Send to

Choose Destination
Sex Abuse. 2016 Dec;28(8):722-740. Epub 2015 Feb 5.

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

Author information

New Jersey Department of Corrections, Trenton, NJ, USA
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.
Barry University, Miami, FL, USA.
Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, USA.
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.
Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center, Mauston, WI, USA.


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.


Adam Walsh Act; risk assessment; risk classification; sexual recidivism; the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA)

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon
Loading ...
Support Center