View all New York Times newsletters. Culpability and harm vary greatly in these offenses. Some would not be classified as criminal under European laws, which set lower ages of consent than do American laws. And because sex crimes are broadly defined and closely monitored, the number of people listed in public sex offender registries is growing rapidly: , at latest count, more than the population of Boston or Seattle. Newer laws go even further. At last count, 44 states have passed or are considering laws that would require some sex offenders to be monitored for life with electronic bracelets and global positioning devices.
A federal law, the Adam Walsh Act, named for a Florida boy who was abducted and killed, allows prosecutors to apply tougher registration rules retroactively. New civil commitment procedures allow for the indefinite detention of sex offenders after the completion of their sentences. Such procedures suggest a catch the accused is deemed mentally fit for trial and sentencing, but mentally unfit for release.
Laws in more than 20 states and hundreds of municipalities restrict where a sex offender can live, work or walk. The creation of a pariah class of unemployable, uprooted criminal outcasts has drawn attention from human rights activists; even The Economist has decried our sex offender laws as harsh and ineffective.
This should worry us, in part because the techniques used for marking, shaming and controlling sex offenders have come to serve as models for laws and practices in other domains. Several states currently publish online listings of methamphetamine offenders, and other states are considering public registries for assorted crimes. Some other states post similar public listings of paroled or recently released ex-convicts.
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It goes without saying that such procedures cut against rehabilitation and reintegration. Our sex offender laws are expansive, costly and ineffective — guided by panic, not reason. It is time to change the conversation: to promote child welfare based on sound data rather than statistically anomalous horror stories, and in some cases to revisit outdated laws that do little to protect children. Little will have been gained if we trade a bloated prison system for sprawling forms of electronic surveillance that offload the costs of imprisonment onto offenders, their families and their communities.
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Tell us what you think. In contrast, Hypothesis One, stating that JSOs were expected to report the lowest relationship quality scores of all offence types, was partially confirmed. Mean values of the PRSS by offense type.
Since significant differences in overall relationship quality was found between groups, a moderated regression analysis was conducted to test the remaining hypotheses. The dependent variable was the composite mean value of the Perceived Relationship with Supervisor Scale.
The overall model was significant R 2 Adj.
Youth who indicated that their primary caregiver was male biological father, step-father, adoptive father, grandfather were grouped together for these analyses. Thus, this result suggests that the adverse impact of caregiver gender on relationship quality only occurs when juvenile sexual offenders or violent juvenile delinquents are being primarily cared for by men See Figure 2. Moderating effect of gender of caregiver between offense status and relationship quality. Figure 2. As a significant interaction was found, further analyses were conducted in order to gather a full picture of the significance of these results.
First, in order to assess differences between JSOs with female guardians and JSOs with male guardians, the reference group was changed so that JSOs with female guardians were the constant. Second, considering that these mixed results may stem from multicollinearity between moderators in the full model, an additional regression analysis was conducted where gender of the primary caregiver was the only moderator included in the model.
In this second regression, JSOs with female caregivers represented the constant. Therefore, a tentative conclusion can be made that juvenile sexual offenders who are primarily cared for by men have worse quality relationships with their caregivers than do young sexual offenders who are primarily cared for by women. Furthermore, this effect seems to be unique to youth high in delinquency, as it is not present in the JC or JD-NV study participants.
Sex offender registry
Youth who indicated that their primary caregiver was not closely biologically related to them i. This interaction revealed that, while relationship quality was lower for JCs with non-biological caregivers compared to JCs with biological caregivers, the opposite pattern was true for JSOs. Contrary to the hypothesis, juvenile sexual offenders had higher relationship quality scores when their caregivers were non-biological. As this interaction was in the opposite direction of the hypothesised effect, further investigation was necessary.
Therefore, a separate moderated regression was conducted in which biological status was the only moderator entered into the model. Thus, having a non-biological caregiver may provide a buffering effect for relationship quality between juvenile sexual offender and their guardian See Figure 3. Figure 3. This study was designed to investigate the unique effects of caregiver disruption on the development of juvenile sexual offending. In general, the data supports the hypotheses that offence status and caregiver disruption history are important factors to consider in evaluating the quality of the relationship between a youth and their primary guardian.
The relationship of sexually aggressive youth to their caregivers may prove to be a key to understanding their aberrant behaviour. The comparison of juvenile sexual offenders, violent and nonviolent juvenile delinquents, and young people who have never been convicted of criminal activity may offer insights into the impact that criminal offending has on the relationship quality between a youth and their primary caregiver. It is widely accepted that poor-quality parenting and strained parent—child relationships are associated with juvenile delinquency Hoeve et al.
Rethinking Sex-Offender Registries
The relationship between parenting and delinquency: A meta-analysis. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology , 37 , — The data from this study support the hypothesis that more serious offence statuses are related to low relationship quality scores. Both juvenile sexual offenders and violent juvenile delinquents reported poor quality relationships, with JSOs reporting slightly worse relationships than JD-Vs.
However, this study did not address the directionality of the relationship between offence status and caregiver quality scores. It has been suggested that youth with weak attachments are more likely to engage in violent or sexually delinquent acts Felizzi, b Felizzi, M. On the other hand, another feasible argument holds that committing a juvenile offence may, in and of itself, adversely impact the quality of the primary caregiver relationship.
Parents of adolescents who have sexually offended: Providing support and coping with the experience. Journal of Interpersonal Violence , 30 , — Thus, there is evidence that the low quality caregiver-child relationships seen in the two high-delinquency groups both influence and are influenced by offence status. The initial finding described above is an important contribution to understanding the family dynamics of young offenders.
Why Sex Offender Laws Do More Harm Than Good | ACLU of New Jersey
However, it also elicits questions regarding the impact of distinct family systems. Therefore, two central moderators related to caregiver disruption have been selected for examination, caregiver gender and substitute caregivers. The first of these moderators distinguishes the perceptions of relationship quality from youth with male or female caregivers. It was anticipated that youth with male primary caregivers would report lower quality relationships than would youth who were cared for by women.
Consistent with this hypothesis, the data shows that for certain youth, the presence of a male primary caregiver is associated with a decrease in relationship quality scores. On the other hand, high-delinquency youth may be more likely to be parented by absent or hostile male caregivers. This conclusion is consistent with the body of literature which suggests that attentive and supportive caregiving is a protective factor against juvenile delinquency Hoeve et al.
Future research should more closely examine the parenting styles of these male primary caregivers. Just as youth have distinct reactions to male and female caregivers, they may react in measurably different ways to their biological parents or the substitute caregivers that raise them. The step-father effect in child abuse: Comparing discriminative parental solicitude and antisociality. Psychology of Violence , 5 , 8 — In this study it was hypothesised that biological status would act as a moderator between offence type and relationship quality, with the presence of a substitute guardian negatively affecting the caregiver-child relationship.
The results of this moderation analysis partially supported this hypothesis. Thus, for the majority of youth in this sample, being raised by a biological parent can be considered a protective factor for maintaining a strong and high-quality bond, even while the child is incarcerated. However, these data yielded surprising results for JSO youth whose reports were inconsistent with the proposed hypothesis. For youth who have committed sexual offences, relationship quality scores were lower if their primary caregiver was a biological parent.
Instead, these results indicate something unique about young sexual offenders and their parents.
Journal of Sex Education and Therapy , 18 , 93 — It is also probable that the social stigma attached to sexual crimes may cause parents to demonstrate a loss of respect for the offending child. That loss, in turn, may further undermine the caregiver-child relationship. While sexual crimes are more stigmatised than almost any other criminal offences Tewksbury, Tewksbury, R.
Stigmatization of sex offenders. Deviant Behavior , 33 8 , — Sexual abuse of children. A comparative study of intra and extra-familial cases. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine , 16 , — Intra-family sexual abuse puts parents in an impossible position, given their emotional attachment to both the perpetrator and the victim.
In the future, researchers should investigate the relationship quality between intra- and extra-familial offences to see if these results can be explained by victim type i. This study contributes to the existing literature in three important ways. First, it succeeds in clarifying crucial distinctions between juvenile sexual offenders and general juvenile delinquents, while also elucidating group commonalities. These results support the classification of juvenile sexual offenders as a population similar to those juvenile delinquents who commit violent crimes.
Yet, it is essential to note that the sexual offenders in this study differed on almost all measures from the nonviolent incarcerated youth. It is evident then, that while juvenile sexual offenders and violent juvenile delinquents may emanate from a single population, these youth should not be considered the same as youth who commit minor offences, even if these youths are incarcerated together.
Even though this study suggests that youth who commit sexual offences are in many ways similar to youth who commit other crimes against persons, juvenile sexual offenders and violent juvenile delinquents were not identical on all measures. These findings indicate that the uniqueness of the juvenile sexual offender population needs to be investigated more fully and future findings need to be incorporated into the literature to enhance existing theories.
A second strength of this study is its inclusion of the juvenile control group. Among the few studies that have examined JSOs as a unique population, almost none of them have included a non-incarcerated control group. The results of this study indicate that this comparison may be particularly valuable, especially in light of the additional contrasts made with the other groups of incarcerated youth.