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An Examination of the Predictive Validity of Court Assigned Risk Levels on Recidivism Rates among Juvenile Sex Offenders




Houle, Allison

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Approximately 20% of all sexual crimes are committed by adolescents (Barbaree & Marshall, 2006). Those adolescents that are adjudicated for a sexual offense and subsequently complete a treatment program, typically have low sexual recidivism rates that range from approximately 5% to 15% (Nisbet, Wilson, & Smallbone, 2004; Vandiver, 2006; Waite et al., 2005; Worling & Curwen, 2000). Despite this low recidivism rate, policy and laws derived from adult laws have been created with the justification that such regulations are necessary to protect the public from even juvenile sexual offenders. During the past decade, all juveniles convicted of a sexual crime in Alabama were mandated to complete treatment. Subsequently, each adolescent was assigned a risk level of none, low, moderate, or high that was determined by the committing court in a post release hearing. This project examined the predictive validity of these different levels of risk assignment on sexual and non-sexual recidivism. A total of 658 male juvenile sex offenders were included as participants in this study. A total of 29 participants were re-arrested for a sexual crime within ten years of being released from treatment. The aggregate re-arrest rate for sexual crimes was 4%. However, none of the designated high risk juveniles were re-arrested. Interestingly, over 8% were re-arrested for some violation of registration requirements. Implications for accurately assessing risk and developmentally appropriate strategies for managing juveniles with sex offenses are discussed.