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Sex offender policy discussions should consider all of the data

In a recent post, we discussed some of the issues concerning Florida’s Sexually Violent Predator program. While not every sex crime would fall under the umbrella of that program, many citizens might not appreciate the distinction. Consequently, some of the more inflammatory allegations about repeat offenders in the program might be generalized as behavior typical of all sex offenders.


A more accurate context for policy discussion would start with data of all sex offenders. In the past 14 years, about 31,000 individuals convicted of a sex crime have been released from Florida’s prisons. Of that number, only 1,400 -- or less than five percent -- were arrested for new sex crimes. That recidivism rate among sex offenders is lower than many other types of criminal offenses.

A sex crimes attorney might agree that an individual facing charges arising from an alleged sexual offense might encounter similar prejudice. Yet not all types of sex offenses warrant the same treatment, and it might be unfair to categorize them together. An attorney might be instrumental in making this point to a jury, arguing for an outcome that is appropriately tailored to the alleged offense.


In terms of policy, at least one commentator suggests that a qualified practitioner assess sex crime defendants prior to their sentencing, in order to gauge their risk of recidivism and their potential for rehabilitation. Instead of applying mandatory minimum sentences to all sex offenders, a case-by-case approach might lead to better results, and create less strain and economic burden on an already crowded prison system.


Source:, “Opinion: Sex Offense Recidivism Is Rare, Shouldn't Determine Policy,” Jill Levenson, Sept. 5, 2013

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