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Washington Study Finds Higher Recidivist Rate Amongst Sex Offenders Recommended, But Not Committed, For Civil Commitment

by David M. Reutter

A report by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy concludes that sex offenders “who were referred for possible civil commitment have a much higher pattern of recidivism than the full population of sex offenders.” The report examined the recidivism of 135 sex offenders released between 1990 and 1999. Each had been referred by the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) for civil commitment, but a petition to declare the sexually violent predators was not filed.

In Washington State, an offender may be civilly committed if a jury finds that after service of a sentence for a crime of sexual violence the offender’s personality disorder or mental abnormality predisposes the person to commit sex acts that are likely to reoccur upon others.
[Editor’s Note: Readers should note that there is no such “mental abnormality”, or disorder, it is a term made from whole cloth to justify keeping sex offenders in prison for the remainder of their lives after they have completed their criminal sentences. The American Psychiatric Association routinely files amicus briefs with courts informing them of this fact, to no avail.] The study applied a routine six year follow-up period from the time of release.

Of those, 135 offenders, 93(69 percent) were convicted of at least one new offense. Felony offenses accounted for 50 percent of the offenses, misdemeanors were committed by another 16 percent, and 19 percent of the offenders were convicted of failing to register as a sex offender, but only 4 percent of them had that as their only offense.

Among the 67 offenders who committed new felony offenses, 31 of them committed violent sex offenses. While 14 more were convicted of violent non-sexual offenses. In all, one-third of the 135 offenders under review had at least one new conviction for a violent felony. Meanwhile, 21 of the offenders had new misdemeanor convictions, with 5 being of a sexual nature.

The report then analyzed the nature of the offenses committed by the 31 offenders convicted of violent sexual offenses. 74 percent of them were convicted of felony contact such as rape, indecent liberties, and assault. “The remaining recidivists were convicted of felony offenses that could be considered precursors to child molestation,” the report said. Of those 31 offenders, 21 (68 percent) committed their new offence in Washington state, while the rest committed new crimes in other states.

Prior to their release, 44 of the study’s offenders participated in WDOC’s Sex Offender Treatment Program prior to release. 26 completed it. Of those who had participated, 29 percent were convicted of new sex offenses.

The report found age has an impact. It considered age at the time of release. The youngest, 18 to 24, had a 56 percent recidivism rate of committing new sex offenses. In contrast, none of the offenders over 50 commited a new sex offense. As for violent non-sex felonies, there was an 18 percent recidivism rate for persons 25-39 years of age, while no such conviction ensued for the 18-24 age bracket. Only one offender 50 or older committed a violent non-sex offense.

Amongst the study participants, eight (6 percent) were re-referred for civil commitment and subsequently committed. Another 6 (4 percent) received life without parole sentences under the “persistent offender” or “two strike” statutes. When comparing this study group to a comparative study of other sex offenders, there exists a higher recidivism rate for the 4,091 sex offenders placed in the community between 1994 to 1998. The five year recidivism rate for sex felonies was 2.7 percent, while non-sex violent felonies were 4 percent overall, the felony recidivism rate was 13 percent.

This report is available on PLN’s website. See: Six year follow-up or 135 Released Sex Offenders Recommended for Commitment Under Washington’s Sexually Violent Predator Law, Where No Petition was filed.

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