Risk factors for Criminal Recidivism in Older Sexual Offenders

Risk factors for Criminal Recidivism in Older Sexual Offenders

     There is an increasing problem with older sex offenders in the justice system.  The number of prisoners is on the rise.  This is noticeably higher than any other age group.  It is said that half of the male prison population is over the age of 60.  This is speaking specifically of sex offenders (cited in Greenfield, 1997, UK Home Office, 2003, and Uzoaba, 1998).  There is increased pressure within communities for treatment programs to accommodate these older sex offenders. This study is based on the fact that recidivism risk may be lower in older sex offenders.  Older sex offenders in the UK have shown different traits and personality differences compared to other criminals.  These personality differences may contribute to risk assessment and treatment (Fazel et. al., 2002).  If it can be shown they are less likely to offend, we can get them treatment, and back out into the communities.

     This study was based on a cohort of sex offenders released from Swedish prisons during 1993-1997.  A total of 1, 303 were identified.  The males were various ages from 18 up.  Contact and non contact sexual offenses were looked at.  There were 551 prisoners convicted of rape of coercion, 596 child molestation, and 156 other non penetrative offenses.  Criminal information was gathered from all of the prisoners.  Other information was gathered from files that were obtained from other places.  This information included previous sex offenses, any other type of convictions, non contact sexual offenses (indecent exposure), whether victims were related or non related, 24 or younger from prison, married, or cohabitating with other inmates or adult prisoners for 2 or more years, and if they have had previous help with repeat offending (cited in Hanson & Bussiere, 1998).  Two outcomes were studied.  Reconviction due to sexual offenses, and reconviction due to violent sex offending and other violent crimes.

Risk factors for Criminal Recidivism in Older Sexual Offenders

     Sexual offenses were defined in accordance with the sixth chapter of the Swedish Penal Code.  Twenty people in the study were counted, but had unknown offenses.  What would happen if this study was done in every state?  Some guidelines for sexual offenses vary.  Another issue with Swedish law, is that the Swedish judicial system does not allow for plea bargaining from sexual assault down to regular assault.  Many other places have people who are in prison for regular assault, when in actuality, their assault was sexual in nature.  How would this throw off the numbers of the study?  How many of these people were reconvicted again, or were successful with treatment?  How would the study change, if these people were added in?

     Some of the data may not have been valid, due to obtaining information directly from the prisoners themselves.  They may have added or excluded certain pieces of their history.  Were any certain measurement tools used when obtaining information?

     There was a lot of talk about whether other violent crimes have been committed.  There is not necessarily a link between sexual offending and violent crimes alone.  I feel that sexual offenses and other crimes should have been separate.  The people who were convicted of violent crimes should have been separate, since the study was based around whether there are different traits in older sex offenders.  The offenders in the study should not have had it taken into account whether they committed other crimes.

     Another big problem was that Swedish prison treatment programs were never evidence based.  They were not available to all prisoners.  This would leave the prisoners who were unable to get help at a disadvantage.  I feel they would be more likely to commit a repeat offense over those that had the opportunity to get help.  I would take a group of people who have had the same opportunities for help.

Risk factors for Criminal Recidivism in Older Sexual Offenders

     It seems to me that the research results, were based more on the Cox regression scale.  This to me, just seems that the results were based around a calculation rather than actual personal events, etc.  I am sure that it is relevant and works to an extent, but there is always a margin of error when something is standardized.  The results section and the methods section appeared to be vague. I question how accurate the results really are.  It is hard to understand where the results come from.  People’s backgrounds, etc. were not explained.  What is the Cox regression scale?  They could have explained that to give people more of an understanding of where the measurements were coming from.  I wish there was an overall more measurable approach within this study.  There were too many loop holes that could have changed the statistics of what results were obtained. To me, I was left with more questions than answers.

     Another thing I question in the over all results, was the fact that people who committed offenses with strangers were more likely to offend again.  I feel this may be do to the opportunities out there.  Someone who only offends people they know, don’t have as much leeway as people who will randomly choose someone.  In this case, there may be many people out there that would offend again, but they don’t have the chance because they don’t have the option of someone they know.  This does not mean that they would not offend again, if given the chance to do so.  Because they aren’t in the pattern of offending, then they are not getting the treatment that they need to get out of the sex offender way of thinking and behavior.  These people may be comfortable only offending people they know, but there is nothing saying that they won’t span out to strangers in time if they get desperate enough.  It also makes me wonder if these people would not become internet predators.  They could find someone, get to know them, then go for the offense.

Risk factors for Criminal Recidivism in Older Sexual Offenders

     In the future, I would recommend going more into people’s backgrounds.  There seemed to be too much focus on the crimes that the people committed, but no correlation to their past.  A person can also offend based on experiences in their past, as opposed to the fact that they committed a crime in general.  If it could be determined what lead these people to offend, that is just as much part of a treatment direction and a probability of  reoffending.

     I would probably want to see more consistency in the measurements of the people involved in the study.  I think that there probably was a lot o f discrepancy in the information given by the participants.  Where did they get the charts that the other information was obtained from?  There could be missing and misrepresented information in these as well.

     In a future study, I would like to see a psychological testing completed on all participants.  How many of these people who were reicarcerated, or had more treatable traits, had a mental illness of some sort.  I think that mental illness would make a big difference.

    In the future if another similar study were conducted, why don’t they consider that age has to do with a decrease in recidivism for other reasons?  Could it have to do with testosterone levels lowering?  They state that men in the UK showed certain personality characteristics that may lower the chance of reincarceration, but what were these characteristics?

     I would like to have a study done on backgrounds and personality traits as they relate to recidivism in inmates. Maybe used a variety of personality tests to help draw conclusions so that there is some form of measurable outcome. Overall, I just felt the study did not take a lot of factors into consideration.  If they did, they were not reported in the study. It was vague, and lead to many questions.  The process should have walked the reader through exactly what went on, and what could have lead to the results.


Fazel, S., Sjostedt, G., Langstrom, N, & Gann, M. (2006). Risk Factors for Criminal         Recidivism in Older Sex Offenders. Sex Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 18        159-167.