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Failure to Register as a Predictor of Sex Offense Recidivism: The Big Bad Wolf or a Red Herring?

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This quasi-experimental study analyzed the recidivism outcomes of 1,125 sexual offenders in two groups. The first group comprised 644 registered sex offenders who were convicted of a sex crime and at some point failed to register after release from prison. The comparison group contained 481 registered sex offenders released from prison during a similar time frame who did not fail to register after their release. The groups were then tracked for both sexual and nonsexual offenses to determine whether failure to register under Megan's Law is predictive of reoffending. Failure to register was not a significant predictor of sexual recidivism, casting doubt on the belief that sex offenders who are noncompliant with registration are especially sexually dangerous. Few differences between groups were detected, but FTR offenders were more likely to have sexually assaulted a stranger and to have adult female victims, further challenging the stereotype of the child predator who absconds to evade detection. Potential policy implications are discussed.
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Sexual Abuse: A Journal
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DOI: 10.1177/1079063211421019
2012 24: 328 originally published online 2 December 2011Sex Abuse
Kristen M. Zgoba and Jill Levenson
Wolf or a Red Herring?
Failure to Register as a Predictor of Sex Offense Recidivism : The Big Bad
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DOI: 10.1177/1079063211421019
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421019SAX24410.1177/10790632114
21019Zgoba and LevensonSexual Abuse
1
New Jersey Department of Corrections, Trenton, NJ, USA
2
Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL, USA
Corresponding Author:
Kristen M. Zgoba, Supervisor of Research & Evaluation, New Jersey Department of Corrections,
Trenton, NJ 08625, USA
Email: kristen.zgoba@doc.state.nj.us
Failure to Register as a
Predictor of Sex Offense
Recidivism: The Big Bad
Wolf or a Red Herring?
Kristen M. Zgoba
1
and Jill Levenson
2
Abstract
This quasi-experimental study analyzed the recidivism outcomes of 1,125 sexual offenders
in two groups. The first group comprised 644 registered sex offenders who were
convicted of a sex crime and at some point failed to register after release from prison.
The comparison group contained 481 registered sex offenders released from prison
during a similar time frame who did not fail to register after their release. The groups
were then tracked for both sexual and nonsexual offenses to determine whether
failure to register under Megan’s Law is predictive of reoffending. Failure to register
was not a significant predictor of sexual recidivism, casting doubt on the belief that sex
offenders who are noncompliant with registration are especially sexually dangerous.
Few differences between groups were detected, but FTR offenders were more
likely to have sexually assaulted a stranger and to have adult female victims, further
challenging the stereotype of the child predator who absconds to evade detection.
Potential policy implications are discussed.
Keywords
sex offender, Megan’s Law, registration, failure to register, recidivism, sex abuse
Sex offenses are among the most serious and frightening crimes committed in the United
States. Since the early 1990s, increasingly strict legislation has been enacted to track,
monitor, apprehend, and punish sexual criminals. The Jacob Wetterling Act, passed by
Article
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Zgoba and Levenson 329
the U.S. Congress in 1994, established requirements that sex offenders must register
addresses and personal information with law enforcement agencies. In 1996, Megan’s
Law allowed for the public disclosure of registry information, and subsequent amend-
ments to the Wetterling Act required states to post information about convicted sex
offenders on Internet websites. In 2006, the Adam Walsh Act enhanced sex offender
registration and notification (SORN) requirements by lengthening the duration of sex
offender registration and increasing penalties for sex offenders who fail to register. Fail-
ure to register has been upgraded to a felony offense with a penalty of 1 to 10 years in
prison (Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, 2006).
It is estimated that there are more than 700,000 convicted sex offenders required to
register in the United States (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,
2010). In accordance with the Adam Walsh Act, some sex offenders are required to
confirm their addresses and other identifying information (e.g., employer, vehicle
description, photo) with law enforcement agents four times per year, and others do so
once or twice per year, depending on the crime of conviction. Sex offenders who fail to
register are believed to be especially dangerous because they are presumably attempt-
ing to avoid scrutiny. The former director of the U.S. Sex Offender Sentencing,
Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) Office warned in a
USA Today story: “The people you need to be worried about most are the ones who
aren’t registering at all” (Koch, 2007, p. 1). Empirical data published to date, however,
do not support that supposition (Duwe & Donnay, 2010; Levenson, Letourneau,
Armstrong, & Zgoba, 2010). The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship
between failure to register and sexual recidivism and to investigate the hypothesis that
those who are noncompliant with registration are more sexually dangerous than prop-
erly registered offenders.
Background
Sex Offense Recidivism
Recidivistic sexual violence committed by known sex offenders is a legitimate cause
for public concern and represents the rationale for registration and notification policies.
Most incarcerated sex offenders will eventually be released from prison and some of
them will reoffend. The U.S. Department of Justice reported the sexual recidivism rate,
measured by arrests for a new sex crime, to be 5.3% over a 3-year period (Bureau
of Justice Statistics, 2003). The largest recidivism studies, conducted by Canadian
researchers and involving more than 20,000 sex offenders from North America and
England, found an average rearrest rate of about 14% over 4 to 6 years (Hanson &
Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005). Over 15 years, 24% of known sex
offenders were rearrested for a new sex crime (Harris & Hanson, 2004). Recidivism
patterns vary, however, according to risk factors such as criminal history, victim pref-
erences, and offender age. For instance, subgroups of pedophiles who molest boys
sexually reoffend most frequently (35% over 15 years; Harris & Hanson, 2004).
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330 Sexual Abuse 24(4)
Sex offenders are more likely to be rearrested for nonsex crimes than new sex
offenses (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003; Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Sample & Bray,
2003, 2006; Veysey, Zgoba, & Dalessandro, 2008). Though sex offenders are propor-
tionately more likely than other criminals to commit new sex crimes, the vast majority
of new sexual assaults are not committed by registered sex offenders (Bureau of Justice
Statistics, 2003). For instance, in New York State, 95% of registered sex offenders were
first time offenders (Sandler, Freeman, & Socia, 2008). There is no question that some
sex offenders are dangerous and pose a continued threat to public safety. However, cur-
rent legislation is broadly applied to all individuals with a felony sex offense conviction
(Levenson & D’Amora, 2007; Zgoba, 2004), regardless of their risk for future sexual
violence and despite much research suggesting that a majority will not go on to be
arrested for sexually assaulting new victims (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003; Hanson
& Bussiere, 1998; Sample & Bray, 2003, 2006; Veysey et al., 2008; Zgoba, Veysey, &
Dalessandro, 2010).
Failure to Register
SORN laws clearly imply, through their emphasis on severe penalties for noncompli-
ance, that sex offenders who fail to register (FTR) pose an increased risk to the com-
munity. In fact, the research literature does indicate that antisocial orientation and
general self-regulation problems were strong predictors of sexual and nonsexual
recidivism (Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005). FTR could be a reflection of an anti-
social rule-violating orientation, or it may be that FTR is a different type of failure—
one prompted more by the registration process itself and the reintegration obstacles
it poses (Levenson & Cotter, 2005; Levenson, D’Amora, & Hern, 2007; Mercado,
Alvarez, & Levenson, 2008; Tewksbury, 2005).
Only three known studies have specifically explored the relationship between FTR
and sexual recidivism. Researchers at the Washington State Institute of Public Policy
tracked more than 12,000 sex offenders required to register between 1990 and 1999.
The number of individuals convicted for failing to register steadily increased each
year from 5% in 1990 to 18% in 1999. Sex offenders with FTR convictions were
more likely to have higher subsequent recidivism rates (Washington State Institute
for Public Policy, 2006). The vast majority of new convictions, however, were for
general or violent felonies (38.5% and 15.8%, respectively). Sex offense recidivism
for the FTR group was 4.3% compared with a 2.8% sexual recidivism rate for those
who had complied with registration requirements (statistical significance was not
reported). Although the rates of sexual recidivism were slightly higher for those who
failed to register, the proportion of offenders who sexually reoffended was rather
low in both groups.
Duwe and Donnay (2010) reported that FTR has become the most common recid-
ivism offense for sex offenders released from Minnesota prisons. They examined
recidivism outcomes of 1,561 released sex offenders who were required to register
as predatory offenders in Minnesota. About 11% had been convicted of failing to
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Zgoba and Levenson 331
register. FTR was not predictive of either sexual or general recidivism, but a FTR
conviction significantly increased the risk of another FTR offense. The authors con-
cluded that registration noncompliance did not appear to elevate the risk of sexual
reoffending (Duwe & Donnay, 2010).
A study conducted in South Carolina involving 2,970 registered sex offenders did
not support the hypothesis that sexual offenders who fail to register are more sexually
dangerous than those who cooperate with registration requirements (Levenson et al.,
2010). Specifically, 10% of the sample of sex offenders had registry-violation convic-
tions across an average follow-up period of about 6 years. There were no statistically
significant differences in sexual-recidivism rates between those who failed to register
(11%) and compliant registrants (9%), and FTR did not predict sexual recidivism. Sex
offenders with minor victims did have a higher sexual recidivism rate than offenders
with adult victims, but age of the victim was unrelated to FTR. The authors concluded
that FTR and sexual offending tap separate constructs, with FTR related to rule-break-
ing behavior and sexual offending driven by sexual deviance. Though both antisocial
orientation and sexual deviance are pathways to sexual reoffending (Hanson & Bussiere,
1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005), failure to register did not predict sexual
recidivism in this study (Levenson et al., 2010).
Failure to register is not necessarily synonymous with absconding. It is estimated
that about 10% of probationers and parolees in the United States have absconded
(Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2007), and some researchers have found that sex offenders
are among those least likely to abscond (Williams, McShane, & Dolny, 2000). Prior
offense severity does not appear to predict absconding, and several authors have con-
curred that absconders are not necessarily a high-risk criminal group (Mayzer, Gray, &
Maxwell, 2004; Schwaner, McGaughey, & Tewksbury, 1998; Walberg, 2006; Williams
et al., 2000). A study of fugitive parolees indicated that most absconded within the 1st
year and that the two most prevalent reasons for absconding were drug relapse or a
technical rule violation (Schwaner et al., 1998). Some absconders were drug-involved
career criminals or impulsive, risk-taking individuals, but others were socially or psy-
chologically impaired or were first-time offenders who, unfamiliar with the restrictions
of parole, unwittingly violated their release conditions (Schwaner et al., 1998). Some
violators were motivated to flee due to a perceived inability to comply with an over-
whelming, complex, and rigid set of rules (Schwaner et al., 1998).
It is unlikely that all sex offenders arrested for FTR are willful violators and despite
the claims of the U.S. Marshall’s Service, most FTR offenders do not appear to have
absconded (Duwe & Donnay, 2010; Levenson et al., 2010). It has been reported that
there are 100,000 registered sex offenders whose whereabouts were unknown (U.S.
Marshals Service, 2007). Recent research, however, has not substantiated that claim;
analyses of data from state registries estimated that approximately 4% of the nation’s
700,000 sex offenders might be noncompliant and that less than 2% were formally
designated to have absconded (Levenson & Harris, 2011). Some “missing” sex offend-
ers may not be truly missing; they may appear to be missing due to inadequate or
incomplete address information, data-entry errors, lag times in updating registry
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332 Sexual Abuse 24(4)
information, unauthorized travel, or homelessness (Harris & Pattavina, 2009; Levenson
& Harris, 2011). Sex offenders can be arrested for noncompliance at any time; some
might fail to register their address immediately on release, but others might neglect to
update registration information periodically as required. Some might be confused by
complex registration laws, carelessly neglecting to fulfill registration requirements but
continuing to report to parole or probation agents and remaining in their known loca-
tions despite their lapsed registration.
However, it would not be surprising if some sex offenders were motivated to avoid
the stigma and collateral consequences of sex offender registration. It is well docu-
mented that many registered sex offenders experience unemployment, housing
disruption, harassment, and social alienation as a result of SORN laws (Levenson
& Cotter, 2005; Levenson et al., 2007; Mercado et al., 2008; Tewksbury, 2005;
Tewksbury & Lees, 2006; Zevitz & Farkas, 2000). Furthermore, residential restric-
tions apply to registered sex offenders in many locations, severely limiting their
housing options (Barnes, Dukes, Tewksbury, & DeTroye, 2009; Chajewski & Mercado,
2009; Zandbergen & Hart, 2006; Zgoba, Levenson, & McKee, 2009). Diminished
housing availability increases the potential for homelessness and transience and
might, in some cases, lead an offender to resist registering an address that does not
conform to local residence laws.
The purpose of this study was primarily exploratory. Because little is known about
registration violators, the first goal of the study was to describe the characteristics of a
sample of sex offenders arrested for failure to register in New Jersey and to compare the
characteristics of FTR and non-FTR groups. Next, we evaluated the role of registration
noncompliance in contributing to general and sexual recidivism risk. Finally, we sought
to identify factors associated with failure to register. This study is expected to add to the
limited empirical literature informing our knowledge about failure to register. Because
stringent registration requirements and severe penalties for noncompliance currently
exist, it is important to ascertain the specific role that registration noncompliance may
play when assessing risk for future sexual victimization.
Method
Sample
This project was developed using a quasi-experimental design consisting of 1,125
sexual offenders released from New Jersey state prison facilities between the years
1980 and 2008. The vast majority of sex offenders were released after 1990. The sex
offenders comprised two groups. The FTR group included 644 offenders who commit-
ted a sex crime and failed to register after release from prison. This was a purposive
sample, and it included the entire population of sex offenders who were released during
the years 1980 to 2008 and failed to register under the provisions of Megan’s Law or
the Sex Offender Act at some point during their tenure in the community (but prior to
reoffending).
1
Because the sex offenders who did not register were less prevalent,
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Zgoba and Levenson 333
meaning that there were so few across the time frame, the full population of 644 was
included. The second sample contained 481 randomly selected convicted sex offenders
released from 1990 through 2000 who did not fail to register after their release. This
sample originally consisted of 500 randomly selected sex offenders but was reduced
down to 481 due to operational issues (e.g., cases were removed due to issues including
deportation or because they died). This sample came from the New Jersey Department
of Correction’s Office of Information Technology. They queried the administrative,
computerized records for the particular time frame and ran an algorithm to capture 500
sex offenders released during the respective years, with no failure to register charge.
Records were fully examined to ensure that there was no overlap between the two
samples. The non-FTR sample of 481 is approximately 10% of the full population of
sex offender releases for the years 1990 through 2000 (there were approximately 4,900
released). All sex offenders were released from one of the 12 male prison facilities in
New Jersey. The offenders were then tracked on reoffending behavior, for both sexual
and nonsexual offenses, to determine whether failure to register under Megan’s Law is
predictive of further reoffending.
The recidivism data were drawn from rap sheets from the New Jersey State Police
Computerized Criminal History System and the National Crime Information Center’s
Interstate Identification Unit maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Through these two sources, reoffense information was obtained for New Jersey, as
well as all other U.S. jurisdictions (local, county, and national level) over the desig-
nated follow-up period. Therefore, criminal records did not only include offenses that
took place in New Jersey but also include all U.S. territories, Canada, Mexico, and
Interpol (agencies outside the United States contribute varying measures dependent
on the particular agency, some provide arrests, whereas others provide charges or
convictions). In one final effort to ensure comprehensiveness, offense histories were also
abstracted from New Jersey Department of Correction’s Offender-Based Correctional
Information System (OBCIS) to ensure that parole violations and technical violations
were counted accurately.
The index offense for the FTR group was the sexual offense that preceded the fail-
ure to register and was attached to that charge, although the recidivism was coded after
the FTR. For the non-FTR group, the sample of 500 sex offenders (later reduced to
481) was released between 1990 and 2000. The index offense for that sample of par-
ticipants was the sexual offense attached to the release date provided by the NJDOC.
Priors were counted before the respective offense, and recidivism was counted after
the offense. Individual inmate case-record reviews were conducted, and 81 variables
were extracted on each sex offender in the sample. Researchers had access to complete
folders for the participants, which allowed for detailed information on each offender
in the sample and in many cases provided for a full review of victim characteristics
(see Table 1 for a subset of the variables captured). Earlier studies on sexual offense
recidivism guided the inclusion of the chosen variables. A number of the variables
included in the analysis are correlated with general recidivism; however, the majority
were chosen for their place in sex offense recidivism research previously established
(Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2004).
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334 Sexual Abuse 24(4)
As can be seen in the appendix, the examined variables included, but were not
limited to, demographics (e.g., date of birth, race, gender, marital status, alcohol/drug
abuse history, employment information, educational status), extensive criminal history
information (e.g., sentencing information, time served, charge information, prior crimi-
nal history, index offense information), victim/offense characteristics (e.g., victim/
offender relationship, gender of victim, age of victim), and recidivism details. The
number of rearrests, reconvictions, and reincarcerations was calculated by type of reof-
fense, both sexual and nonsexual. These numbers were left as raw numbers in the data-
base for statistical purposes. The determination of whether a reoffense was considered
sexual or nonsexual was based on the New Jersey criminal code, in conjunction with
the description of the crime (when available). Furthermore, whether a crime was con-
sidered violent or nonviolent relied on the NJDOC Severity Index, which is modeled
after the federal crime distinctions. Violent crimes included personal crimes (homicide,
sexual assault, aggravated and simple assault, robbery, kidnapping, and any other per-
son to person crime), whereas nonviolent crimes included property crimes, drug crimes,
and public policy crimes. In addition, the date of the rearrest was recorded to analyze
the time elapsed between release and reoffense. This became an arduous process as
many sex offenders had unique trajectories of offending. For example, a sex offender
could have been released from prison, recidivated with a sexual or nonsexual offense,
returned to prison, re-released, and then failed to register. Others recidivated on release
without failure to register, and some did not recidivate at all. The researchers located
the index offense, and the information for each subsequent offense was entered in a
linear fashion. The reoffense was coded, the type of reoffense was recorded (as well as
the disposition), and the date of the reoffenses and a count of days since the release date
was calculated. This sequence occurred with each subsequent offense for each partici-
pant in the sample. The database was created to account for the numerous offending
patterns across the sample of offenders.
Data Analysis
Descriptive statistics were used to depict the characteristics of the sample. Group
comparisons were analyzed using t tests and χ
2
analyses. Multivariate logistic and
Cox regression analyses were used to determine whether FTR was predictive of
additional sexual and nonsexual recidivism and to identify factors predictive of FTR.
A discriminant function analysis was also conducted.
Results
Descriptive Statistics
Descriptive statistics are illustrated in Table 1. The mean age of the offenders at the
time they were released from prison for the index registry-eligible sex offense was 35
years of age (Mdn = 33 years). About half were Black (49%), 37% were White, and
13% were Hispanic. Most of the offenders had never been married (65%), 21% were
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Zgoba and Levenson 335
currently married, and 13% were divorced, widowed, or separated. The mean number
of prior sexual offenses was less than 1 (M = 0.34; Mdn = 0), and 80% of the sample
had no prior sexual offense arrests. The mean number of prior nonsexual arrests was
3.6 (Mdn = 2) although 32% of the sample had no prior record for any nonsexual
offense. Victim characteristics for index sexual offenses were available for about 60%
of the sample; data indicated that 82% of the offenders had a minor victim (younger
than 18), 82% had female victims only, and 15% had exclusively male victims. The
victim was related to the offender in 35% of cases and was a stranger in 20% of cases.
It is not uncommon for victim information to be missing in reviews of official U.S.
corrections records, but victim data are likely to be missing more often when the victim
is an adult (Levenson & Morin, 2006). A statistical review of the missing victim infor-
mation was conducted, and there was no bias present among the variables; most
importantly, there was no systematic bias between the FTR and the non-FTR groups
on missing victim characteristics.
Table 1. Description of the Total Sample Characteristics (N = 1,125)
N Valid Valid % M (SD) Mdn Mode
Offender race 1,125
Black 49.3
White 36.6
Hispanic 12.8
Gender 1,125
Male = 1,123 99.8
Age at release for index sex offense 946
34.9 (11.5)
33 24
Marital status 1,044
Single (never married) 64.5
Married 20.8
D/W/S 12.8
Prior sexual arrests 1,125 19.7
0.34 (0.95)
0 0
Prior nonsexual arrests 1,125 67.5
3.6 (5.25)
2 0
Sexual recidivism (rearrest) 1,125 15
0.18 (0.47)
0 0
Nonsexual recidivism (rearrest)
a
1,125 75
4.2 (4.59)
3 0
Offender related to the victim 673 35
Offender a stranger 682 20
Gender of victim 727
Male only 15
Female only 82
Both 3.4
Victim age 722
Minor only 81
Adult only 18
Both adult & minor victims 2
a. Includes technical violations; without technical violations, nonsex reoffense rate is 73%.
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336 Sexual Abuse 24(4)
The average follow-up period was 11.92 years (SD = 4.07 years). At follow-up, the
overall post index sexual recidivism rate was 15% and the overall nonsexual recidi-
vism rate was 75%. This is much higher than the overall nonsexual recidivism rate of
36.3% described by Hanson and Bussière (1998). The current study, however, includes
technical
2
violations, which were the most common nonsexual post-FTR recidivism
offenses (27%). Other nonsexual recidivism arrests were for drug offenses (25%),
property offenses (12%), violent offenses (8%), weapons (2%), and disorderly con-
duct (2%). Of the offenders in the FTR group, 114 (18%) had a sexual recidivism
charge (10% of the total sample). Of the non-FTR offenders, 55 (11%) had a sexual
recidivism charge.
Group Comparisons
Table 2 compares the characteristics of FTR and non-FTR offenders as well as their
relevant risk factors for sexual recidivism. FTR offenders were significantly younger
Table 2. Comparisons Between FTR and Non-FTR Offenders
Did offender
have a failure
to register
arrest? N
Valid
M (SD)
or % Significance t/χ
2
Offender’s age at release
for sex offense
No 481 39 (11.8) <.001 t = 13.312
Ye s 644 30 (8.91)
Minority race No 481 46% <.001 χ
2
= 92.120
Ye s 644 74%
Never married No 481 48% <.001 χ
2
= 46.995
Ye s 644 68%
Any stranger victims? No 473 16% .002 χ
2
= 9.748
Ye s 209 27%
Any male victims No 481 20% <.001 χ
2
= 58.951
Ye s 644 5%
Any minor victims No 469 84% .355 χ
2
= 0.993
Ye s 253 81%
No. of prior nonsexual
arrests
No 481 3.75 (6.01) .401 t = 0.840
Ye s 644 3.48 (4.59)
No. of prior sexual arrests No 481 0.46 (1.06) <.001 t = 3.739
Ye s 644 0.25 (0.83)
No. of sexual rearrests
No 481 0.14 (0.43) .012 t = 2.512
Ye s 643 0.21 (0.49)
No. of nonsexual rearrests No 481 1.77 (3.53) <.001 t = 17.652
Ye s 644 6.09 (4.41)
No. of technical violations
(NJ prisons)
No 477 0.17 (0.52) <.001 t = 8.598
Ye s 638 0.54 (0.82)
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Zgoba and Levenson 337
Table 3. Logistic Regression
Predictors β SE Wald Significance Exp(β)
No. of prior nonsexual arrests .003 .017 0.028 .868 1.003
No. of prior sexual arrests .157 .124 1.608 .205 0.854
Age at release .045 .012 14.989 <.001 0.956
Male victim .176 .271 0.422 .516 0.838
Minor victim .609 .284 4.606 .032 1.838
Stranger victim .621 .256 5.868 .015 1.861
Never married .081 .224 0.130 .719 1.084
Minority .767 .210 13.414 <.001 2.154
Technical violation (1 = yes) .877 .234 14.075 <.001 2.404
Note: DV = FTR (n = 650). Model χ2 = 99.697, p < .001; Nagelkerke R
2
= .20.
and were more likely to be a minority race and never married. FTR offenders were
more likely to have sexually assaulted a stranger and to have female victims only.
They were not significantly more likely to have minor victims in their prior crimes.
There were no significant differences between the groups in the number of prior non-
sexual arrests, but FTR offenders had a significantly lower mean number of prior sex
offenses. The FTR group did have a higher proportion and mean number of sexual and
nonsexual recidivism arrests, but the average number of sexual rearrests was less than
1 in both groups (FTR = .21, non-FTR = .14). FTR offenders had a higher number of
technical violations (M = .54 compared with .17, respectively). As with the number of
sexual rearrests, the average number was less than 1.
Because bivariate analyses cannot take into account the influence of other vari-
ables, multivariate analyses were conducted to further illuminate the relationship
between FTR and recidivism while controlling for relevant risk factors.
Logistic and Cox Regression
A multivariate logistic regression analysis was conducted using FTR as the dependent
variable and the independent variables included in the analyses were chosen because
of their empirical association with general and sexual recidivism risk (Hanson &
Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2004; Harris & Hanson, 2004). Table 3
illustrates the influence of covariates including the number of prior nonsex and sex
crime arrests, age at release, marital status (1 = never married), minority race (1 = yes),
post index technical violations, and the presence of any stranger victim (0 = no, 1 =
yes), minor victim (0 = no, 1 = yes), or male victim (0 = no, 1 = yes) in the index sex
offense on whether an offender had a FTR charge.
The Variance Inflation Factor (VIF) was calculated to assess for multicollinearity.
The VIF indicates whether variables have such strong relationships with each other
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338 Sexual Abuse 24(4)
that independent effects cannot be established. Serious multicollinearity problems
occur when VIFs are greater than 10 (Gujarati, 1995). All of the VIFs for the variables
in the model were below two, indicating limited multicollinearity and thus more accu-
rate regression coefficients. Missing data (most often victim characteristics) reduced
the sample size to 650 when using the variables included in the analysis. Power analy-
sis determined that the reduced sample size was sufficient to detect a medium effect
size within a 95% confidence interval (two-tailed) using regression techniques with
nine predictors (Faul, Erdfelder, Lang, & Buchner, 2007). It should be noted that
logistic regression does not conform to the assumptions of ordinary least squares mod-
els because the errors of nonparametric variables cannot be normally distributed and
cannot have constant variance (Fox, 1997). The R
2
is therefore somewhat artificial but
gives a measure of the relative meaningfulness of the model, which in this case is
modest.
The Wald statistic is calculated for each independent variable to determine the sta-
tistical significance of the value of β, the correlation coefficient which measures the
strength of the relationship (Pampel, 2000). The odds ratio represents the change in the
likelihood of the outcome for each unit increase in the independent variable and is
represented by Exp(β) (Pampel, 2000). When Exp(β) is greater than 1, increasing
values of the independent variable increase the odds of the event’s occurrence.
As can be seen in Table 3, the model was statistically significant indicating that this
set of predictors was associated with FTR (χ
2
= 99.697, df = 10, p < .001) and explained
about 20% of the variance in the dependent variable. Younger offenders were more
likely to fail to register with each additional year of age associated with a 4% decline
in the likelihood of FTR. As the number of technical violations increased by one, the
likelihood of FTR more than doubled. Having a minor victim increased the likelihood
of FTR in this model, as did having a stranger victim and being of a minority race.
To more rigorously test the utility of the previous logistic regression model to pre-
dict failure to register, discriminant function analysis was performed. The statistically
significant variables in the regression model for FTR were entered into the analysis.
Panel A of Table 4 shows the discriminant function coefficients. The function revealed
an eigenvalue of .165. Eigenvalues greater than 1 are generally considered to be a
strong measure of the discriminating power of the equation (Klecka, 1980). Wilks’s
Lambda also represents a measure of the discriminating power of the group of variables
(Klecka, 1980), and in this case, was statistically significant (p < .05). The canonical
correlation, representing the degree of relatedness between the groups and the discrimi-
nant function (Klecka, 1980), was found to be .38.
The classification summary of the discriminant analysis is shown in Panel B of
Table 4 and represents the ability of the model to correctly predict failure to register
based on the significant variables in the regression equation. Group membership was
correctly classified in 68.8% of the cases (χ
2
= 98.818, df = 5, p < .05). In other words,
failure to register was correctly predicted in more than two thirds of cases using only
five factors: offender’s age at release, any minor victim, any stranger victim, minority
race, and any technical violation.
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Zgoba and Levenson 339
Table 4. Discriminant Function Analysis
Panel A: Discriminant
function coefficients Standardized canonical discriminant function coefficients
Offender’s age at date
of release for sexual
offense
–.495
Any child victims .247
Any stranger victims .273
Minority race .432
Any technical violations .494
Panel B: Classification summary
Predicted group membership
Did the offender have
a FTR arrest? No Ye s Total
Frequency
No 323
144
467
Ye s 59
124
183
Percentage
No 69.2
30.8
100
Ye s 32.2
67.8
100
Note: Eigenvalue = .165, Wilks’s Lambda = .858 (p < .001). 68.8% of original grouped cases correctly
classified. χ2 = 98.818, df = 5, p < .001.
In an effort to control for time at risk, two survival analyses (Cox regression) were
examined to estimate the independent variables’ ability to predict both sexual recidi-
vism and nonsexual recidivism (both measured by the respective arrest). Cox regres-
sion has an advantage over logistic regression, in that it estimates the influence of the
independent variables while considering the varying time frames that offenders are at
large within the community. As can be seen in Table 5, while considering variables
associated with recidivism, as well as whether the participant had a FTR charge, the
best predictor of whether an offender recommitted a sex crime is whether he commit-
ted a sex crime prior to the index offense. For every additional prior sex arrest, sex
recidivism increased by 57%. In addition, the best predictor of nonsex recidivism is
whether the offender had a prior criminal history of nonsex arrests. For every addi-
tional prior nonsex arrest, nonsex recidivism increased by 67%. FTR was not a sig-
nificant predictor of either sexual or nonsexual recidivism. This finding indicates that
over various time intervals, prior sexual deviance and general criminality are the best
predictors of recidivism.
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340 Sexual Abuse 24(4)
Table 5. Cox Regression Models
Nonsex recidivism Sex recidivism
Predictors β Exp (β) Significance β Exp(β) Significance
No. of prior nonsexual arrests .391 1.670 .020 .287 1.332 .356
No. of prior sexual arrests .018 0.983 .497 .425 1.570 .050
Failure to register (1 = yes) .361 0.697 .742 .154 1.173 .653
Age at release .015 1.015 .405 .088 1.092 .658
Male victim .423 0.655 .293 .519 0.715 .393
Minor victim .363 1.437 .309 .491 1.488 .092
Stranger victim .144 1.155 .633 .034 1.046 .521
Never married .049 0.952 .901 .078 0.864 .958
Minority .551 1.576 .102 .346 1.717 .124
Technical violation (1 = yes) .382 0.683 .164 .441 0.619 .195
Note: DV = nonsex offense recidivism and sex recidivism.
Discussion
The overall sexual recidivism rate in New Jersey over the follow-up period was 15%
which is consistent with large-sample studies over similar time frames (Hanson &
Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2004). About 18% of the FTR group was
rearrested for a new sexual offense, which is slightly above the average sexual reof-
fense rate but casts doubt on the belief that sex offenders who are noncompliant with
registration are especially sexually dangerous. Congruent with prior research (Duwe
& Donnay, 2010; Levenson et al., 2010), the participants were much more likely to
be arrested for a subsequent nonsex crime than a new sex offense.
Group comparisons revealed that FTR offenders were younger and were more
likely to be a minority race and never married. They were more likely to have sexually
assaulted a stranger and to have female victims. There were no significant differences
between the groups in the number of prior nonsexual arrests, but FTR offenders had a
significantly lower mean number of prior sex offenses. The FTR group did have a
slightly higher proportion and mean number of sexual rearrests, but the differences did
not display practical significance; the average number of sexual rearrests was less than
one in both groups. FTR offenders had a higher number of technical violations, sug-
gesting that FTR is more a reflection of rule violating patterns than sexual deviance.
Group comparisons also revealed that FTR offenders were not more likely to have
minor victims in prior crimes, casting doubt on the stereotype of the predatory child
molester who fails to register in an effort to evade detection. In sum, these findings
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Zgoba and Levenson 341
paint a picture of the FTR offender as a young rapist of adult women, with a pattern of
rule-violating behavior.
Finally, we sought to identify factors associated with sex and nonsex recidivism and
failure to register. The only variables that predicted sexual recidivism and nonsex recid-
ivism in the Cox regression models were prior sexual criminal history and prior nonsex
criminal history, respectively. FTR was not predictive of sexual or nonsexual recidi-
vism. Although we expected prior general criminality to be associated with FTR (Duwe
& Donnay, 2010; Levenson et al., 2010; Washington State Institute for Public Policy,
2006), we speculate that increasingly complex registration rules make it more difficult
for many sex offenders to remain compliant, even those without a historical pattern of
rule-breaking behavior. Technical violations, however, were associated with FTR sug-
gesting that sex offenders who failed to register had difficulty complying with other
types of supervision rules as well. Having minor victims, in combination with the influ-
ence of other risk factors such as younger age, stranger victims, minority race, and
rule-violating behavior, contributed to the likelihood of failing to register. It appears
that the coexistence of risk factors and characteristics associated with behavioral non-
compliance contribute to the risk of FTR for child abusers.
A lack of cooperation with registration requirements may be a manifestation of
general criminality, defiance, carelessness, or apathy rather than sexually devious
intentions. In fact, research on probation noncompliance and absconding points to the
influence of factors such as unemployment, substance addiction, unstable housing,
and marital status on poor community reintegration (Mayzer et al., 2004; Nelson,
Deess, & Allen, 1999; Williams et al., 2000; Willis & Grace, 2008). Furthermore,
psychological factors have been found to interfere with responsivity to interventions
(Andrews & Bonta, 2007) creating a plethora of potential variables related to personal-
ity pathology, intelligence, mental illness, peer influence, coping skills, and treatment
progress that might affect sex offender registration outcomes (Levenson et al., 2010).
Unfortunately, our data set did not enable the inclusion of these psychosocial variables
in the analyses.
One important consideration is that, we were unable to distinguish true abscond-
ers from other types of registry violators. Although registration failure can certainly
suggest the possibility of a desire to “go underground,” it may in some cases dem-
onstrate inadvertent noncompliance (Harris & Pattavina, 2009). It is possible that
intentional registration violators are those who truly abscond from probation or regis-
tration, whereas inadvertent violators are more likely to be caught and convicted of
failure to register because they are not necessarily attempting to evade authorities.
Offenders may fail to report an address change for various reasons but should be con-
sidered willful violators only after failed attempts to locate them (Harris & Pattavina,
2009). Future research should make efforts to clarify how noncompliant registrants
might differ from those who have truly absconded. Recent research suggests that
fewer than half of registration violators are designated by states as absconded
(Levenson & Harris, 2011).
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342 Sexual Abuse 24(4)
Implications for Policy and Practice
When considering the practical implications of this research for clinicians, criminal
justice professionals, and policy makers, the recent case of Phillip Garrido in
California provides a good example of the misguided national emphasis on registra-
tion compliance. Garrido, a registered sex offender, kidnapped an 11-year-old girl in
1991 and held her captive in his home for 18 years even as he complied with registra-
tion requirements, even while on parole, even while wearing an electronic monitor-
ing device. Likewise, in Ohio, Anthony Sowell raped and murdered 11 women and
buried them in and around his home—all while complying with sex offender regis-
tration. These sensationalized cases illustrate that registration and notification laws
will not prevent dangerous people from committing egregious crimes and may not
realistically provide an impediment or a deterrent to future acts of sexual violence.
Although we see that about 18% of the FTR offenders in this sample had a new
sexual recidivism charge, 82% of FTR offenders were not rearrested for a subsequent
sex crime. Thus, the emphasis on registration compliance as a means to deter recidi-
vism may be misguided.
In fact, the movement to register more sex offenders for longer durations is likely
to become counterproductive. The nationwide accumulation of sex offenders is near-
ing three quarters of a million registrants (National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children, 2010). As the numbers grow, law enforcement resources are spread thin, and
the ability of the public to discern truly dangerous offenders is diluted. In a time when
budgets are overburdened and correctional institutions are reconsidering sentencing
options for other technical breaches and nonviolent offenses, increased penalties for
FTR seem counterintuitive. Vast fiscal and personnel resources are required to update
technology, enforce registration rules, and incarcerate violators, despite mounting evi-
dence suggesting that failure to register as a sex offender does not seem to raise the
risk for sexual reoffending (Duwe & Donnay, 2010; Levenson et al., 2010). For exam-
ple, in New Jersey, pending legislation is posed to increase incarceration penalties
from 18 months to 5 years for failing to register as a sex offender. Within this particu-
lar sample from New Jersey, 530 sex offenders who were noncompliant did not go on
to commit another sex offense. Recently published costs estimate the average annual
state incarceration rate as US$38,700 per inmate (New Jersey Department of
Corrections, 2009). This would yield an annual cost of more than US$20 million and
US$100 million over 5 years. Given other published reports questioning the cost-
effectiveness of Megan’s Law (Zgoba, Witt, Dalessandro, & Veysey, 2009), this study
raises additional questions as to whether that would be money well spent.
The current results also call into question the relevance of enhanced registration
policies to offender dangerousness. Longer registration durations and retroactive regis-
tration implemented by the Adam Walsh Act contradict empirical data. Research sug-
gests that sex offenders who have spent long periods of time in the community without
reoffending are at reduced risk (Harris, Phenix, Hanson, & Thornton, 2003). In fact,
Harris et al. recommended that “the expected offense recidivism rate should be reduced
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Zgoba and Levenson 343
by about half if the offender has 5 to 10 years of offense-free behavior in the community
. . . ” (p. 63). It is also clear that sex offending declines with age (Barbaree & Blanchard,
2008; Barbaree, Langton, Blanchard, & Cantor, 2009; Hanson, 2002). Thus, the empha-
sis on registrant compliance for an aging sex offender population over longer registration
periods (25 years to life for most offenders) is likely to create an inefficient distribution
of resources and is unlikely to contribute meaningfully to community safety.
In a similar vein, the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) requires states to incorporate a
rigid offense-based tier system even though the reclassification of sex offenders
under the AWA scheme results in enormously inflated numbers of level three “high-
risk” offenders (Harris, Lobanov-Rostovsky, & Levenson, 2010; Harris & Pattavina,
2009). For instance, in Ohio, which previously classified 73% of sex offenders as
“sexually oriented” lower risk offenders and 18% as habitual or predatory, the AWA
reclassification assigns only 16% into the low-risk category and reclassifies 40% as
tier-three offenders (Harris et al., 2010; Harris & Pattavina, 2009). Empirically
derived risk factors have demonstrated better utility than Adam Walsh Act tiers in
identifying sexual recidivists (Freeman & Sandler, 2009). Unfortunately, contempo-
rary policies may sacrifice precision in targeting the most dangerous offenders in
favor of more inclusive procedures that provide only the illusion of safety by captur-
ing a wide net of lower risk individuals. Legislators have good intentions and victims
and their families have compelling stories to tell, but experts such as criminal justice
researchers, psychologists, and correctional case managers should have a stronger
voice in offering evidence to inform practices designed to protect communities from
repeat sexual violence.
Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, criminal justice practices should be more
carefully tailored to individual risk and offense patterns of each offender. Individualized
case management relying on empirically derived risk assessment might offer more
return on the investment than the sweeping policies in existence today. In fact, most
studies investigating the effectiveness of sex offender registration and notification
policies have found that they fail to meet their goals of reduced sexual recidivism
(Letourneau, Levenson, Bandyopadhyay, Sinha, & Armstrong, 2010; Sandler et al.,
2008; Vasquez, Maddan, & Walker, 2008; Zgoba, Witt, et al., 2009). The two studies
that detected a decline in recidivism attributable to SORN laws were conducted, nota-
bly, in states with risk-assessment procedures that employ enhanced monitoring for
those posing the highest threat of repeat sexual violence (Duwe & Donnay, 2008;
Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2005). As most sex crimes are committed
by first-time offenders not previously found on a registry (Sandler et al., 2008), it is
perhaps unsurprising that an emphasis on publicly identifying known offenders does
little to alter rates of sexual violence.
Limitations
This study, although addressing a relevant and understudied topic, has some limitations
given its exploratory nature. Generalizing results from studies on sex offender recidi-
vism can be complicated by varying research designs and statistical methodologies as
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344 Sexual Abuse 24(4)
well as by state differences in laws, definitions, procedures, and practices. Although the
current findings from New Jersey may or may not generalize to the entire U.S. sex
offender population, they are consistent with findings from Minnesota and South
Carolina (Duwe & Donnay, 2010; Levenson et al., 2010). Readers are reminded that the
current study was conducted by drawing a purposive sample of 644 FTR offenders and
a comparison group of 481 sex offenders without FTR, so the 58% FTR rate does not
reflect what might be expected to naturally occur in the general sex-offender population.
Associated with the previous concerns are the potential inadequacies of secondary
data. This study relied solely on data drawn from official records. It is well known that
official records underrepresent the frequency of criminal behavior in the community,
particularly incest and child molestation, and potentially the dependent variable here,
failure to register; but official reports continue to provide the most reliable and readily
available count of sex crimes. To operationalize sexual and nonsexual recidivism, a
decision had to be made as to whether rearrests, reconvictions, or reincarcerations
would be used as the measure of reoffense. Ideological arguments exist on either side
as to the validity and reliability of the various measurements. Employing “rearrest” as
the measurement of recidivism holds the chance that the offender was wrongfully
accused, arrested, or charged, and charges may subsequently be dropped, leading
accordingly to an overrepresentation of recidivism. However, employment of “recon-
viction” or “reincarceration” as the level of measurement may lead to an underrepre-
sentation of the true level of reoffending since sometimes offenders plea-bargain to
lesser offenses, or charges may be changed or dropped due to technicalities or weak
evidence. Given that sexual assault is an underreported crime, we decided to use rear-
rest as the indicator of recidivism to provide the most inclusive representation of reof-
fending. This measure is conventional and consistent with other sexual recidivism
research (Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Harris & Hanson, 2004).
Another important problem that has long plagued sex-offense research and is linked
to the previous limitations is the low base rate of repeat sexual offenses. Notwithstanding
the limitations of the criminal justice system to detect all reoffending (including FTR,
since the researchers are only aware of those failures that have come to the attention of
the authorities), sex offense recidivism rates are consistently found to be much lower
than commonly assumed. Generally, sexual recidivism rates range from 5% to 14% in
shorter follow-up periods (3 to 6 years) (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003; Hanson &
Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2004) to about 24% over 15 years (Harris
& Hanson, 2004). Consistent with prior research, 15% of the current sample was
arrested for committing another sex crime after the index offense over an approximate
12-year follow-up period. These relatively small base rates may limit the ability of
statistical tests to detect the effects of interventions.
Summary
The purpose of sexual offender legislation is to protect the community, primarily chil-
dren, from sexual violence. The key goal of sex offender registration laws is to decrease
or prevent repeat sex crimes by increasing public awareness of the presence of sexually
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Zgoba and Levenson 345
dangerous individuals. Accordingly, the public has been led to believe that these laws
will enhance their safety and that those offenders who do not comply pose the greatest
threat. Available research, however, including the current study, casts doubt on the
assumption that sex offenders who are noncompliant with registration are especially
sexually dangerous. As states consider increasing their current sanctions for failing to
register, they should take into account the potential incarceration of a large number of
offenders who are unlikely to go on to commit a new sexual offense. To definitively
state that failing to register as a sex offender is not linked to future sexual recidivism
is cautioned. However, these results are consistent with a growing body of research
suggesting that sexual reoffending is largely unrelated to registration noncompliance.
Appendix
Variable Measure Value
Offender demographics
Race Categorical Black, White, Hispanic, Other, unknown
Marital status Categorical Single, married, divorced, widowed,
separated, unknown
Age at release Continuous/raw
Alcohol/drug abuse history Categorical Yes or no
Employment history Categorical Yes or no
Education grade level Continuous/raw
Prior criminal history Continuous/raw
Sentencing information
Sentence length Continuous/raw
Time served Continuous/raw
Charge information Categorical 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th degree
Violent classification Categorical Yes or no
Index offense Categorical Rape, sexual assault, endangering
welfare of child, criminal sexual
contact, lewdness, luring, incest, child
molestation, exhibitionism, voyeurism
Victim/offense characteristics
Victim/offense relationship Categorical Stranger, family, acquaintance, friend,
unknown
Victim gender Categorical Male only, female only, both
Victim age Continuous/raw
Recidivism details
Rearrests Continuous/raw
Reconvictions Continuous/raw
Reincarcerations Continuous/raw
Type of recidivism Categorical Sexual, nonsexual or both
Date of rearrests Date
Numeric calculation of days
between rearrest + release
Continuous/raw
Note: Variable levels were extracted from the clinician folders or intake evaluations for each participants.
Variable Descriptions
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346 Sexual Abuse 24(4)
Acknowledgment
The authors would like to thank the New Jersey Department of Corrections, specifically
Melissa Dalessandro and Sabrina Haugebrook, for their data-collection expertise.
Authors’ Note
The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the authors.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of
this article.
Notes
1. While registration and notification were implemented in 1994 in New Jersey in the form of
Megan’s Law, those sex offenders with earlier release dates were included in the sample if
they were under any form of NJDOC custody in 1994 and were required to register. Specifi-
cally, if sex offenders were bound by the provisions of New Jersey’s preceding legislation,
known as the Sex Offender Act, at the time of 1994, then they were subsequently bound by
Megan’s Law. With this in mind, the authors thought it was important to accurately por-
tray the release picture and included the sex offenders. Furthermore, only 1.9% of the sex
offenders in the sample were released prior to 1990.
2. Working definition of technical violations: An offender is returned back to prison to serve
out the remainder of his or her full sentence term or parole period in prison due to a viola-
tion. The offender is returned to the jurisdiction of the NJDOC based on several incidents
which could include dirty urine sample when visiting parole officers, failure to attend stated
parole meetings with parole officer, if applicable, halfway house return failure (walk away,
fail to return from furlough, and the like).
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... According to Zgoba and Levenson (2012), in 2003, the US Department of Justice found the recidivism rate for arrests for new sex crimes over a 3-year period to be 5.3 percent. A study of over 20,000 sex offenders from both North America and England reported that over 4 to 6 years, there was a mean rearrest rate of approximately 14 percent, which increased to 24 percent TAKING THE HIGH ROAD 13 over 15 years. ...
... Despite the greater odds of a sex offender reoffending sexually, most sex offenses are committed by unregistered offenders. In fact, of registered offenders in New York State, 95 percent were initial offenders (Zgoba & Levenson, 2012). ...
... In a study of 1,125 New Jersey offenders released between 1980 and 2008, Zgoba and Levenson (2012) researched the effects of non-registration on sexual recidivism. They found that during the follow-up period, which averaged less than 12 years, the total sexual recidivism rate was 15 percent. ...
... aussi en ce sens,Hearnden et Millie, 2004 ;Padfield et Maruna, 2006 ;Canton, 2008), des antécédents d'infraction de moindre gravité et une instabilité résidentielle(Mayzner et al., 2004).D'autres études ont porté sur le refus de communiquer des informations obligatoires au registre des délinquants sexuels (en France le FJNAIS). La recherche a mis en lumière des facteurs de risque similaires aux absconders, ainsi qu'un nombre plus important d'infractions sexuelles passées et de violations des autres obligations du suivi(Zgoba et Levenson, 2012) ; certaines recherches ont établi un lien entre cette insoumission spécifique et la récidive(Duwe et Donnay, 2010) tandis d'autres ont conclu à l'absence de lien(Levenson et al., 2010et Zgoba et Levenson, 2012.De tous ces travaux, il convient in fine de retenir que la compliance est le plus souvent formelle et superficielle et peu souvent substantielle ou normative et qu'elle ne s'obtient pas par des mesures elles-mêmes superficielles n'engageant pas authentiquement les personnes condamnées. ...
... aussi en ce sens,Hearnden et Millie, 2004 ;Padfield et Maruna, 2006 ;Canton, 2008), des antécédents d'infraction de moindre gravité et une instabilité résidentielle(Mayzner et al., 2004).D'autres études ont porté sur le refus de communiquer des informations obligatoires au registre des délinquants sexuels (en France le FJNAIS). La recherche a mis en lumière des facteurs de risque similaires aux absconders, ainsi qu'un nombre plus important d'infractions sexuelles passées et de violations des autres obligations du suivi(Zgoba et Levenson, 2012) ; certaines recherches ont établi un lien entre cette insoumission spécifique et la récidive(Duwe et Donnay, 2010) tandis d'autres ont conclu à l'absence de lien(Levenson et al., 2010et Zgoba et Levenson, 2012.De tous ces travaux, il convient in fine de retenir que la compliance est le plus souvent formelle et superficielle et peu souvent substantielle ou normative et qu'elle ne s'obtient pas par des mesures elles-mêmes superficielles n'engageant pas authentiquement les personnes condamnées. ...
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The purpose of this study is to measure the implementation of a 2014 Act creating a McDonaldised "early release under constraint" procedure - i.e. bad fast early release devoid of reentry work or support, this in four Northern France jurisdictions. Cette recherche portait sur la procédure de libération sous contrainte (LSC) de l’article 720 du C. pr. pén. créée par la loi n° 2014-896 du 15 août 2014. L’article 720 représentait la troisième tentative de création d’une procédure écartant le débat contradictoire (DC) en pensant ainsi favoriser le prononcé d’aménagements de peine. Les deux précédentes avaient échoué sur ce point. Notre méthodologie a été « grounded in theory », mais « réaliste », soit élaborée empiriquement dans le cadre de théories éprouvées et visant, de manière ultime, à proposer une nouvelle théorie. Nous avons ainsi proposé une théorie cadre permettant de lier l’ensemble des théories pertinentes. Celles-ci ont emprunté au droit, à la criminologie, aux sciences politiques et sociologiques, à la psychologie, voire parfois à l’économie, à la philosophie ou à la médecine. L’étude a commencé par une analyse juridique de la LSC : procédure et non mesure. Sur le plan empirique, elle a consisté en deux années et demie d’observation des audiences contradictoires (DC) et commissions de l’application des peines (CAP)-LSC, et d’entretiens avec les praticiens et avec des personnes condamnées en sortie de CAP-LSC. Ce travail a été réalisé outre nous-même par vingt-deux étudiants de Master ainsi que d’un doctorant tous formés aux protocoles établis et monitorés. Nous avons également analysé des rapports de CPIP et des jugements et ordonnances de JAP. Une première question a porté sur la réussite ou, au contraire, de l’échec de la mise en œuvre de la procédure de LSC et notamment en nombre d’aménagements de peine. L’analyse des données a été menée grâce aux théories de l’implémentation et celles relatives à la diffusion de l’innovation. L’ensemble des critères mis en lumière par ces théories a permis de comprendre pourquoi la LSC ne pouvait que constituer un échec, ce que nos données locales, ainsi que des données nationales (Delbos, 2016) ont confirmé. Nous avons, en deuxième lieu, observé les situations procédurales (DC, CAP-LSC avec et sans comparution) à l’aune du paradigme LJ-PJ-TJ (légitimité de la justice, justice procédurale, jurisprudence « thérapeutique »), mais aussi des théories de la compliance et de l’autonomie. L’analyse sur ce point a hélas confirmé que les situations de LSC sans comparution et, à un moindre degré, avec comparution offraient un contexte violant fortement – la personnalité du JAP pouvant réduire l’impact nocébo – les principes d’une justice respectueuse et légitime. Les entretiens avec les condamnés ont confirmé la colère qu’ils pouvaient en ressentir. La littérature empirique LJ-PJ-TJ nous enseigne que, plus gravement, la conséquence risque d’en être une très faible compliance, voire une résistance ainsi que de la récidive. La conclusion sur ce point est que le respect procédural est une arme criminologique qu’il est dangereux d’écarter. Enfin, nous nous sommes interrogée sur la question à la fois théorique et pratique de l’accompagnement des sortants de détention et avons questionné le choix d’aménagements de peine obtenus de manière rapide et sans exigence substantielle. Le législateur en pensant « simplifier » les procédures a confondu emballage juridique et contenu : on ne peut faire l’économie d’une préparation de la sortie et d’un projet viable pour les justiciables et pour la société, ni d’un traitement criminologique adapté ; c’est au demeurant le sens des recommandations de l’ONU. Tant les praticiens qui donnent leur avis, que les JAP qui se prononcent, que les condamnés ainsi non accompagnés, rejettent en majorité des processus dénués de contenu. Au surplus, le temps de CPIP serait mieux utilisé à préparer de manière substantielle des projets de sortie plutôt qu’à produire des écrits de manière industrielle. Le cœur de leur métier devrait être le traitement criminologique et multi-partenarial et la transition qualitative avec le monde libre.
... Despite these differences in legislation, the empirical research suggests that neither registration nor notification laws seem to have an influence on the incidence rates of sexual offences . Even on occasions where offenders have recidivated and are subsequently re-arrested, it is more often due to a non-sexual offence than for a new sexual offence (Craig et al., 2006;Zgoba & Levenson, 2012), with sex offenders showing a regular pattern of general criminal behaviour in the long term following initial sexual offence convictions (Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005;Langevin & Curnoe, 2012;Langevin et al., 2004;Tewksbury et al., 2012). ...
... The addition of a greater focus on dynamic risk factors has also proven to be beneficial for officers, as it allows for individual management that can be tailored specifically to the offender. This is an important distinction given that sexual offenders tend to be a heterogeneous group of individuals and as such require management that is best tailored to counteract any risk factors associated with an increased likelihood of recidivism (Grossi, 2017;Zgoba & Levenson, 2012). ...
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The current study reports on survey results of 10 participants responsible for assessing the risk of recidivism of sex offenders on a police sex offender register. The survey aimed to gather the insights of police officers currently utilising a dynamic risk assessment tool, the ‘SHARP’. The SHARP includes four risk factors and one protective factor frequently associated with sexual recidivism: Sexual deviance, History of supervision violation, Antisocial orientation, Risky environment and Protective factors. The research combined quantitative and qualitative responses to ascertain police officers’ perceptions of a sex offender register and the SHARP. Participants were satisfied with the use of the SHARP, including their ability to code factors such as sexual deviance. Qualitative results revealed favourable attitudes towards the SHARP, especially around the SHARP’s usefulness as improved by the inclusion of dynamic risk factors. This research provides direct insights into police perceptions of the register and SHARP risk assessment tool.
... The four articles in Table 3 examine the recidivism rates (measured by rearrest in three of the articles and rearrest, reconviction, or reincarceration in the other article) between groups of sex offenders with and without a FTR conviction in Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina, to determine whether those sex offenders with an FTR conviction are more likely to recidivate. None of the identified studies found a statistically significant relationship between having an FTR violation and sexual recidivism (Duwe & Donnay, 2010;Levenson, Letourneau, Armstrong, & Zgoba, 2010;Levenson et al., 2012;Zgoba & Levenson, 2012) However, there was evidence that FTR violations were associated with heightened risk for general recidivism Levenson et al., Failure to Register (FTR) and sex offender recidivism. As revealed in Table 3, four articles examined the effect of failing to register (FTR) as a sex offender on recidivism rates. ...
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The 1990s saw societal interest in the management of sex offenders in the community increase as the media reported sensationalized cases of child abductions and sexual abuse. The most notable policy to emerge out of this period was Megan’s Law, which required publicly accessible sex offender registries and community notification practices. Since the policy’s enactment, questions have been raised about how successful Megan’s Law is in reducing sexual victimization. In the current study, a systematic review of 20 years of research on Megan’s Law is presented. Twenty-two peer-reviewed articles were identified that address the issue of the effectiveness of Megan’s Law in three ways: Megan’s Law and sex crime rates, Megan’s Law and sexual recidivism, and failure to register as a sex offender and recidivism. Analyses of the identified literature reveals that, in 20 years, little evidence has been discovered that Megan’s Law is an effective policy.
... While many scholars continue to raise questions about their substantiated use (Duwe & Donnay, 2010;Levenson et al., 2007;Lieb & Nunlist, 2008;Tewksbury, 2014;Tewksbury, Jennings, & Zgoba, 2012;Zgoba & Levenson, 2012), registries appear to remain a popular policy with citizens who support the use of community notification policies. Importantly, this public support remains consistent, whether or not they believe them to be an effective strategy to reduce sexual offenses (Koon-Magnin, 2015;Levenson et al., 2007;Tewksbury & Jennings, 2010) or if they personally utilize their community registry (Anderson & Sample, 2008). ...
Article
Traditional research on community awareness and use of sex offender registries relies upon random digit dialing and other survey instruments. While important sources of data, these sources have limitations and attempts to improve on these measures are bound to funding limitations impeding the collection of larger samples. Analyzing internet search query data associated with interest in sex offender registries from 2006–2016, we explore regional and temporal trends associated with interest in sex offender registries. Results substantiate prior research using mail and telephone surveys, and that of other similar methodologies, showing that interest in sex offender registries display low to moderate interest, which are relatively stable overtime and declining in interest.
... Individuals who reoffended were not always rearrested for sexual offenses. The primary predictor of recidivism for offenders who committed sexual offenses was the number of prior offenses Prentky et al. 1997;Zgoba and Levenson 2012). Additional strong predictors included substance abuse (Kruttschnitt et al. 2000), neglect and abuse as a child (Kruttschnitt et al. 2000), being a person of color (Jones and Ross 1997), demonstrating aggressive behavior (Prentky et al. 1997), and being young (Vandiver 2006). ...
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In 2014, adult correctional systems supervised an estimated 6.8 million individuals in the United States with 1 in 36 adults (or 2.8%) being under some form of correctional supervision. Unfortunately, not only are the number of individuals connected to the correctional system and the outlined disparities based on minority status worrisome, there is also the persistent concern of repeat offending. Given the fact that the most recent comprehensive meta-analysis examining predictors of adult offender was published in 1996, a current systematic review and meta-analysis focusing on United States samples of all types of re-offense is necessary for identifying current predictors of adult recidivism with U.S. studies from 1994 through 2015. Specifically, the questions addressed in this meta-analysis include (a) which attributes predict general, sexual, and violent recidivism for adults in the American justice system, and (b) are some characteristics more influential than others? We determined the following domains are statistically significant predictors of recidivism: age (r = .02), antisocial personality scales (r = .13), criminogenic needs (r = .10), distress (r = .06), family criminality (r = .18), family rearing (r = .16), gender (r = .19), history of antisocial behavior (r = .12), risk scales (r = .17), social achievement (r = .05), and substance abuse (r = .07). Implications are provided.
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There is considerable research on the efficacy of sex offense registries, but less is known about individual compliance with registration. Recent research and subsequent policy have highlighted the importance of understanding technical violations as a hidden driver of mass incarceration, and there is emerging evidence that suggests that agency violation practices vary widely. We analyzed administrative data from a large sample of individuals on the sex offense registry in Missouri to identify the factors associated with risk for noncompliance, including a technical violation and reincarceration. Both stable and dynamic factors contribute to our understanding of compliance and incarceration. Findings also suggest that living in a county with few registrants contributes to lowered odds of noncompliance. Alternatively, high caseloads contribute to greater odds of incarceration only. More generally, we find a sizeable portion of jurisdictional variation remains for both noncompliance and incarceration, a finding that suggests different enforcement practices across place.
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Since the early 1990s, federal and state legislation restricting the residency options of convicted sex offenders has been justified on the basis of protecting vulnerable populations while deterring future criminal opportunities. While many of these policies maintain public support, recent empirical inquiries have begun to question their effectiveness and appropriateness. Using data from registered sex offenders’ residences in three mid-western states, we explore the effect residency restriction laws have on preventing sex offenders from residing within proximal distance to elementary schools. Preliminary results indicate that sex offenders on average do not reside significantly closer or farther away from elementary schools in states with different proximal distance requirements, but that sex offenders reside significantly closer to elementary schools in neighborhoods with lower socioeconomic status. We conclude that residency restriction policies for sex offenders should be reconsidered in light of these results.
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Despite being in existence for over a quarter century, costing multiple millions of dollars and affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals, sex offender registration and notification (SORN) laws have yet to be subject to a book-length treatment of their empirical dimensions - their premises, coverage, and impact on public safety. This volume, edited by Wayne Logan and J.J. Prescott, assembles the leading researchers in the field to provide an in-depth look at what have come to be known as 'Megan's Laws', offering a social science-based analysis of one of the most important, and controversial, criminal justice system initiatives undertaken in modern times.
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Since the early 1990s, a raft of legislation and policies in respect of sexual offender risk management has been enacted predominantly by the USA, with Canada and the UK adopting similar responses. These developments have often occurred in response to child deaths or abductions, and have largely taken a preventive and regulatory stance, resulting in an approach labelled as ‘community protection’. This chapter will review the key trends in legislative and policy responses to managing sex offenders within the community, concluding with a consideration of alternative possibilities and emerging alternative responses to sex offender community management. The latter include attempts to reintegrate sexual offenders more effectively and safely into the community, and attempts to engage communities more effectively in achieving public safety.
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This study examined the relationship of age to sexual recidivism using data from 10 follow-upstudies of adult male sexual offenders (combined sample of 4,673). Rapists were younger thanchild molesters, and the recidivism risk of rapists steadily decreased with age. In contrast,extra familial child molesters showed relatively little reduction in recidivism risk until after theage of50. The recidivism rate of intra familial child molesters was generally low (less than 10%),except for the intra familial offenders in the 18-to24-year-old age group, whose recidivism riskwas comparable to that of rapists and extra familial child molesters. The results are discussed interms of developmental changes in sexual drive, self-control, and opportunities to offend.
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It is frequently reported by the media and public officials that 100,000 registered sex offenders (RSOs) in the United States are “missing.” This policy note first describes the origin of this figure, which was initially derived from a 2003 informal survey of state registries conducted by a grassroots advocacy organization. Then, we explore the definitional ambiguities that complicate the process of calculating the national number of fugitive sex offenders. Finally, we present emerging research efforts to develop reliable estimates of the number and proportion of RSOs officially recorded by states as absconded, whereabouts unknown, or noncompliant with registration requirements. While such data remain limited, we find little evidence to support that 100,000 sex offenders are “missing,” using even the most inclusive definitions. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.
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Sex crimes provoke fear and anger among citizens, leading to the development of social policies designed to prevent sexual violence. The most common policies passed in recent years have included sex offender registration, community notification (Megan's Law), residence restrictions, civil commitment, and electronic monitoring. This article reviews the history of current sexual offender policies, their development, and their implementation. These policies do not appear to be evidence based in their development and implementation because they are founded largely on myths rather than on facts. Little empirical investigation has been conducted to evaluate sex offender policies, but extant research does not suggest that these policies achieve their goals of preventing sex crimes, protecting children, or increasing public safety. The authors make recommendations for more effective legislative solutions, including enlisting media in the promulgation of evidence-based information, creating policies that use risk assessment strategies to identify high risk offenders, and facilitating a more efficient distribution of resources that reserves the most intensive restrictions and interventions for the most dangerous offenders.
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This study analyzes semi-structured interviews with 25 parole violators at large (PVALs) from Ohio. Identity theory is used to organize and create a typology of absconder types. These types include: the social isolates, drug fiends, villains, night life swingers, and the family men and women. After elaborating the situational constraints related to absconding, arguments are presented which demonstrate that actuarial prediction techniques can be improved using the PVAL identity typology. Policy implications are discussed.