Friday, February 16, 2007

Alaska Judicial Council Report Reveals 66% Recidivism Rate Among Alaska Offenders

The Alaska Judicial Council recently released a report entitled "Criminal Recidivism In Alaska", a 32-page report discussing the results of tracking 1,934 offenders who were convicted of at least one felony in 1999, to determine how many would re-offend, and tracking the demographic and social factors contributing to the recidivism. The Executive Summary of the report is presented below; click on the link above to view the entire report in PDF format. The Anchorage Daily News also published a story on this issue on February 13th, 2007. Image at left courtesy of CNN.

The Alaska Judicial Council is an independent citizen's commission created by the Alaska Constitution. The Judicial Council has constitutional and statutory duties in three areas:

- To screen and nominate applicants for judicial vacancies for appointment by the governor
- To evaluate the performance of judges and provide evaluation information and recommendations to voters
- To conduct research and publish reports to improve the administration of justice in Alaska

According to the report's Executive Summary, the Council followed 1,934 offenders, all of whom were charged with at least one felony in 1999 and convicted. This report more specifically focuses on the 1,798 offenders who had been out of custody for a tleast three years after serving their sentence. Specifically, the Council discovered the following:

- 66% of all offenders in the sample had been re-incarcerated at least once, for either a new offense or a probation or parole violation.

- 59% were arrested at least once for a new offense.

Recidivism rates during the three-year period varied according to demographic factors and type of offense.

- Type of offense: 67% of Property offenders were re-arrested, as compared to 61% of Driving offenders, 60% of Violent offenders, 52% of Drug offenders, and 39% of Sexual offenders.

- Factors also closely related to increased recidivism were the offender's age and indigent status. Younger offenders are more disposed to recidivism. Indigent offenders (those requiring public defenders) were more likely to re-offend than those who paid for their own counsel.

- An offender's race or ethnicity, prior criminal history, substance abuse and mental health problems were other factors increasing the chance of re-arrest. Alaska Natives and blacks showed the highest recidivism rates, followed by whites, and then Asians at the lowest rate. Those with alcohol and drug addictions, as well as those with unresolved mental health issues also showed higher recidivism rates.

Types and seriousness of new convictions:

- Youthful offenders, males and those previous convicted of a Violent offense were more likely to commit a new offense at a more serious level than their 1999 offense.

- Most offenders who were convicted of a new offense were convicted of an offense of the same or lesser magnitude than their 1999 conviction. Offenders with substance abuse problems in 1999 were less likely than others to be convicted of a more serious offense. An offender's indigency or mental health problems were not related to conviction on a more serious offense.

- Sexual offenders were the least likely to commit the same offense again; those previously convicted of Driving offenses were the most likely to commit the same offense again.

Timing of recidivism - Offenders were arrested for most of their new offense within the first year after release, particularly during the first six months after release.

In their story, the Anchorage Daily News recorded reaction from several interested people, mostly state lawmakers. Sen. Con Bunde (R-Anchorage), said nothing would persuade him to repeal a law (SB 218) adopted last year that imposes severe penalties on people convicted of sex crimes. The measure tripled sentences for offenses such as sexual abuse of a child. "How much counseling would it take you to change your basic sexuality? Some folks are just hard-wired as pedophiles," Bunde said. [Ed. Note: This is possible, just as some people may be hard-wired to be homosexuals. But wouldn't it be worth it to figure out how to "re-wire" them? Unfortunately, the gay lobby screams bloody murder whenever someone discusses "reparative" therapy.]

Rep. Anna Fairclough, an Eagle River Republican and former head of the Anchorage-based Standing Together Against Rape said sex offenders are highly intelligent people who learn how not to get caught again. "Some of these people are very, very bright. They're just very, very bad," Fairclough said.

Sen. Hollis French (D-Anchorage), a former prosecutor, said the study fails to account for the most serious criminals. The timing of the study limited it to those who served short sentences, from 1999 to about 2003.

Only a small number of the people charged with a felony in 1999 fell into those categories and were still in prison and ineligible to be counted, said Larry Cohn, the council executive director. Another limitation is that the report did not track offenders who left the state and perhaps committed crimes somewhere else. However, Cohn still defended the value of the study because the information can help policymakers and legislators focus on those offenders that recidivate the most.

An individual named Z-Man has also discussed this story on his SexOffenderIssues blog. While he takes no editorial position in his post, he links to a site expressing concern about vigilantiism against sex offenders in our society. I have previously discussed the increase of pedophilia hysteria as a result of escalating measures against sex offenders.

Conclusions: Even considering the limitations discussed by state lawmakers, certain conclusions useful for further exploration can be drawn from this study

1). Doing time must be made harder to deter offenders from looking at prison as a "refuge". The low recidivism rate among sex offenders implies that they are scared of returning to prison because they are treated with contempt and abused by fellow inmates; the "convict code" puts sex offenders on the lowest level. In addition, correctional staffing and funding must be optimized to guarantee optimal supervision of inmates.

2). Prisoners with substance abuse problems must not be released until they are "dried out". Since offenders with drug and alcohol problems are more likely to re-offend, we must free them of their addictions before release. If this means delaying a release date, then so be it.

3). Prisoners with mental health problems require follow-on support. This group must be rendered self-competent and safe for society as a condition of release. If a mental-health prisoner cannot be rendered self-competent and safe for society, then we must continue to restrict that person's access to free society in some fashion. The precise method will depend upon the offender's specific pathological profile. An ex-offender who requires medication to become functional must be provided that medication, at society's expense if necessary. And if that ex-offender willfully refuses to take that medication, then that person must be re-incarcerated.

4). Change and expand the sex offender registry to make it a total "ex-offender registry". I believe placing sex offenders on a registy may contribute somewhat to their lower recidivism rate. Why not put all ex-cons on a registry, at least for a certain period of time, as another recidivism reduction strategy and see how it works? Singling out sex offenders for special treatment may be getting out of control.

5). Provide some infrastructural support during the critical first year after release. To make it in straight society, an ex-offender needs a place to hang his hat, a regular food supply, and gainful employment to develop solid work habits, build a work resume, and rebuild self-esteem. If the ex-offender has no personal support network, it would be appropriate for society to provide these services. An ex-offender could live in a public shelter or residence hotel, eat communal meals, and, in return, perform various public-works type jobs around town. During the winter, they could remove snow from sidewalks to make a city more pedestrian-friendly. During the summer, they could perform landscaping tasks. I see able-bodied homeless in Anchorage who live in publicly-supported homeless shelters and eat publicly-funded meals standing on snow-covered sidewalks waving signs saying "Will Work For Food". Why don't they drop the sign, pick up a shovel, clear the snow off the sidewalk, and in the process, make Anchorage more pedestrian-friendly and actually EARN those free services they've been getting?

The bottom line - if we want to reduce recidivism and jump-start interrupted lives, society must take some baseline collective responsibility at some point. You can't just toss a guy out of prison at his release date, give him a cheap suit, wish him good luck, and take no interest in what happens next. That's an engraved invitation to recidivism.

1 comment:

  1. Links:

    * If the sex offender laws are kept, why discriminate? If sex offenders must suffer for life and be on GPS, so should ANYONE with a criminal record. If this is not done, then it is discrimination. Anyone with a criminal record should be on a registry on the internet for the whole world to see, and be on GPS for life. DUI offenders should not be able to live XX feet from an alcohol store and should have their license revoked. Drug dealers should not be able to live XX feet from anywhere children congregate, so they cannot sell our kids drugs. Murderers should not be able to life XX feet from ANYONE, since they may kill again. DUI offenders kill more people than any other crime (I believe), and I'm sure the entire public would love to know if a murderer, thief, drug dealer, etc lives in their neighborhood. If all this was on the internet for all to see, I'm sure everyone would NOT leave their house at all. These people are everywhere. Why are sex offenders being "scape goated"? EVERYONE WITH A CRIMINAL RECORD SHOULD OBIDE BY THE SAME LAWS SEX OFFENDERS HAVE TO OR IT'S DISCRIMINATION!!

    * When will people ever realize no matter how tough on crime, all the zero tolerance, all the registries in the world will not prevent a murderer from murdering, a thief from stealing, a dealer from dealing, a user from using, a rapist from raping....accusations on any sex crime, child abuse, or domestic violence will literally nail your butt to the wall! No DNA has to be present, No violence has to be present..... HEARSAY ALONE IS LITERALLY NAILING THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE TO THE WALL BECAUSE OF THE BIASNESS IN THE LAWS.

    * If we must keep the registry for sex offenders only, we need a multi-tier system:

    * Why don't news agencies report when a murderer, gang member, DUI offender, drug dealer/user, etc are out of jail?

    * "Buffer Zones" are a false sense of security!

    * "Buffer Zones" are banishing people from their town, state, and possibly the country!

    * "Buffer Zones" create homelessness, which costs society lost productivity, individual dignity, and creates additional problems for enforcing any accurate registry!

    * "Buffer Zones" do nothing, except banish! It could be 50 miles and if someone wanted to re-offend, they'd just get in a car and drive!

    * It should be MANDATORY that anyone in prison get therapy, and out of prison, if needed. Therapy does work. If you just lock them up, when they get out, they will be worse off. Therapy teaches people how to not act out and help, regardless of what the general public thinks. Just ask a therpist.

    * We need to STOP this hysteria and get sex offenders the help they need.

    * You can pass all the laws you want but without therapy and this "mob" mentality will not solve anything!

    * I am sick of politicians using children to get their laws passed! Who would want to vote against anything that is "for the children"?

    * "Stranger Danger" is a smoke screen & hype! Most child sexual offenses occur by someone the child knows, like a family member or close friend!

    * These laws are being passed by politicians using sex offenders as scape goats, for votes!

    * Registries do NOT protect anyone or prevent crimes!

    * Registries are punishing sex offenders as well as their families and children, and opening them up to vigilantism. DON'T THE FAMILIES AND CHILDREN OF SEX OFFENDERS COUNT? They are suppose to be "for the children", right?

    * Registries are NOT being updated in a timely fashion, so the public is getting false information! How is this helping the public or protecting them when they cannot rely on them?

    * Registries are putting families and children of sex offenders in a public position to be socially outcast and discriminated against with regard to employment, housing, schooling, etc!

    * About 90% of the people on the registry are NOT sexual predators or pedophiles that these laws were for in the first place!

    * These laws cost millions, if not billions to enforce, and they cause prison over-population, which is already a problem, especially in California! AND TAX PAYERS PAY FOR ALL THIS!

    * GPS does not prevent sexual crimes! Another false sense of security which cost tons of money! Plus they are suppose to pay for this, which will eventually go homeless. MAKE THE TAX PAYERS WHO WANT THESE LAWS TO PAY FOR THEM!

    * These laws cause sex offenders to go underground and into hiding, due to the strict nature of the laws! How is this protecting anyone?

    * These laws are all abount money for law enforcement and votes for politicians. Prison is a business! Politicians are salaried and want elected/re-elected! Law enforcement get paid for people in jails, prisons or on the registry!

    * These laws blatantly disregard the United States constitutional rights of all citizens! (i.e. ex-post facto, due process & others)

    * These laws are cruel and unusual punishment! A sex offender cannot go to a fast food restaurant which has a playground! Why? We have just as must of a right as you to get a burger! Plus they cannot go anywhere kids congregate, which is endless (i.e. Amusement parks, Movie theaters, the list is endless)

    * Sex offenders can go to church, but must leave immediately afterwards. If a sex offender owns a business and someone decides to put a church or school next door, they have to now sell their business and move. This is not right, move the church or school, the sex offender was there first!

    * These laws continue to punish people even after a sentence has been served, and they are trying to get on with their lives! (i.e. ex-post facto)

    * These laws are driven by fear-mongering, opportunistic politicians and will do nothing to actually protect children!

    * There are over one million women and children whose lives are inter-twined with a sex offender in the United Stated. They should matter too!

    * Follow the money trail, these laws are conveyor-belt laws to benefit law enforcement! They get paid for the number of people in jail, prison or on the registry!

    * They are currently a one-size-fits all for sex offenders! Not all sex offenders are predators or pedophiles that these laws are suppose to be for anyway!

    * They are modern day witch hunts and a scarlett letter!

    * If Sex Offenders are re-offending, why does the registries grow each day? Because new people are being added daily for stuff like "public urination", "mooning", "concensual sex", "young children playing 'Doctor'" and various other minor offenses that we need not worry about. We need to worry about predators & pedophiles!

    * Now they are trying to make it a law that a sex offender, if they have kids, cannot "take a picture" of anyone under 18. This is totally stupid! Can't even take Christmas pictures, birthday pictures, etc!

    * Also, because a sex offender owns a business in town, many people are trying to get the business shut down! The sex offender had the business for awhile. If you don't like it, MOVE!!!!

    * The Nazi' did this back when Hitler was in power, with the Jews, Turks, etc.

    * The thing about pedophiles not being able to take pictures of kids is stupid. You'd better shred any pictures you have of your kids when they were babies, like diaper changing, baths, etc.