Catch Me If You Can: : An Analysis of Fugitive Sex Offenders

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The presumed dangers presented by sex offenders who have absconded from authorities have played a prominent role in public discourse surrounding state and federal sex offender management policy. The current study is the first to empirically investigate the characteristics of absconded sex offenders and explore how this group compares to other groups of sex offenders. Utilizing data from the Florida sex offender registry (N = 23,557), this exploratory study compares the characteristics and risk factors of absconders with those of compliant and noncompliant (nonabsconding) registrants as well as with those with convictions for failure to register (FTR). Absconders, as a group, were less likely than compliant registrants to be listed as predators, and less likely than both compliants and noncompliants to have a minor victim or to be a repeat sex offender. Absconders were also least likely to have a prior FTR conviction, but those with a previous FTR conviction were more likely to abscond from registration than probation. The findings fail to support the hypothesis that fugitive sex offenders are more sexually dangerous (especially to children), and suggest a multitude of explanations for absconding.

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Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment



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