The Adam Walsh Act: An Examination of Sex Offender Risk Classification Systems

The Adam Walsh Act: An Examination of Sex Offender Risk Classification Systems

Kristen M. Zgoba, Michael Miner, Jill Levenson, Raymond Knight, Elizabeth Letourneau, and David Thornton

Abstract This study was designed to compare the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) classification tiers with actuarial risk assessment instruments and existing state classification schemes in their respective abilities to identify sex offenders at high risk to re-offend. Data from 1,789 adult sex offenders released from prison in four states were collected (Minnesota, New Jersey, Florida, and South Carolina). On average, the sexual recidivism rate was approximately 5% at 5 years and 10% at 10 years. AWA Tier 2 offenders had higher Static-99R scores and higher recidivism rates than Tier 3 offenders, and in Florida, these inverse correlations were statistically significant. Actuarial measures and existing state tier systems, in contrast, did a better job of identifying high-risk offenders and recidivists. As well, we examined the distribution of risk assessment scores within and across tier categories, finding that a majority of sex offenders fall into AWA Tier 3, but more than half score low or moderately low on the Static-99R. The results indicate that the AWA sex offender classification scheme is a poor indicator of relative risk and is likely to result in a system that is less effective in protecting the public than those currently implemented in the states studied.

5 comments for “The Adam Walsh Act: An Examination of Sex Offender Risk Classification Systems

  1. Frank
    August 9, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    On July 27, 2016 Speaking at a SMART Symposium, the Deputy Director of the USMS spoke.
    His name is David L. Harlow. Below is the link to the file.

    • August 10, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      One question comes to mind here and that is, where are all these statistics published or is this merely to glorify the 10-year anniversary of a failed Act?

  2. Frank
    August 9, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    The quote below was posted on another forum. I felt the words were very well said and needed to be seen by many. These words were posted in response to the Deputy Director Harlow Remarks.

    “This is one of the most disturbing and depressing things I’ve ever read.

    The word “proud” was featured prominently throughout the article which is laughable because I have never seen a group of people so PROUD of something that is not only ineffectual, but displaces the lives of human beings while subjugating those (and those forced to register) to undue and untold risk by having their personal information broadcast online for any and everyone to see.

    Do you believe that a war is being waged against you and your family now?

    They fully intend to fight us every step of the way and will most likely use this cooked data espoused at this symposium at the next Supreme Court challenge.

    Do you blame them? They are defending a million dollar industry and protecting all those cushy, security theater pie jobs and want to continue to look good in the eyes of the public while actually doing next to nothing.

    Their efforts to keep Adam Walsh from “dying in vain” will always be in vain. The registry is retaliatory vengeance, not “justice” for Adam Walsh. It’s a sick and twisted revenge fantasy and magical thinking to believe that identification is awareness and somehow that equates to prevention. NONSENSE.”

  3. Frank
    August 10, 2016 at 5:27 pm
  4. Emilio from new Jersey
    October 22, 2017 at 10:50 am

    I was convicted of endangering the welfare of a child back when I was in high school I was an 18 year old senior and she was a 14 year old freshman we were in school together I tried to tell the judge I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to date a freshman at school but they gave me Megan’s law and parole supervision for life is there any one out there who can help me out with some advice

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