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Adam Walsh Act: An Examination of Sex Offender Risk Classification Systems

NCJ Number
249087
Date Published
Author(s)
Kristen M. Zgoba, Michael Miner, Jill Levenson, Raymond Knight, Elizabeth Letourneau, David Thornton
Annotation
This study compared the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) classification tiers with actuarial risk assessment instruments and existing State classification schemes in their respective abilities to identify sex offenders at high risk to re-offend.
Abstract
Data from 1,789 adult sex offenders released from prison in four States were collected (Minnesota, New Jersey, Florida, and South Carolina). On average, the sexual recidivism rate was approximately 5 percent at 5 years and 10 percent at 10 years. AWA Tier 2 offenders had higher Static-99R scores and higher recidivism rates than Tier 3 offenders; and in Florida, these inverse correlations were statistically significant. Actuarial measures and existing State tier systems, in contrast, did a better job of identifying high-risk offenders and recidivists. The study also examined the distribution of risk assessment scores within and across tier categories, finding that a majority of sex offenders fall into AWA Tier 3, but more than half scored low or moderately low on the Static-99R. The results indicate that the AWA sex offender classification scheme is a poor indicator of relative risk and is likely to result in a system that is less effective in protecting the public than those currently implemented in the states studied. (Publisher abstract modified)
Date Created: July 14, 2016