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Release from the sex offender label: Years offence free and dynamic reassessment

R. Karl Hanson

Individuals who have been convicted of sexual crimes are often subject to unique public protection policies, which restrict their opportunities to reintegrate unnoticed as law abiding citizens. Many of these restrictions apply for decades, even for life.  Our research, however, has found that the risk presented by most individuals with a history of sexual crime predictably declines to the point of desistance after 10 years. As well, the time to desistance is shorter for individuals who show good community adjustment in the first few years following release. Instead of being exceptional, desistance appears to be the norm. Consequently, we need to consider how best to facilitate naturally occurring desistance, and consider the point at which it no longer promotes public safety to treat individuals with a history of sexual crime as “sex offenders”. 


R. Karl Hanson, Ph.D., C.Psych., is one of the leading researchers in the field of sexual offender risk assessment and treatment. He has published more than 175 articles, including several highly influential reviews, and has contributed to the development of the most widely used risk assessment tools for sexual offenders (Static-99R; Static-2002R; STABLE-2007). Based in Ottawa, Canada, he worked for Public Safety Canada between 1991 and 2017, and is now adjunct faculty in the psychology departments of Carleton University (Ottawa) and Ryerson University (Toronto).