Crimes against children are serious offenses and Michigan has a legitimate interest in increasing child safety and decreasing recidivism of sex offenders. Criminal sexual conduct and sexual abuse are of the highest concern for Michigan lawmakers and courts. The Michigan court system has displayed a reliance on the high risk for recidivism posed by sex offenders or their likelihood to re-offend, however, this is mistaken. Contrary to the conclusions cited by the Court in the case of People v. Hallak, recidivism rates for sex offenders are actually quite low.

In a report on sex offender policies in the U.S. published by the Vera Institute of Justice, the author noted that, “many sex offender policies are predicated on the assumption that re- offense rates for sexual offenses are higher than those for other felonies… However, there is a significant body of research that appears to contradict this proposition.” Tracy Velazquez, The Pursuit of Safety: Sex Offender Policy in the United States, Vera Institute of Justice (New York, 2008), at 6. In fact, numerous researchers have observed the low rate of recidivism among sex offenders.

Several studies of formerly incarcerated American sex offenders confirm their low recidivism rates. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (“BJS”) conducted a separate analysis of the 9,691 male sex offenders who were within its three-year follow-up study of prisoners released in 1994 from prisons in 15 states. The BJS found that 24.0% were reconvicted and 11.2% were returned to prison with a new sentence for any type of crime. However, only 3.5% or 339 released sex offenders were convicted of another sex offense. Of 4,295 categorized as child molesters, 150 were reconvicted of a new sexual offense against a child or adult. See Patrick Langan, et. al.Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, (Washington, D.C., 2003).

A subsequent study analyzed 10 individual sub-samples from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States for a combined sample size of 4,724 and found that most sex offenders do not re-offend sexually, but that rates vary depending on the nature of the offense and the offender’s age and prior record. The researchers suggested, “[r]ather than considering all sexual offenders as continuous, lifelong threats, society will be better served when legislation and policies consider the cost/benefit break point after which resources spent tracking and supervising low-risk sexual offenders are better re-directed toward the management of high-risk sexual offenders, crime prevention and victim services.” Andrew J.R. Harris and R. Karl Hanson, Sex Offender Recidivism: A Simple Question, Report 2004-03, Department of the Solicitor General Canada (Ottawa, 2004), at 12.

In Michigan, the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (“CAPPS”) found that “a conviction for a serious offense does not necessarily indicate current risk. On the contrary, people convicted of homicide and sex offenses are the least likely to repeat their crimes.” See Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending, 10,000 Fewer Michigan Prisoners: Strategies to Reach the Goal. (Lansing, June 2015), at 45. Of all the homicide and sex offenders who were paroled from 2007 through the first quarter of 2010, more than 99% did not return to prison within three years with a new sentence for a similar offense. Of the 4,109 people who had been serving for a sex offense, 32 (0.8%) returned to prison for a new sex offense. Id. at 44. Further, CAPPS found that of the nearly 77,000 people first paroled from 1986-1999, 18% overall returned with new offenses within four years. However, homicide and sex offenders had return rates below 8%. Of 6,673 sex offenders, 204 (3.1%) returned with a new sex offense. Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending, Denying Parole at First Eligibility: How Much Public Safety Does it Actually Buy? A Study of Prisoner Release and Recidivism in Michigan. (Lansing, Aug. 2009), at 23-27.

Smith Blythe, PC is an avid supporter of reform for current sex offender registry laws and electronic monitoring laws in Michigan. If you or a loved one is facing charges of criminal sexual conduct, contact our office to set up a free consultation.

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