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Do adults convicted of child sex offenses sexually abuse other children when they are released?

FAQ Category:
Adult's Behaviors with Children

As it is estimated that (60%) of children do not disclose sexual abuse[1], it is impossible to know with certainty how many adults who have been convicted of sex abuse, sexually abuse again when released from prison.

In a well-received study looking specifically at recidivism rates for convicted child sex offenders, the 5-year sexual recidivism rate for high-risk sex offenders (often known as Tier 3) is 22%, and decreases for this risk level to 4.2% for those who have remained offense-free in the community for 10 years. The recidivism rates for low-risk offenders (typically Tier 1) are shown to be consistently low (1%-5%).[2]

In comparison, it may help to understand that the most recent figures released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) estimate that 3 out of 4 of all prisoners released were arrested for a new crime within five  years.  

Recent meta-analyses do provide evidence that treatment for sex offenders contributes to the prevention of recidivism. However, emphasis is placed on the need to recognize that treatment is not a “one-size-fits” approach and that treatment needs to be designed to fit the unique characteristics and needs of any individual offender.




[1] Ullman, S. E. (2007). Relationship to perpetrator, disclosure, social reactions, and PTSD symptoms in child sexual abuse survivors. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 16(1), 19-36. doi:10.1300/J070v16n01_02

[2] Hanson, R. K., & Morton-Bourgon, K. E. (2005). The characteristics of persistent sexual offenders: A meta-analysis of recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73(6), 1154-1163. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.73.6.115