Maybe, just maybe, they will start paying attention to the facts now, and not just what feels good and/or public opinion?
By Uma Ramiah
Once sex offenders in Connecticut are released from prison, they are unlikely to be sent back for another sex crime, according to a report released Wednesday (PDF) by the state Office of Policy and Management.
Of 746 sex offenders released in Connecticut in 2005, five years later, less than 4 percent had been re-arrested and charged with a new sex crime.
"What's really relevant here is that the population is really small," said Ivan Kuzyk, author of the report and director of the CT Statistical Analysis Center at OPM. "It's kind of remarkable to me. I hadn't expected the rates to be so low."
- Of course, everyone has drank the koolaid fed by the media and politicians for so long, they believe recidivism is high, when it's not, and study after study shows this.
After arrest, 2.7 percent of those 746 men were convicted of another sex offense; 1.7 percent went back to prison to serve time for that new sex crime.
The data, Kuzyk writes, flies in the face of conventional wisdom that says all sex offenders are likely to re-commit a sex crime, and then head straight back to prison.
"There hasn't been a rational and reasonable discussion about sex offenders," Kuzyk said. "But now we know that not every single one of them is going to reoffend. And we can get a better understanding of who these people are."
Michael Lawlor, undersecretary for criminal justice at OPM, pointed to the potential for reaching this small, high-risk group through an existing criminal justice system and social services intervention.
"As it turns out, there are things that can be done with this population with very significant results," he said, while previewing the report last week.
- And public shaming and residency restrictions are not one of them, those have the reverse effect of what they say they will accomplish. They force people into homelessness, joblessness and no hope, and when you do that, the likelihood of someone committing another related or unrelated crime, goes up drastically.
With this kind of data, Lawlor said, the state might be able to single out those at highest risk of returning to prison for a sex specific crime, prioritize them and target them with special services.
- Wow, are finally seeing the light? Maybe, only time will tell. People who work with ex-sex offenders, and the many advocates online, have been saying this for years.
"The idea is you can actually do things to them while you've got them to reduce the chance of them getting re-arrested," he said.
What those compiling data for the report weren't able to do, Kuzyk said, was pore through the detailed files of each of the offenders.
"You can't go through more than 700 records -- that's just cost-prohibitive," Kuzyk said.
But with this data, the state can now go back and determine whether the small population of reoffenders was, for example, under supervision by the state when they committed another sex crime. Or what specific type of sex crime they committed.
"If you've got less than 20 guys, you can move forward and do a qualitative analysis of their commonalities," Kuzyk said. And that should make it easier to identify high-risk offenders.
In treating and supervising sex offenders, the state's criminal justice system relies on the Department of Correction, a web of parole and probation officers, victim advocates and nonprofit service providers. According to the report, which pulled data from each of these groups, a specialized treatment plan is developed for each offender.
But until three weeks ago, there was no place for released sex offenders to go.
"There were no secure sex offender beds for high riskers getting out of prison," Lawlor said in his comments last week. "They were often just being dropped off by bus in Hartford or New Haven, ending up in homeless shelters. And that's the worst place for a sex offender to be."
Then, a 2008 provision of Public Act 08-01 required the state to build a residential facility for sex offenders released from prison. See sections 19 and 20. Despite objections from the town of Montville, a 24-bed facility for sex offenders opened last month on the grounds of the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center.
"Housing and supports are really important to keep them from re-committing," Lawlor said.
A larger report analyzes the arrests, convictions and imprisonment of 14,398 men for five years after their release from prison in Connecticut in 2005. A majority -- 78.6 percent -- were re-arrested within five years. And 49.8 percent of those re-arrested were convicted and sent back to prison. The recidivism rate among the 746 sex offenders for non-sex crimes was slightly lower at 40.2 percent.
The report's appendices go deeper, looking at five separate sex offender categories based on offenders' prior arrests, convictions, sentence histories and identification by the Department of Correction as sex offenders.
Looking at histories, prior convictions and arrests is crucial, Kuzyk said. As the report notes, offenders often commit sex crimes but are able to avoid sex charge convictions through a plea bargain. There are also cases where victims are unwilling or unable to come forward with testimony.
- And instead of cookie cutter laws, like the Adam Walsh Act and SORNA, when someone commits a sexual related crime, they should have experts evaluate the person and their history to determine the sentence and treatment, not just sentence them based on the cookie cutter laws.
"Sometimes, these guys will end up pleading guilty to a related, nonsexual crime. But who's a greater risk to public safety? Someone who was just convicted, or someone who was able to avoid conviction but remains high risk?"
Among the 1,712 men identified in at least one of the five subgroups, arrest on a prior sex charge was the best predictor for being sent back to prison for a new sex crime.
"This is all about trying to assess future risk based on who you were in the system," Kuzyk said.
Recidivism rates don't change much year to year, Kuzyk said. So he's hoping to move the department to looking at smaller subgroups, like this one, on a yearly basis.
Lawlor called the report the first of its kind in Connecticut. "And as I understand it, this may have been a virtually unique analysis in the country," he said.