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Recidivism of Adult Sexual Offenders

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2015
6 pages
This review of the scientific literature on the recidivism of adult sex offenders presents findings about recidivism generally and sexual recidivism specifically, because many sex offenders engage in both sexual and non-sexual crimes; and it also addresses the recidivism rates by type of sex offender (child molesters, rapists. exhibitionists, and female sex offenders).
Research indicates that sex offenders, regardless of their type of sex offense, have higher rates of general recidivism than sexual recidivism. The magnitude of the difference suggests that sex offenders are far more likely to reoffend for a non-sexual crime than a sexual crime, so policies designed to increase public safety should also be concerned with the likelihood of sex offenders reoffending with crimes other than sexual offenses. Research that has compared the recidivism rates of sex offenders with those of non-sex offenders has consistently found that sex offenders have lower overall recidivism rates than non-sex offenders; however, child molesters, rapists, and sex offenders overall are far more likely than non-sex offenders to reoffend with a sexual crime. The sexual recidivism rates of sex offenders range from about 3 percent after 3 years to approximately 24 percent after 15 years. The highest recidivism rates have been found among child molesters who offend against boys. Comparatively lower recidivism rates have been found for rapists, child molesters who victimize girls, and incest offenders. Female sex offenders have lower rates of recidivism than male sex offenders. Policy implications are drawn for each of the main research findings. 11 notes and 15 references

Date Published: July 1, 2015