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Long-Term Comparison of Force and Rates of Recidivism Between Child Molesters and Rapists: A Methodological Analysis

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1998
48 pages
The studies reported in this paper address the high variability in sex offender recidivism rates by examining several of the critical methodological differences associated with this variability.
Data on 265 rapists and child molesters who were discharged over a 24-year period were used to examine changes in recidivism. The first study analyzed changes in the rate of recidivism as a function of criminal offense category. For rapists, there was a relatively close correspondence between percent of noncensored observations for all criminal charges, with sexual charges being the lowest (26 percent) and nonsexual, victim-involved, and victimless charges being about 8.5 percent higher. Child molesters were more likely to reoffend sexually, a finding that was most evident when conviction or reincarceration were considered. Although charge rates for sexual and nonsexual victimless offenses were almost the same, conviction rates for those categories were 25 percent and 12 percent, respectively. The reincarceration rate for nonsexual offenses was 5 percent, compared to 23 percent for sexual offenses. The overall rate of recidivism and changes in recidivism rates across dispositional categories were quite similar for rapists and child molesters. With rapists, the overall rate of recidivism dropped by almost 30 percent, from 57 percent for charges to 31 percent for incarceration. With child molesters, the overall rate of recidivism dropped by about 25 percent, from 54 percent for charges to 30 percent for incarceration. The second study looked at recidivism rates for new charges. Among rapists, there was a stable 2-3 percent recidivism rate for new sexual charges per year through the 5th year. The rate dropped by about 1 percent per year every year thereafter through the 24th year. The rate of recidivism using conviction or incarceration was half that of the rate using charge during the first 5 years. Among child molesters, there was a steady increase in new offenses throughout the follow-up period. The gap between the charge rate and the conviction rate increased steadily, from 6 percent in year 1 to 14 percent by year 5, 17 percent by year 10, and 18 percent throughout the remainder of the study. The gap between conviction and incarceration rates steadily increased, from 2 percent in year 1 to 5 percent at year 5 and 12 percent by the end of the study. 19 references, 5 tables, and 12 figures

Date Published: January 1, 1998