There is a misconception out there that people who are registered sex offenders are extremely likely to commit a crime again. This recidivism rate has been touted to be as high as 80 percent. In fact, the Supreme Court of the United States cited this statistic in a 2002 case that involved the many restrictions placed on sex offenders.
And yet, this statistic is staggeringly incorrect. The United States Department of Justice followed every released sex offender in 15 states for three years following a 1994 release. They found that the recidivism rate was only 3.5 percent. The most restricted and watched individuals with a criminal past in our system have an extremely low recidivism rate. And yet, this misconception haunts the sex offender jurisprudence, continuing to oppress these people who are just trying to get their lives back on track.
Sex offenders aren’t allowed to live in certain areas. They aren’t allowed to go to certain places. They have to register themselves and follow every protocol and rule “to a T” in order to protect themselves from further criminal punishment. They may have to wear GPS trackers. These people are highly restricted and monitored.
Here’s an example of the issues we are talking about here: a 21-year-old in 2002 was charged with having consensual sex with an underage girl he was dating. He served two years of probation, and then had to register as a sex offender. He then was charged with criminal conduct a decade later — for using social media to discuss a parking ticket. This happened in North Carolina, where the law states that it is a felony for a registered sex offender to use “commercial social networking website that the person ‘knows’ does not restrict usage to legal adults.”
This is too extreme and limiting, and though he may have violated the literal word of the law, the 21-year-old certainly didn’t violate the spirit of the law.
Source: Slate, “The Supreme Court’s Sex-Offender Jurisprudence Is Based on a Lie,” David Feige, March 7, 2017