Corrections Sentencing recently highlighted a newly released sex offender recidivism study in Tennessee. The study indicated that convicted sex offenders in Tennessee are significantly less likely to reoffend than other types of felons. Studies have show that some sex offenders’ recidivate at lower levels, but you have to supervise sex offenders for longer periods of time.
Sex offenders pose a lower risk to communities if we invest in treatment and management while sex offenders are in institutions. We want sex offenders to be successful and success means no more victims.

The vast majority of sex offenders will not be identified and a majority of sexual assault victims are assaulted by someone they know. Therefore, policymakers need to pass sex offender laws that match community needs and the reality victims’ face.
Below is an account from the news report about the study:
“It goes against normal public perspective because people believe they are always going to reoffend,” said Tim Dempsey, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Chattanooga Endeavors, which seeks to help those released from prison transition back into society. “But if you’re just looking at risk, sex offenders have always been in that lower-risk category.”
For the study, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation followed 1,116 male offenders for three years after their releases in 2001, according to TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm. Half the offenders had been convicted of sex crimes and the other half nonsex crimes, Ms. Helm said.
Results were released in August, showing that 28 percent of the sex offenders were recommitted to the prison system, compared with 52 percent of other felons.
The sex offenders who were recommitted tended to remain on the streets longer before their next arrest, according to the study, which recorded statutory rapists, offenders who committed sexual battery and rapists as those with the highest rearrest rates.
Some skeptics wonder whether there are other factors affecting the reported dichotomy in repeat offense rates.
“They may offend less, or their victims may be less likely to report, as sex offenses are very difficult to prosecute,” said Dr. Charlotte Boatwright, president of the Coalition of Domestic and Community Violence of Greater Chattanooga and coordinator of the Chattanooga Family Justice Alliance.
“Victims often feel that it is useless to report it, as their character is put on trial to distract from the case against the (perpetrator), and they are terribly revictimized in the process,” Dr. Boatwright said. “Victims of sexual assault suffer the trauma for years, some for the remainder of their lives.”
The study’s findings echo results of two previous TBI recidivism studies, Ms. Helm said, one conducted in the early 1990s and a second in 1997.