By KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON - The rate at which those convicted of sex crimes against children go on to commit other crimes after being convicted is 20 percent, according to a report released Wednesday by the Vermont Center for Justice Research. Slightly over 1 percent, however, commit a new sex crime.
The report, titled "Sexual Crimes Against Children: A Study of Offender Recidivism" was completed in January, said Max Schlueter, director of the Vermont Center for Justice Research, which is managed by the Norwich Studies and Analysis Institute, a non-profit based in Northfield.
The study defined a recidivist as a person who was re-convicted of any crime in Vermont Superior Court Criminal Division, which included probation violations and motor vehicle offenses. A person also had to no longer be incarcerated for the sex offense.
"It is encouraging that the overall recidivism rate was 20 percent. This finding is consistent with our prior finding that 24 percent of defendants who sexually assault adults recidivate," reads the report’s conclusion.
The number was deemed "encouraging" because the recidivism for other violent offenses is higher. Domestic assault, for example, has a recidivism rate of 53 percent, according to the report. Of the 160 defendants examined by the report, only two committed sex crime a second time.
The report looked at those convicted in Vermont of a child sex crime between 2004 and 2009. The group consisted of 223 people, but 160 were found eligible to recidivate by the study’s definition.
All were men. The median age of the group was 38 years old. The report had race and ethnicity data for 70 percent of the group, and of that 94 percent were white, 3.5 percent were African American, while other ethnic backgrounds counted for 1.8 percent.
According to the report, of the offenders looked at, the most common underlying offense was lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, with 74.4 percent. The second most common, at 9 percent, was aggravated sex assault on a victim under 10 years old. The most common type of recidivist crime was failing to comply with the sex offender registry.
First-time offenders had the lowest recidivism rate, 13 percent, while recidivist sex offenders were the most likely to reoffend, at 28 percent.
In the report is a table showing the percentage of child sex crimes disposed of in each county between 2004 and 2009. According to it, the total number of criminal cases disposed in Bennington County was 677. Of them, 3.9 percent were child sex cases.
Chittenden County had the largest number of disposed cases, with 5,034. Child sex convictions accounted for 0.95 percent of them.