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Recidivism and sex offenders

The recent tragic death of an Ohio State student allegedly by a released sex offender has made headline news. The consequence of this act is likely to resonate loudly in the halls of the Ohio legislature. These types of high-profile cases can reshape the law, often for the wrong reasons and often with negative consequences.

The problem is that recidivism rates among sex offenders are generally quite low. One study places the number at 5.3 percent of released sex offenders commit another sex crime. This means that 94.7 percent do not reoffend. By comparison, the recidivism rate for all inmates is 28.7 percent.

But legislature finds it much easier to listen to the outcry that stems from a single outlier incident, and demand longer sentences. What they should do is examine what went wrong with the process and what could be done to prevent similar incidents from occurring.

Because many of the details of the man's release are confidential, it is unclear exactly how he was processed for release. One difficulty many former sex offenders face is the lack of help necessary to assist them in reintegrating into society once they are released. 

He was apparently staying at a halfway house, but it we do not know the services that were available and the types of counseling or other assistance provided. They may have been lacking or of poor quality.

Perhaps with a record of violence both prior to his conviction and during his sentence, there may have been warning signs that may have cautioned against his release. Nonetheless, he is still only a single offender. It would be unwise for the legislature to make any radical changes to the law without reviewing the full spectrum of this very complex issue.

 

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