficult for released sex offenders to find homes and jobs, effectively increasing the chances that these members of society will be pushed into another form of crime.

Perhaps if some of the resources used to incarcerate offenders could be shifted to programs designed to help reintegrate them in society, with genuine follow-on support and supervision, the states could save money and offenders would have a real chance at a new life.

If you have been charged with a sex crime, it is important you get legal representation right away. An accomplished attorney with extensive experience defending accused sex offenders and fighting the associated sex offender registration requirements can review your options with you and can help to ensure your rights are protected.