U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte is so tough on crime she deceived lawmakers about the draconian child predator act she wrote in 2006. The former attorney general told senators the recidivism rate for sex offenders was 90 to 94 percent, according to the transcript of the Senate Judiciary hearing April 4, 2006.
She based that claim on a Canadian report in 2004 by Ron Lengervin, “Lifetime Sex Offender Recidivism: A 25 year Follow-Up Study.” It considered 320 Canadian sex offenders seen at the author’s clinic for evaluations between 1966 and 1974. Langevin found an overall 61.1 percent sex crime recidivism rate. The recidivism rate rose to 88.3, counting confessions in counseling and new arrests, regardless of outcome. A subgroup, molesters of children outside the family, had a 94.1 sex crime recidivism rate over 25 years. That is by far the highest rate in any of the recidivism studies I’ve read or heard of.
Criminologists widely agree sex offenders have very low recidivism today. Indiana sex offenders released in 2005 compiled a 1.05 percent sex crime recidivism rate in three years. State officials said this figure showed “a great deal of promise.” The typical rate in state after state is around three percent after three years.
Canadian researcher Karl Hanson accused Langevin of using a nonrandom sample chosen for evaluations in connection with major prosecutions and civil commitments. In the 1960s, only serial predators faced the loss of freedom for their sex crimes. Since then the prison census of sex offenders has risen a hundred-fold, and the folks on the sex offender registry today are far less prone to recidivism. The Internet shaming roster includes teen perpetrators who lost their virginity with their teen victims.
Canadian researcher Cheryl Webster has accused Langevin of unethical research. In her rebuttal entitled, “Results by Design: The Artefactual Construction of High Recidivism Rates for Sex Offenders.” she said the Langevin sample was much larger at first. He ignored all the people who were purged from the records system after 15 years for lack of new crimes. Those were the non-recidivists.
Kelly Ayotte is capable of doing great harm in Washington.
Chris Dornin of Concord is a former correctional counselor and a retired Statehouse reporter.