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

26 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2018

See all articles by Thomas H. Cohen

Thomas H. Cohen

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

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Date Written: September 2018

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 (PCRA)—accurately predicts reoffending behavior among the federal sex offender population. This study uses a unique dataset of approximately 5,300 convicted sex offenders on federal supervision to investigate 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 predictive 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 as they manifested lower PCRA risk scores and recidivism rates than offenders convicted of other major federal sexual offenses that involve 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 (September 2018). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 15, Issue 3, pp. 456-481, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3233234 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jels.12184

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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