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: Sex Offender Recidivism Analysis

A State-by-State Comparison of Recidivism Rates Between Sex Offenders and All Felony Offenders (1983-2010)

© 2010 Sam Caldwell. All Rights Reserved.

At a Glance

  • Recidivism among all felony offenders:
    • No. available data sources: 43
    • No. possible data sources: 1,400
    • Percent data sources found: 3.07%
    • Avg. Recidivism (1983-2010) (all felony offenders):41.56%
  • Recidivism among sex offenders
    • Number of available data sources: 47
    • Number of possible data sources: 1,400
    • Percentage of possible data sources found:3.36%
    • Avg Recidivism (1983-2010) (sex offenders, new sex offense): 8.47%


The following is a collection of recidivism studies comparing the failure rate of all felony offenders to the failure rate of sex offenders who have committed a new sex crime. All of the studies presented on this page are carefully selected state-sponsored studies, authorized by either the federal Government (US Department of Justice) or the several state legislatures and their respective state agencies. Every effort has been made to eliminate purely academic or politically motivated research.

The findings in this analysis stand in contrast to conventional wisdom perpetuated during the 1990s. It is a false assumption that sex offender recidivism rates are higher than non-sex offenders. It is also a myth that the majority of sex crimes are committed by convicted or registered sex offenders. Further it is a myth that the many hours of legislative testimony on this subject is backed by research, as the majority of all research on this subject shows that (a) sex offender and overall recidivism varies from state to state as a result of policies enacted in a given state, and (b) sex offender recidivism is surprisingly lower than previously reported by political figures or the media. In fact, as this analysis concludes, the average recidivism rate reported by the studies collected herein is approximately 9%, compared to an average 42% recidivism for all felony offenders (See summary table, side bar).

Please note, all sources for this analysis are available for download click here. Work is being done to provide individual sources citations in the data tables in the future.

General 3-year Recidivism

The following data-set is the base-line against which we measure the recidivism rates of sex offenders. Over the past twenty years, the justification for creating unprecedented retroactive sex offender legislation has been the claim that recidivism rates for sex offenders is higher than any other criminal offense. Thus, if this claim is correct, we should see a lower recidivism rate for all felony offenses (any offense) when compared to the recidivism rates of sex offenders (new sex offense). To best view the two pools of recidivism data, a uniform table format (below) is established, allowing for a side-by side comparison of overall (all felony offense) recidivism data to sex offender (new offense) recidivism by state or by reporting period.

General Recidivism Data (1983-2010) for 50 U.S. States and Federal System

3-year Sex Offender Recidivism

The following table is a collection of recidivism statistics from 1983 to 2010, spanning all fifty (50) states and the federal system. This recidivism data when compared to the above recidivism statistics for all felony offenses demonstrates that many lawmakers (a) did not research claims of high recidivism prior to passing millions of dollars in retroactive legislation, and (b) the media never exercised due diligence to investigate claims of high recidivism.

The collection of recidivism data presented here ignores many of the controversial academic studies that have been branded as "liberal" by advocates of sex offender legislation. The only studies included in this project are those studies specifically authorized by state legislatures, state departments of corrections, the US Department of Justice or other official source. The sex offender recidivism rates presented here identify the rate at which persons with a prior sex offense are convicted of a new sex crime. Where there is no re-conviction study available, re-arrest studies are considered.

It is important to note that some of these studies may consider the charge "failure to register as a sex offender" or similar offense as a "new sex offense," though this is increasingly seen as a flawed approach to measuring sex offender recidivism. For example, the sex offender recidivism statistics for the state of Connecticut have historically considered a sex offender's failure to register with law enforcement under the state's registration laws to be a 'new sex offense.' Recently this issue has been identified and it appears that future studies will discontinue this practice.

Sex Offender Recidivism Data (1983-2010) for 50 U.S. States and Federal System

See information: General Recidivism Data.
See information: Sex Offender Recidivism Data.
© 2010  Sam Caldwell. All Rights Reserved.