A sexual offender is a person who engages in a sex crime. What makes up a sex crime varies depending on culture and jurisdiction. However, common sex crimes include prostitution, sending or receiving pornographic materials and engaging in sexual relationships with minors. Besides, sexual assault, statutory rape, sexual imposition as well as pandering obscenity are other forms of sex crimes. In the current world of technological advancements, many jurisdictions have reformed their laws in order to avoid the over-prosecution of sexual offenders. Jurisdictions have turned their focus on sexual crimes that involve a victim (Gelb, 2007).
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In the United States of America, it is a requirement that a convicted sexual offender should be registered with the jurisdictions’ sex offender registry. Such sex offender registries are usually open to the public. There is the classification of sexual offenders according to levels. The first level is when the Registry Board resolves that the threat of re-offense by the offender is minimal and, thus, there is no public safety interest. Information of the level one offender is not available to the public. Level two sex offenders are those that the Registry Board considers as having moderate risk of reoffending. Usually, the public can access information concerning these offenders. In the case of level three offenders, the Registry Board resolves that the threat of re-offense is high, and the offenders are dangerous to the public. The public has access to these offenders’ information. The last category of sexual offenders is the sexually violent predator. This offender possesses the features of the level three offender as well as tendencies of sexual violence. The public also has access to information concerning this offender (Stewart, 2007).
According to Gelb (2007), recidivism refers to the “rates of reconviction, measured as a return to prison.” The recidivism rates of sexual offenders prove they are more likely than not to reoffend. The rate of recidivism among sexual offenders was 5.3 percent in the year 2002 (Gelb, 2007). This means that there was the re-arrestment for another sex crime of approximately one in 19 of the released offenders. Moreover, there was reconviction of 24 percent of the rearrested sexual offenders. The average rate of recidivism of sexual offenders who commit new sex crimes since the year 1983 are about 9 percent. This calls for the establishment of the causes of the recidivism of sexual offenders, and the likely solutions to the problem.
There are various reasons why sexual offenders engage in further sex crimes after release from prison. The social control theory, symbolic interaction theory and labeling theory are crucial in understanding the causes of the recidivism of sexual offenders (Kabat, 1998). The social control theory predicts and explains the way people define and react to deviancy. One example of social control is self-help, which refers to expressing grievances by unilateral aggression like violence or property destruction. Most prisons lack custodial supervision (Brooks, 1995). This enables a lawless and anarchical environment to thrive. Such an environment makes inmates to use self-help in order to resolve their differences. For instance, imprisoned sexual offenders may perceive the law as discriminatory, flawed or serving the interests of a few people because of the vices found in prison. The convicts might feel that they are hopeless and insignificant before the law. Upon release, such offenders pursue further sexual offenses as a way of punishing the flawed system. The aggressors feel that their victims ought to have the sexual assaults, for they are guilty of supporting a wicked system.
The symbolic interaction theory holds that people learn criminal behavior. As a result, everyday interactions with other people would determine if one would engage in deviancy. For instance, the prison environment in the United States of America comprises of widespread sexual crimes such as rape (Stewart, 2007). Prisoners commonly use rape to punish and exert authority over their fellow inmates (Brooks, 1995). As a result, the convicted sexual offender learns that, after all, sexual assault is an effective tool to punish or exert authority. Following such conditioning, the sexual offender, most likely, will repeat such sexual acts once released from prison.
Besides, the labeling theory is another way of understanding sex offence recidivism. The theory suggests that the label of a sexual offender leads an individual to engage in sexual offences. This means that behaviors come from the terms used to describe individuals (Stewart, 2007). The theory closely relates to the ideas of stereotyping and self-fulfilling prophecy. The fact that the Registry Board labels sexual offenders as level one, level two, level three or sexually violent predators makes the offenders exhibit the characteristics linked with the labels. For instance, it is likely that the sexually violent predator will further engage in violent sex crimes.
Solutions and prevention of sexual offence recidivism lies in changing the policies of the Department of Justice. This entails carrying out landmark amendments of various acts and Code Sections of the United States of America. The passage of the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act is a welcome effort. This will help to control the causes of recidivism suggested by the symbolic interaction theory and social control theory. In addition, there should be further strict laws and monitoring for level three and sexually violent predators. Besides, the Registry Board should come up with alternative ways of classifying sexual offenders. The current labels serve to predispose the released convicts to new sexual offenses. An alternative way would be dropping the labels and concentrating on therapeutic approaches. Lastly, with the right incentives, sexual offender recidivism is controllable.
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