New statistics show a low recidivism rate for some registered sex offenders in the state of Pennsylvania, a newspaper reports.
“It’s really clear that all of the evidence and all of the data show that most sex offenses are committed by first-time offenders,” said Emily Horowitz, professor of sociology and criminal justice at Saint Francis University, quoted in the article.
Court records for Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, revealed 75 cases were charged as sex crimes in 2016, and out of those 75, only two were committed by persons registered as sex offenders, according to The Sentinel story published on the cumberlink.com website.
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Additional court records show 300 sex offenses charged in Cumberland County between 2013 and 2016, but only six involved registered sex offenders.
“For whatever reason, people who are on the registry have a very low recidivism rate, and if one is really concerned about decreasing sex offenses, they kind of have to look elsewhere instead of people who have already been convicted of sex offenses,” Horowitz added.
The low number of defendants on the sex offender registry may also be an indicator the policies are working, said David Freed, Cumberland County district attorney.
“You can look at that and say people on the registry aren’t committing sex crimes,” Freed said.
“Would they be more likely to do so if we didn’t have a registry?” he asked. “I can’t answer that…Is it effective? That’s the question for all these punishments.”
FBI data showed the rate of rape in Pennsylvania remained low at 25.8 per 100,000 people to 24.4 per 100,000 people, between 1990 and 2015.
During that time, Pennsylvania enacted its first Megan’s Law requiring sexual offenders to register with Pennsylvania State Police’s online database registry for public disclosure.
“When we tell ourselves that these registries are going to be effective, or that they are going to protect children, or they are going to protect the community,” said Carissa Hessick, University of North Carolina School of Law professor. “I think we need to dig behind that and figure out what that means.”
Hessick said recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics showed just five percent of repeat sex offenders released from prison go on to commit new crimes within five years. Evidence is building for the argument that sex offenders have low recidivism rates, Hessick added.
“The public discussion surrounding sex offenders doesn’t seem to match up very well with the social science evidence we have about sex offenders and recidivism,” Hessick told The Sentinel. “It’s not surprising the policies we’ve adopted aren’t achieving their goals since they don’t seem to have been based on complete or accurate information.”