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A longitudinal examination of sex offender recidivism prior to and following the implementation of SORN


Richard Tewksbury, Ph.D., University of Louisville, Department of Justice Administration, 204 Brigman Hall, Louisville, KY 40292, U.S.A. E-mail:


The goals of the present study were to examine the recidivism rates of two matched samples of sexual offenders, those released prior to and after sex offender registration and notification (SORN) in New Jersey. The pre-SORN group (1990–1994) included 247 offenders, while the post-SORN group (1996–2000) included 248 offenders. The longitudinal analysis demonstrated that for sex offenders released from prison both prior to and after implementation of SORN, there are clearly two distinguishable groups of sex offenders in relation to patterns of recidivism. More than three-quarters of sex offenders were identified as at low risk of recidivism, with low rates of repeat criminal offenses. By contrast, the high-risk group of offenders was not only more likely to commit future criminal offenses, including sex offenses, but they were also more likely to commit significantly more offenses and to do so fairly quickly following release. Analyses also include an examination of the influence of demographics, substance abuse and mental health issues, treatment history, sex offense incident characteristics, and criminal history on recidivism. Finally, SORN status was not a significant predictor of sex or general recidivism. The study limitations and policy implications are discussed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.