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Sexual offender release and recidivism

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to present a broad overview of historical and current issue of early release and recidivism of sexual offenders. Focus is adult offenders in general and adult pedophiles. Data has been obtained from meta-analysis of peer review journals. Discussion is given to the impact of recidivism and the impact on communities as well as the need for community social action and ethical implications. Opposing views and pro views will be offered along with contradictory views. Statistical data will show the variance of recidivism and positive and negative aspects of treatment programs. The mindset of sexual offenders will be discussed along with community reactions and thoughts regarding protection of their children. Future recommendations for research and societal social change will be offered including any ethical considerations.

Sexual Offender Release and Recidivism: Not Just a Jurisprudence Problem Any Longer but a Community and Societal Problem

During the Victorian age pedophilia did not receive the attention that homosexuality received (Angelides, (2005). In fact it was considered to be a specialty of generalized sexuality and weak-mindedness as well as temporary exploit (Angelides). Freud considers pedophilia to nothing more than one who was either a coward or impotent with females (Angelides). It was during this time the focus was on the age of offender not the age of victims. Soon Kraft-Ebing posited that pedophilia was psycho-moral weakness or perversion in order to distinguish it from not being a disease but rather a vice (Angelides) which led to the term psycho-sexual prevision. Interestingly, Kraft-Ebing stated he had only encountered this type of individual in four cases (Angelides).

Modern Day Perspectives

As opposed to a forcible sex offense (Hall, 2007) pedophilia is now defined in the American Psychiatric Association (1994) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.) pedophilia is stated as one who fantasizes, is aroused by, or displays sexual desires for those under the age of 13. The pedophile must be at least 16 and five years older than their victim. Technically those engage with those under the legal age of consent are called hobphiles which means their attraction is for females versus ephebophiles which are attracted to males. Hall). It is important to note that child molestation in and of itself is not necessarily pedophilia (Hall). The overall estimate of amount of current pedophiles is not doable based on many factors such as the fact few pedophiles will seek-out treatment; many commit their offenses and are never caught or found out; and some may have the fantasies but never truly act on them (Hall). Another interesting fact is some pedophiles may not begin offending until well after the age of 27 while others begin either in grade school or high school (Hall.). The various categories of the multiple types of behaviors committed on their victims by pedophiles are too lengthy to include in this paper.

Various Studies

Some of the factors that contribute to failed community intervention via community programs along with clinical research studies to treat released sex offenders include pedophiles (Hanson, Broom, & Stephenson, 2004) are drop-out rates, and attrition, willingness to volunteer for such services, and follow-up informing of the evaluator or treatment facilitator(s) of the results of treatment. A Canadian study on sexual offenders determined that early released offenders have a higher rate of recidivism than those serving longer sentences (Hanson et al,). A study conducted by the California Sex Offender Treatment and Evaluation Project (SOTEP) of 9,000 sexual offenders (Marques, Wiederanders, Day, Nelson, & van Ommeren, 2005) had interesting and disturbing results. The study obstacles were much the same as in the Canadian study (Hanson et al.) with the addition of 'faking good' factor of the offenders in order to obtain earlier release dates. The SOTEP model of treatment was based on a cognitive-behavioral model that proved to be unsuccessful for many reasons (Maques et al.) including the fact that the offenders failed to adhere to the motivational and self-management skills learned while in treatment and even more disturbing is the fact some offenders never did accept the concept of self control nor relapse avoidance. It is these realizations especially the latter one that communities must be made aware of in order to facilitate social change. In short, it appears that many sexual offenders simply do not want to change.

A contrasting yet confliction longitudinal study conducted in London (Craissati & Beech, 2005) found that environmental factors may play a role in recidivism as well as all the variables mentioned in the previous studies. This study found recidivism to be higher for adult rapists than child molesters and also stated that the failure of the community to be significant factors in the recidivism of specific type of sexual offenders. It was also noted the psychological difficulties of sex offenders may be higher risks for re-offending (Craissati & Beech) once released into the community. This revelation would appear to be obvious to the layman as well as any professional in the psychiatric or psychological field. One of the contradictions noted in this study (Craissati & Beeach) involves the fact that offenders who refused to enter treatment programs in prison entered into group treatment programs upon release and some failed to receive any treatment while in prison or the community. In general this study's finding found that the higher risk or higher level of sexual offenders will not benefit from either in prison or community treatment programs. Also, while the researchers state that recidivism is higher for adult rapists, their actuarial statistical data reveals a higher percentage of child molester recidivism.

A Sample of Various U.S. State Responses and Other Countries

In Australia but only in Victoria and Queensland, the Victorian Legislation put into effect The Serious Sex Offender Monitoring Act as of May 2005 (Biles, 2006). The law states high-risk offenders being court ordered to community supervision up to 15 years following any prison sentence or parole release. Biles also states said offenders submit to a requirement of residing in a designated place and to be unable to leave the residence without a correctional officer in attendance and may be subject to electronic surveillance to monitor their movements. The Victorian Law also has the right to impose indefinite sentences on serious offender over 21 years of age especially if they present a high risk of potential danger to the community. The Queensland response is the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act of 2003 (Biles) include the process to allow the Attorney General to apply to the Supreme Court regarding continued incarceration or continued community supervision of serious sexual offenders completing their sentences. New Zealand and Canada have a similar stipulation the regarding sexual offenders. Canada has a specific law for designation as a long-term offender created in 1997 which targets sexual offenders. The result of this designation is 10 years of community supervision if there is a substantial risk of re-offending and risk to the community.

In contrast, the United States many states favor civil commitment of sexual predators or sexual psychopaths in possible treatment while custody (Biles, 2006). 15 American states have enacted a civil commitment law accounting for several thousand sexual offenders in the nation (Biles). Civil commitment is fraught with ethical issues as well as the rights of these individuals. it would appear that these civil commitment laws do not do much for prevention of the high recidivism rates of severe sexual offenders including pedophiles. While some human rights are absolute as in the case of torture (Biles) but it has been established on an international level that one's human rights cannot be exercised over the rights of another's. It is not only the convicted pedophiles and sexual offenders that communities must worry about. It is those who are dynamic and currently covertly offending that should also be included in community awareness regardless of socio-economic demographics.

The state of Indiana legislature has enacted standards for sex offenders which restrict where they can live as well as up to at least 20 years of monitoring. ("Indiana Oversee," 2006). Individuals on lifetime parole with multiple child molestation convictions or determined to be sexually violent predators must now wear a GPS monitoring device and they may not adopt or have custody of a child. Also, all sex offenders must be registered in the Department Sex Offender Registry which is to be updated should they relocate; possess a valid Indiana driver's license or legal identification card; and register their residence in person once a year; Senate Bill 246 alters the definition of sexually violent predator to include those 18 or older who commit an offense against a child younger than 12; and sex offenders restricted from residing within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, youth centers and within one mile of the victim's residence.

In contrast the state of New York ("New York" 2007) has opted for a program of civil commitment for violent sexual predators who have completed their prison terms, making New York the 20th state to hold sexual offenders in psychiatric hospitals. New York estimates 200-300 predators to be held in these state psychiatric hospitals upon receiving legislative approval. The New York governor posits longer sentences for violent sex crimes and the new Office of Sex Offender Management would manage the civil commitment program ("New York" 2007). The New York City Bar Association expresses concern that the proposed Article 130 would result in a penal code covering any type of sex offense regardless if violent or not. They further base their argument citing civil commitment law abuse. The legislation would stipulate that if commitment is not ordered the offender would still be supervised. Further provisions include: treatment to reduce recidivism of prisoners and civil confined; offenders housed in mental health facilities be kept separate from vulnerable mental health patients; and for civil commitment to be reviewed annually by the courts ("New York" 2007). Upon agreement between the governor and legislature, supervision of sex offenders on parole would become substantially greater and create a new class of crime: sexually motivated felony based on intent to commit a crime. The argument for this new class is that it would be extremely effective with sexual predators using the Internet to identify and stalk victims ("New York" 2007).

The state of Texas known for having one of the most severe criminal punishment systems in the U.S.A. is considering ordering the death penalty for recidivist sexual predators involving children ("Predator Sentences" 2007). Other states that include capital punishment for this type of offense include Florida, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. The basis for the Texas revision is a result of Florida's Jessica's Law which ("Predator Sentences" 2007) was the result of Jessica being killed by a serial predator weeks after is release from prison. The governor of Texas is in agreement with Indiana's governor in making it a priority for sex offenders to receive longer sentencing. Texas is moving to remove the statue of limitations on sex offenses committed on children as well as create a new felony: continuous abuse of a child under age 14 which will be defined as at least 2 offenses over a minimum of 30 day s ("Predator Sentences" 2007). Other improvements include a proposed legislative supplied $3 million for the expansion of sex offender monitoring; stricter conditions for supervision with longer probation periods. Texas is not considering civil confinement for completed sentences but giving the offenders longer sentences instead that may be service in existing facilities. The most significant result of the proposed bill would be the immediate impact of punishing the offenses of indecency with a child and sexual performance by a child from a 2nd degree felony to a 1st degree felony if the victim is younger than 14.

Pedophile Sex Offender Thoughts on Treatment in Prison

In a Canadian study involving pedophiles currently incarcerated, three themes and sub-themes stood out when interviewing the offenders (Drapneau, Komer, Granger, & Brunet, 2005)

Is treatment really necessary - it is mandatory; is it voluntary but should be mandatory for all; and even though voluntary, pressure from staff leads them to stand up to everyone.

The treatment settings- A) structure of the program second most important factor; program to be well organized and clearly defined to provide a daily routine with obligations and responsibilities; sense of security from self and others; program to better enforced by staff; rigidity of program did not leave room for individual attention; to gain more attention one had to break the rules on purpose; and for others to submit and keep a 'low profile.' B) The group in group therapy - must feel respected by group and staff; must feel they belong to a close and exclusive group; heterogeneous group in order to be able to identify with other participants; C) The therapists - therapist most important factor in treatment; assessment of program to be based on assessment of therapist; therapists must be non-judgmental, honest, available, and caring; therapists must have authority, leadership, strength; participants could test therapist to make sure they were reliable and predictable; D) The hardships of treatment - discussion of the assault is difficult; fear of being thwarted by other participants; difficulties related to cognitive disorders; and helplessness and powerlessness.

All of the above issues and most likely those not mention should be taken into account in any prison or community treatment program. Even though these individuals commit horrible crimes they are nonetheless humans who have the same concerns and fears (perhaps with the exception of psychopathic sexual predators) as the rest of the community. How do the ethical issues apply in prison treatment to community treatment program regarding the exchange of confidentiality? In many communities is not necessarily a secret as to who attends psychological sex offender group therapy. As in any other practice, there may be multiple staff personnel who have access to confidential information. Apply this to offenders in the rural areas and the ethical implications escalate.

Gannon, Wright, Beech & Williams (2006) posit that child molesters distorted beliefs regarding their offenses may be due to cognitive distortions. Most prison or clinical psychologists hear the same statements from the offenders such as, 'She wanted it as much as I did', 'It wasn't like she didn't like it' (Gannon et al.). Some theories suggest the offense is due to the child being friendly and cuddling while other theories suggest and uncontrollability, while another states a nature of harm theory in that the offense in and of itself is rarely harmful to the child (Gannon et al.). Many child molesters fake on questionnaires, are able to fake lie detectors. In short, the majority of child molesters rationalize their behavior based on societal norms, seldom viewing their behavior as opposed to those norms (Gannon et al). Some theories suggest child molesters view their victims as sexual beings while others use substance abuse as a reason for their offense (Gannon et al.). There has been mentioned an underground international group of child predators who overtly claim their behaviors are the norm and that society are the deviants for not conforming to approve and 'natural' sexual behaviors with children.

Child molesters seem to never run out of excuses for their offenses. Angry arguments with wives leave them depressed, lonely, abandoned, and resentful which leaves them desperate for affection which results in abduction and sexual assault of female children (Pollack, & Hashmall, 1991). Other distorted beliefs are the child can consent and the resulting sexual relations positively influence the child's development. (Pollack & Hashmall). In Pollack and Hashmall's study of 86 child molesters, questionnaires of excuses found the highest excuse at 29% to be the victim consented while the lowest response at 1% the parents were lying. In the same study, 48% claimed mitigating factors such as situational, 36% said sex with children is not wrong; 35% the incident was nonsexual; 35% mitigating factors such as psychological issues; 22% blaming the victim; and 21% denial (Pollack, & Hashmall, 1991). The diversity of the rationalizations and distorted beliefs of child molesters may vary from one clinician to another which can result in inconsistency regarding the structure of these excuses (Pollack, & Hashmall, 1991).

Megan's Law and It's After Effects

New Jersey enacted Megan's Law which requires notification of communities of a child molester living in their area as well as sexual child molester registration (Trivets & Reppucci, (2002). A brief overview of the case is Jesse Timmendequas brutally raped and murdered 7- year old Megan Kanka who was his neighbor on July 29, 1994 (Trivets & Reppucci). Timmendequas had two prior child related sex offenses and with living anonymously with two previously convicted sex offenders (Trivets & Reppucci). The significant factor in this tragic incident was that the offender was allowed to plea-bargain for a 10-year sentence instead of the 30-year sentence that correlated to the horrendous event (Pallone, 2003). The offender was released via the 'habitual, repetitive or compulsive sex offenders' (Pallone) act of New Jersey. Had this not occurred, Megan Kanka would most likely still be alive today albeit not victimized in the manner that occurred. As if this were not enough, Megan's brutal death came shortly after the much publicized kidnap, rape, and murder of 12-year old Polly Klaus in California (Pallone). Had the 30-year sentence been imposed, Timmendequas would not have been released until Megan was 26-years old.

May 16, 2005 5-year old Sammantha Runnion was abducted, sexually brutalized and murdered in California (Matz, 2005). Four days later, Alejandro Avila was arrested for her murder. Sammantha fell victim to the 'help me find my little dog' ploy still frequently used by serial sexual child predators. Avila received the death sentence (Matz,). In 2006, President Busch signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act as a result of the murder of 6-year old Adam Walsh, son of John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" host Gramlich, 2008). The question is will all states within the nation adhere to the July 2009 deadline to comply with this federal act. Gramlich states that each state has the choice to comply or ignore the law. If they do ignore, that state will lose 10% of their congressional grant funding developed for the program to fight crime.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act dictates many new standards regarding child sex offenders. Gramlich (2008) points out the stipulations: registration of offenders and providing public information not only about the offender's location but of their specific crime(s); states are to publish photos and addresses of sex offenders online; significantly increases punitive penalties for offenders failing to register; as well as other measures not mentioned in the article. The dilemma is many states perceive this law as overall generalization 'one fits all' approaches denying each state enough money, time and flexibility to make said changes (Gramlich). Two significant objections to the law come from the states and advocacy groups regarding certain provisions the law requires. One such dilemma which could be deemed an ethical issue, involves the requirement of including juveniles as young as 14 being listed in online sex registries (Gramlich). Juvenile advocates argue that this presents potential risk of harassment and/or violence to the young offenders. Indiana and New York as well as many other states already have online sex offender registries that list the offenders name, alias, identifying features (i.e. tattoos), photos and former and current residence location with complete address. However, after researching these databases, no information pertaining to a juvenile was located.

Discussion

How does all of the above information apply to community action regarding social change? First of all, most communities unless there is an incident of high profile or news coverage of an attempted child molestation or abduction, the community seems to overlook the dangerous that lurk in every neighbor hood. It is important to note that this paper was not geared toward family incest or molestation but stranger sexual offenders. There are some communities who are extremely aware of the enormous amount of registers sex offenders (including pedophiles) that reside in their neighborhoods. They do not want them there and the offenders are under considerable risk of harm from the members of the community. On the one hand, who could blame them? On the other hand, due to statue limitations and registration and notification laws, it forces the registered offends to more or less end up congregating in one particular area which of course results in irate community members. Oddly enough, even in areas where published attempts of child luring have been frequent, one can still drive through those areas and see elementary age boys and girls walking alone to and from school or other places. The parents are aware of the threats, yet they continue to allow their children to roam alone. The statistical relevance of the information in this paper can be misleading to a nonprofessional consumer as the studies may be conducted for away from their locate or include a small amount of pedophiles relatively speaking. In order for each community to fully comprehend the enormous danger that is present in each community toward children, it is vital they face the cold hard facts of reality. Not all sex offenders will register and not all will notify when they do move. Even worse are those pedophiles who continue to practice their craft unnoticed and never having been arrested.

Pedophilia does not discriminate between, religion, race, socio-economics, or any other variables. When spring time approaching it is a given that this type of offender emerges more overtly and frequently targets children walking to and from school and some even sit in automobiles nearby the schools to stalk their potential prey. It is imperative for community members to band together to pressure local authorities (granted have their own issues to deal with such as door-to-door checks on registered offenders, underpaid while still doing their regular job related duties) and political contacts from the local community to the state legislature. It is incumbent for parents to wake up and realize this could indeed happen to their child. The brief data above evidences the lack of cessation of re-offending by child molesters. Communities can no longer put the responsibility on the shoulders of the judicial system. In some cases sex offenders (depending on the classification level) are released early to over-crowding in prisons in jails, yet community individuals do not want to pay higher taxes to build more space to hold these offenders. Communities have to become aware that having a house full of sexual predators/offenders is definitely not a good solution as they may exchange information and work tandem. Chemical castration upon release is seldom followed and if it is, the child molester may resort to object penetration to compensate yet relieve the urge.

Instead of community program to treat this type of offender, community programs designed to inform and offer methods to protect and recognize these offenders should be developed. Children are exposed to this in school settings but it is quite easy to understand the temptation of a young girl to be lured into seeing and/or petting a pedophile's puppy or kitten. The community must be education in the multiple ruses employed by pedophiles and other sex offenders. What to do with the offender once in prison is obvious - advocate for legislative laws to keep them in for longer periods of time. What the community needs to focus on is identifying the potential offender. One important caveat to this is to find a way to make sure a pedophile or sex offender does not become part of that community education. Unregistered pedophiles and sex offenders do quite nicely fitting into a community regardless of economic status. There have been occasions when a convicted pedophile in Indiana was actually on the child's night protection program. Many times driving down the streets I observe elementary and younger children walking alone and the first thought to come to mind is "what an easy target that child is and where is/are their parent(s)?" The time has come for community members and society as a whole to take back the innocence of their children and protect them from the monsters. Alas, all of this can be short-lived in individual minds just as the 911 tragedy has been pushed further back into the conscious as time has passed. Pedophilia and other sex offenders operate 24 hours a day either committing their crimes are seeking out their next victim. Communities need constant reinforcement of the dangers that lurk outside their homes for both adult females and male and female children. Social change does not have to be a world-wide or even national event. If each community takes proactive action to be social change agents that in and of itself will promote social change. Let us continue to advocate against early release and at the same time educate communities on the reality of the facts.

References

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