- Addendum to Dr Hanson's Remarks
Dr R. Karl Hanson (2006) has pointed out the limitations of using RCMP files for recidivism research: namely, the RCMP has decided to delete files that are inactive for 15 years; those in which the offender was deceased; those of offenders over 70 years of age with no criminal activity for 10 years; and those of offenders who have obtained a pardon. When I sent 2,124 files in 1994 for a study of sex offenders funded by the Solicitor General of Canada, only half were returned with criminal history information. I was reluctant to publish the findings of the study based solely on these data, as the RCMP files were missing equally for cases I had seen in the previous decade (1984 to 1994), not just those from the 1960s and 1970s, and would, for the most part, not meet the criteria outlined by Hanson for the RCMP to expunge cases from their files. I thought something more serious was awry that could explain the missing cases from RCMP files, and I obtained a grant from the Ontario Mental Health Foundation for 1999 and 2000 to research the hospital files and other sources of information. The hospital records often included provincial criminal records, pre-sentence reports, requests from other institutions concerning new criminal charges, information from probation and parole services, and the self-reports of the offenders themselves, making for a far more comprehensive source of data than RCMP records alone, although the RCMP records were a valuable source of information. Hanson incorrectly states that cases without criminal records in 1994 and 1999 were eliminated from the sample. In fact, all cases were considered in the 1999–2000 study, and an additional report is forthcoming about the remaining cases from the total sample of 2,124 seen from 1975 to 1994.
I believe a more satisfactory explanation of the missing cases from the RCMP files is the lack of communication between federal and provincial sources of criminal records. As reported in this journal in October 2004, if the offenders had served only provincial time (two years less a day), the RCMP had 47.5% of the files. If they had served federal time, the RCMP had 80.3% of the cases, a statistically [End Page 119] significant difference. These results held true for recent as well as older cases. Of special concern for sex researchers, of the 21.5% of convictions missing from RCMP files, 93.2% were for sex offences. These findings suggest that research should examine both federal and provincial statistics for a more complete picture of recidivism. RCMP files, rather than being biased by recidivists, are biased by a history of more serious crimes, or at least by crimes that lead to incarceration in federal penitentiaries.