October 13, 2013

Few sex offenders commit new crimes

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Sex offenders are the only type of criminal with their own registry so the public can keep an eye on them, so they must be the most likely to commit more crimes, right?

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338 Water St. in Augusta.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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34 Cedar St. in Augusta

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Wrong.

Contrary to the seemingly widespread public perception that sex offenders are more likely than other criminals to commit another crime, state and national statistics show that sex offenders are less likely to commit another criminal act than other criminals.

A 2010 study by researchers at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service found “sex offenders had statistically significant lower rates of return to prison for a new crime than other offenders at one, two, and three years after release from prison.”

The study found that 4 percent of sex offenders were returned to prison within one year of their release for any new crime, compared to 7.1 percent of other offenders. Sex offenders were returned to prison for committing new crimes after two and three years at rates of 8.8 percent and 15 percent, respectively, compared to 15.1 percent and 21 percent for all other offenders.

However, the same study noted sex offenders were much more likely to end up back in prison than other criminals for committing, specifically, another sex offense.

“Sex offender return rates for sex offenses at one, two and three years were .7 percent, 1.8 percent, and 3.8 percent, which were 14, 18, and 38 times higher than the return rate of other offenders,” according to the report, “Sexual Assault Trends and Sex Offender Recidivism in Maine.”

Police Chief Robert Gregoire said he was not aware of any reoffenses by sex offenders in Augusta.

Nor was Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty aware of reoffenses by sex offenders in the county.

Mayor William Stokes, who is also deputy attorney general and head of the criminal division of the Maine attorney general’s office, said sex offenses tend to be of more concern than many other crimes because of the nature of the offense.

He noted he’s seen data indicating some sex offenders, specifically those who commit criminal acts against children, have a higher likelihood of engaging in such acts again than other criminals.

“That’s why they have the sex offender registry, and you don’t have a registry for burglars and other criminals,” Stokes said.

Scott Landry, superintendent of Maine Correctional Center, said some sex offenders are at higher risk of offending, more so than both other sex offenders and other criminals. He said those higher-risk offenders are monitored more closely upon their release, and have more requirements to maintain close contact with their probation officer, and, often, a sex offender therapist.

“Not all sex offenders are of equal risk to reoffend,” Landry said, noting when someone who is 19 years-old and has a sexual relationship with someone who is 15, the act is still illegal, but the offender is likely less a risk to reoffend than more severe offenders.

Augusta landlord Larry Fleury, who owns 23 rental properties in Augusta with 170 units, rents to more than a dozen sex offenders in the city.

Fleury said in the 31 years he has rented out apartments in Augusta, he hasn’t had a tenant who was a sex offender commit another sex offense.

“We looked at recidivism rates and found they’re actually less likely to reoffend than people who’ve done other types of things,” Fleury said.

National data also appears to contradict public perception that sex offenders are more likely to commit new crimes than criminals who commit non-sex offenses.

A 2003 federal Bureau of Justice Statistics study of recidivism of more than 9,000 male sex offenders in 15 states released from prison in 1994 found they were less likely to commit new crimes than the 260,000 non-sex offenders released that same year, but more likely than them to commit new sex offenses.

Within the first three years of their release from prison, 24 percent of those sex offenders were reconvicted of a new criminal offense, versus 48 percent of other, non-sex offender criminals over that same time period.

However sex offenders were four times more likely to be arrested for a sex crime than other offenders, according to the federal study. Within the first three years following their release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders were rearrested for a sex crime, while only 1.3 percent of non-sex offenders were arrested for a sex crime.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
kedwards@centralmaine.com

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