Sex offenders four times more likely to be arrested for another sex crime: Crime statistics

Recidivism of Sex Offenders: Crime Statistics—Reader Request

Crime in America.Net staff

Gentlereaders: We were asked by a reader for data on the recidivism of sex offenders. To comply with the reader’s request, we offer the data below from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) of the US Department of Justice.

Please note that BJS data is often considered definitive (the best available) regardless of age. This is a 2003 report based on 1994 data. The Bureau of Justice Statistics uses large samples, good research strategies (methodologies) and excellent peer review to produce data that stands the test of time.

There is research on sex offender recidivism that is more recent, but none with the large data sets employed here.

That said, the research has its drawbacks.  We have stated throughout this site that the majority of crime and 50 percent of violent crimes are not reported to police and there are considerable reductions in reported crimes prosecuted (being charged with a criminal offense) and that over 90 percent of prosecutions are plea-bargained (serious charges are often dropped to induce the defendant to plead guilty to lesser charges).

See for an example post.

Thus the data presented below is based on reported and prosecuted crimes where the most serious charge was pursued. 

Critics have long felt that rape and other sex crimes are under-counted and if true, then the data below is merely a sample of sex offending; especially as it pertains to child sex offending.

Crime in America.Net staff.

 WASHINGTON, D.C.—Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. If all crimes are included, 43 percent of sex offenders were rearrested for various offenses.

Sex offenders were less likely than non-sex offenders to be rearrested for any offense—43 percent of sex offenders versus 68 percent of non-sex offenders. But sex offenders were about four times more likely than non-sex offenders to be arrested for another sex crime after their discharge from prison—5.3 percent of sex offenders versus 1.3 percent of non-sex offenders.

Sex offenders with the highest rate of rearrest for another sex offense were those who had a history of prior arrests for various crimes. While 3.3 percent of sex offenders with one prior arrest were arrested for another sex crime after their release, that percentage more than doubled (7.4 percent) for those with 16 or more prior arrests for different types of crimes. Of the released sex offenders who allegedly committed another sex crime, 40 percent perpetrated the new offense within a year or less from their prison discharge.

Of the almost 9,700 sex offenders released in 1994, nearly 4,300 were identified as child molesters. An estimated 3.3 percent of the 4,300 released child molesters were rearrested for another sex crime against a child within 3 years. Most of the children they were alleged to have molested after leaving prison were age 13 or younger.

Other BJS surveys have shown that 70 percent of all men in prison for a sex crime were men whose victim was a child. In almost half of the child-victim cases, the child was the prisoner’s own son or daughter or other relative.

The average sentence imposed on the 9,700 sex offenders was 8 years and, on average, 3 1/2 years of those 8 years were actually served prior to release. The average sentence imposed on the 4,300 child molesters was approximately 7 years and, on average, child molesters were released after serving 3 of the 7 years.

Of the released sex offenders, 3.5 percent were reconvicted for a sex crime within the 3-year follow-up period, 24 percent were reconvicted for any new offense and 38.6 percent were returned to prison, either because they received another prison sentence or because of a parole violation.

Of the 9,700 sex offenders, 67 percent were white males and 32 percent were black males. The percentage rearrested for another sex crime after their release was 5.3 percent of white males and 5.6 percent of black males.

Half of the 9,700 sex offenders were over the age of 35 when released. Recidivism studies typically find that the older the prisoner when released, the lower the rate of recidivism. However, although this study did find the lowest rearrest for a sex crime (3.3 percent) did belong to the oldest sex offenders — 45 years old and older — other age group comparisons were inconsistent. The percentage rearrested for another sex crime after their release was 6.1 percent of those ages 18-24, 5.5 percent of those ages 25-29, 5.8 percent of those ages 30-34, 6.1 percent of those ages 35-39, 5.6 percent of those ages 40-44 and 3.3 percent of those ages 45 or older.

For 85 percent of those sex offenders who were arrested for another sex crime, the arrest occurred in the same state that released them. For the remaining 15 percent, the arrest was in a different state.

The data are from a study that documented levels of recidivism among all 272,111 men and women released from state prisons in 15 states in 1994. The 272,111 included 9,691 male sex offenders. The 9,691 are two-thirds of all the male sex offenders released from state prisons in the United States in 1994. The study represents the largest followup ever conducted of convicted sex offenders following discharge from prison and provides the most comprehensive assessment of their behavior after release. The report, “Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994” (NCJ-198281), was written by BJS statisticians Patrick A. Langan, Erica L. Schmitt and Matthew R. Durose. Single copies may be obtained by calling the BJS Clearinghouse at 1-800-851-3420. Following publication this document can be accessed at:

For additional information about Bureau of Justice Statistics reports and programs, please visit the BJS Web site at:



  1. Everybody researching sex offense stats in the US eventually runs across but how come no one ever talks about a very real statistic found in Page 1:Highlights:paragraph 3 – During the study 517 sex offenders were rearrested for sex crimes and 3,328 non-sex offending felons were arrested for sex crimes, the sex offenders accounted for only 7.4% of the arrests for sex offenses during the study. This might indicate a flaw in the penal system as there seem to be more sex offenders coming out than there are going in. It could also suggest that sex crime laws target the wrong threat.

    • Hi Thanks for writing. It may also indicate that sex crimes are under-reported. Our experience (through polygraph tests while in treatment) is that people who commit sex crimes routinely report others unknown to the criminal justice system. Best, Adam.

  2. There are many other recidivism studies from various bodies authorized by the legislatures of the several states which are showing consistently LOW recidivism rates among sex offenders when compared to all felony offenders. As of 2010 the collection of available recidivism studies since 1983 has shown an average 9% recidivism among sex offenders compared to non-sex offenders (who average 42%).

    • Hi Sam: Thanks for writing. Agreed, the overall data for recidivism for “reported” crime is low. But we are measuring “reported” crime and sex offenses, traditionally, are one of the “least” reported crimes, especially among minors. Sex offender with predatory crimes routinely report additional sex crimes (established via polygraph tests).
      Best, Adam.

  3. I noticed “sexoffenderissues” didn’t like this little study..kinda throws a wrench in your “we just got a raw deal” repertoire of excuses..face it guys, you can hoot and holler till the cows come home, you made the list and all the weasel clauses in the world isn’t going to make you stand any taller or convince the public “your really good guys”? Your convictions ranks highest on the list of what a successful society deems the most reprehensible to the well being of its citizens. Think about it, you jeopardize your freedoms, your names, your reputations and your families for no other reason than the opportunity to “get off” call it what it is and stop trying to wrap a pink bow around it. Its getting old..and the troubling fact is, as a group you try and quote constitutional laws, re-offend rates in YOUR FAVOR , and make any and all attempts to twist the registries intent with the “Registry never saved one child” theory..Read my lips, the Registry was not intended to SAVE children, it was intended to inform communities of those who have a predisposition to commit sexually based crimes..Face it, you want the registry abolished due to the fact that when states really go full steam on ‘true Romeos being able to petition off the registry” the majority of you cant because your crime doesnt meet the criteria” and in the aftermath ? The public will finally grasp the fact, your just a bunch of opportunist that used the vulnerable or defenseless for your own selfish sexual gratification..

    • Hi Valigator: Thanks for writing. Your comments (thoughtful and well written) reflect the perceptions of the average American. Citizens want access to lists like these and that, for us, is the bottom line.
      But we all need to recognize that supervision and treatment does work for some (not all) sex offenders. If the vast majority of people convicted of sex offenses are on community supervision, tools are needed to manage them. While registries are important and justified, we need to bring additional resources to the table if we are going to protect society.
      Best, Adam.

  4. I read that study with a fine tooth comb and no matter how you slice it or dice it, the numbers are compelling even when you add all the variables in the mix (of which their are plenty) at the end of the published data they include the caveat of (unavailable) data from various 15 states they looked at. Meaning they used what they had and determined all their numbers overall were underestimated in many categories. The bottom line? We are not talking about stealing hubcaps here, we are trying to count a crime that cant be fully counted due to a myriad of reasons. Sex offenders and their advocates will troll any forum to discount recidivsim rates, they love to tout that sex offenders have the lowest re-offend the study indicated, “it depends what kind of offender we are talking about and since our illustrious Judicial loves to throw them all out onto our laps? Its safe to assume and expect they are ALL dangerous and need a tight collar and a short leash. The general public should look at conviction dates also, if a guy or woman finds themselves on the registry anytime within the last couple of years? You can bank it wasnt for the infamous “underage girlfriend ” or urinating on a tree” excuse. The registry and the crimes that will land you on it, have been fine tuned and after plea deals, budget cuts can figure what ever poor excuse for DNA who finds his picture on it now should be sitting in a cell, not complaining about how close to a school he can live..

  5. Samantha Ruth says:

    “WASHINGTON, D.C.—Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release,( 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime,)
    the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. If (all crimes )are included, 43 percent of sex offenders were rearrested for various offenses.”

    I am just a lay person and when I look at statistical data without charts it is not always completely clear. But your title leads one to believe that sex offenders are 4x as likely to committee a new sex offense. This is slightly clarified when the statement that 43% may be re arrested for any crime while the other prison population’s recidivism rate is 63%, for all new crime for give me but this does not add up. It would appear that aprox 95% of all new sex crimes would come from someplace other than those already in the system, would it not? So if 5% of sex offenders reoffend and 43% of thier total return to some sort of crime that would mean does only 38% were charged with some other type of crime, as apposed to the 63% of all offenders your title states:
    “Sex offenders four times more likely to be arrested for another sex crime: Crime statistics”
    so how is 38% 4 x 68% So when you take the overall whole of the apx 277,000 of all offenders as apposed 9700 arrested sex offenders, which would pose a lager danger to our community, the over 150,000 from the general population who robe cheat steal do drugs commit domestic violence murder DUI and on and on or the aprox 290 if I am close repeat sex offenders who now are probably in jail for some considerable amount of time as a 2x sex offender. So just what is this site about cause I don’t GET It this appears to be a stretching of the truth and a mis representation and interpretation of those facts as I look at them.

    • Hi Samantha: Thanks for your questions. The research is straight from Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice data sets which are very large and well regarded.
      I “think” you are objecting to the small numbers of sex offenders rearrested for sex crimes and feel that the ratio is misleading.
      Please note that the vast majority of sex offending is never reported to law enforcement and to those of us within the system, we are aware that sex offenders are responsible for much larger numbers than the data indicates, and that’s why we chose to use the ratio presented.
      We appreciate your interest. CIA staff.


    It’s easy to pick and article and chop out what you want to get your version of the truth out, but I have many studies linked on my blog, which show sex offenders are LESS LIKELY to commit another sex related crime, so you can read the many and judge for yourself, instead of seeing a biased article and assuming it’s true. Not all sex offenders are like the 5% or less we see on the news daily. If all were as dangerous as the public thinks, we’d see dead kids all over the place, we’d be knee deep in dead kids, but we are not. So that alone kind of disproves some of this BS.

    • Hi. Thanks for writing. I’m not sure that we can refer to Bureau of Justice Statistics research as biased or hand-picked. The extremely large samples involved in BJS data have stood the methodological test of time. The problem for all of us is the fact that the majority of sex offenders are not in prison but out in the community, thus treatment (shown to reduce recidivism) as well as supervision is necessary. The public needs to understand that there are a wide variety of crimes that fall under the banner of sex offenses and that many convicted go on to lead law abiding lives. It’s easy to condemn all sex offenders, but citizens and we within the criminal justice community need to deal with the fact that they are in our communities. That reality means that treatment and supervision and acceptance of change when warranted are necessary components.
      We appreciate your comments.

  7. Many people say sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated. However, the Texas State Auditor in 2007 released a report showing that sex offenders who completed the Texas Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) were 61% LESS LIKELY to commit a new crime. (See “An Audit Report on Selected Rehabilitation Programs at the Department of Criminal Justice.” Texas State Auditor. March 2007. Report No. 07-026. Retrieved Oct 20, 2009.

    • Hi Sam: You are correct, research on sex offender treatment is positive for those completing it. The concern overall is the availability of sex offender treatment and the quality of treatment.

      We strongly support offender treatment in general and want to see programs expand. The bottom line is that money for treatment is declining and quality of existing treatment is questionable. There needs to be state-of-the-art strategies for offender-based programs based on proven research (Meta analysis). Until that happens beyond the Washington State Public Policy Institute, the public will not fully support treatment efforts.

      We greatly appreciate your comments

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