Jill Levenson, associate professor of human services, was part of the research team for a report released last week by the U.S. Department of Justice, that found the tier-based sex offender registration and management system put in place in 2006 does not predict risk of recidivism by sex offenders and points to the need for a system based on more empirical data.
"The offense-based classification system adopted by the Adam Walsh Act was developed without empirical validation," said Levenson. "Therefore the essential question is whether this classification system accurately represents the risk of re-offense and leads to more effective sex offender management."
The study, funded by the National Institute of Justice, collected data about 1,789 adult male sex offenders released from prisons in Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey and South Carolina. The sex offenders were tracked for up to 10 years. After 5 years, 5.1 percent of them had been rearrested for a new sexual crime, and after 10 years, the sexual rearrest rate was 10.2 percent.
Tier level was not significantly associated with recidivism in New Jersey, Minnesota and South Carolina and was inversely associated with recidivism in Florida - the only state in the sample that has been certified as substantially compliant with the federal Adam Walsh Act.
"The findings call into question the accuracy and utility of the federal classification system in detecting high-risk sex offenders and applying concordant risk management strategies," said Levenson.