Sexually Violent Predators: Toward Reasonable Estimates of Recidivism Base Rates


  • The opinions expressed in this manuscript do not necessarily reflect the views of any institutions, agencies, or departments with which the authors are affiliated.

Correspondence to: Daniel J. Neller, P.O. Box 1194, Wynne, AR 72396, U.S.A. E-mail:


The sexual recidivism rate of sex offenders is a controversial issue. Perhaps as controversial is the sexual recidivism rate of the select group of sex offenders who are examined pursuant to sexually violent predator (SVP) statutes. At present, reliable estimates of SVP recidivism are unavailable. We propose that reasonable estimates of SVP recidivism can be reached by considering three available pieces of data: (i) a likely recidivism rate of the general population of sex offenders; (ii) procedures typically followed by jurisdictions that civilly commit sex offenders; and (iii) classification accuracy of procedures. Although sexual recidivism rates vary across jurisdictions, the results of our analyses suggest sex offenders referred for examination pursuant to SVP statutes recidivate at substantially higher rates than typical sex offenders. Our results further suggest that sex offenders recommended for commitment as SVPs recidivate at even greater rates than SVP respondents who are not recommended for commitment. We discuss practice and policy implications of these findings. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.