Predicting Sex Offender Recidivism: Using the Federal Post-Conviction Risk Assessment Instrument to Assess the Likelihood of Recidivism Among Federal Sex Offenders

41 Pages Posted: 26 May 2017  

Thomas H. Cohen

Government of the United States of America - Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts

Date Written: May 25, 2017

Abstract

Sex offenses are among the crimes that provoke serious public concern. The federal response to the problem of sex offending has resulted in an exponential increase in the number of sex offenders on federal post-conviction supervision; however, relatively few studies have explored whether and how well the actuarial risk instrument currently used by federal probation officers – the federal Post Conviction Risk Assessment instrument or PCRA for short – accurately predicts reoffending behavior among the federal sex offender population. This study provided an exploration of the PCRA’s capacity to effectively predict subsequent recidivism activity for convicted federal sex offenders. Results show that the PCRA accurately predicts recidivistic behavior involving the commission of any felony or misdemeanor offenses, violent offenses, and probation revocations for this population. However, the PCRA’s predicative capacities deteriorate when the instrument is used to assess the likelihood of sexual recidivism. In addition, this study showed that offenders convicted of online child pornography offenses presented some challenges in terms of predicting their reoffending behavior because they manifested lower PCRA risk scores and recidivism rates compared to offenders convicted of other major federal sexual offenses that typically involve more hands-on behavior.

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Thomas H., Predicting Sex Offender Recidivism: Using the Federal Post-Conviction Risk Assessment Instrument to Assess the Likelihood of Recidivism Among Federal Sex Offenders (May 25, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2973853 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2973853

Thomas H. Cohen (Contact Author)

Government of the United States of America - Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts ( email )

One Columbus Circle N.E.
Washington, DC 20544
United States

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