Research: Recidivism

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Source: Home Office (UK)

Recidivism (category-specific re-offending) and re-offending (all re-offending) are low among sex offenders, particularly child sex offenders. Studies reporting 90 or 95% rates use flawed or atypical methodology that is not comparable to that used for other rates.


For reasons of self-preservation, most governments have not capitulated to an agenda-driven approach when reporting re-offending among sex and child sex offenders. These authoritative sources put to bed the myth of high rates of re-offending, and indicate that child sex offending has very low rates of recidivism and re-offending.


  • Ministry of Justice (2009) for the British Home Office.
    7-12% reoffending over 1 year (2000-2007) and The lowest total number of re-offences (all types) per 100 offenders, per original crime type. A negligible number of recidivous relapses per child sexual offender (0.03% over 1 year), with only drugs production and trafficking being lower. Younger child sex offenders appear to be more common and significantly more likely to re-offend than older CSOs. Other data suggests that the reoffending rate for juveniles (10-17) in both the sex and child sex categories is considerably higher (over twofold for juvenile child sex offenders), but remember that this does not necessarily apply to specific recidivism, where data is sparse.
  • Patrick, Steven, and Marsh, Robert (2009). "Recidivism Among Child Sexual Abusers: Initial Results of a 13-Year Longitudinal Random Sample," Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 18(2), 123-136.
    9.2% over a 15-year period for child molesters recidivating in the generic SO category.
    "Forty-one of the 447 cases showed known recidivism for another sex crime (sex crime is a broader category than child sexual abuse). This means that the reconviction rate for sexual abuse was no more than 9.2% over this 15-year period."


  • Dr Frans Gieles on Hanson and Bussière (1998)
    13.4% (recidivism for sex offenders) and 12.7 (recidivism for child sex offenders) in a 4.5 (average) year interval.
    "On average, the sex offense recidivism rate was 13.4% (n = 23.393). The average rate for rapists was 18.9% (n = 1.839), for child molesters it was 12.7% (n = 9.603). For nonsexual violence, the average recidivism rate was 12.2% (n = 7.155); for child molesters it was 9.9% (n = 1.774), but for rapists it was 22.1% (n = 782). When recidivism was defined as any reoffence, the rates were higher: 36.3% overall (n = 19.374), for child molesters 36,9% (n = 3.363) and for rapists 46.2% (n = 4017)".
  • Recidivism of Sex Offenders -, 2001.
    The studies are not comparable, and use different intervals.
    10% recidivism rate for rapists (Grumfeld and Noreik (1986))
    4% recidivism rate for incest offenders.
    19% recidivism rate over 5 years for child molesters (Prentky, 1997)
    10-29% and 13-40% recidivism rates for child molesters (Marshall and Barbaree (1990), compared to 7-35% for rapists for example.
"By writing the National Criminal Justice Reference Center, P.O. Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20849-6000, you can obtain the following reports.
NCJ-163392 (February 7, 1997), Sex Offenses and Offenders: An Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault, finds the recidivism rate of 2,214 convicted rapists released from prison was 7.7% after three years. The only category of crimes with a lower recidivism rate are those persons convicted of murder (6.8%).
NCJ-193427 (June, 2002), Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994, finds the recidivism rate of 3,138 convicted rapists released from prison was 2.5% after three years. The only category of crimes with a lower recidivism rate are those persons convicted of murder (1.2%).
In April, 2001, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) released a report also on the recidivism rate of released sex offenders. In Ten-Year Recidivism Follow-Up of 1989 Sex Offender Releases, Office of Policy, Bureau of Planning and Evaluation, Paul Konicek, Principle Researcher, (available at, the recidivism rate of 879 sex offenders released from Ohio’s prisons in 1989, after ten (10) years, was found to be 8% for new sex offenses.
The ODRC study finds its results as typical, citing to:
1) Gibbons, Soothill, and Way, found in Furby, Weinrott & Blackshaw, 1989. (Twelve year study finding sex offender recidivism rate of 4%).
2) Gibbons, Soothill, and Way 1980, found in Furby, Weinrott & Blackshaw, 1989. (Thirteen year study finding sex offenders recidivism rate of 12%).
4) New York Department of Corrections, nine year follow-up study. Finding a 6% rate of recidivism for new sex offenses."

The Dark Figure

None of these figures give an accurate indication of the true extent of a released offender's behaviour, which can only be speculated upon. Mainstream feminist or victimological critics would assert that recidivism for child sex offending is particularly low because the victim is sexually oppressed and in a state of hidden suffering. However, a libertarian perspective may counter that (particularly in the case of sex contacts with teenagers, which make up a large majority of such cases), what we are seeing is an unusually high prevalence of unreported consensual crime. Without any doubt, western society provides an environment that is far more inductive to the disclosure of victimisation than consensual crime. This is supported by other research (covered in this project), which shows better outcomes for younger partners in unreported instances of intergenerational sex.