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West Virginia: Sex Offender Study

November 2001:

Executive Summary:
Over the next ten years, an estimated 147 sex offenders will be released from West Virginia’s state prisons each year, over 1 inmate every 3 days. Although paroled sexual offenders can receive psychological treatment and be monitored and assisted by parole officers, the percent of sex offenders released on parole has been lower than any other offender group.1 As a result of increased maximum sentences for incest and sexual assault that took effect July 1, 1991, more sex offenders are expected to be paroled rather than discharged. Previously, the sentences were 5-10 years for incest, 15-25 for 1st degree sexual assault, and 10-20 for 2nd degree sexual assault.2 Under these sentences, inmates could be eligible for discharge before parole eligibility.3 Given that released sex offenders lose little of their good time4, sex offenders sentenced before these changes occurred are likely to discharge their sentence, rather than be released on parole. One sex offense, when a parent, guardian, or custodian allows sexual abuse to be inflicted upon a child who is less than 16 years of age (§61-8D-5a), retains a 10-20 year sentence. Those sentenced for this crime could be eligible for discharge prior to parole eligibility.

Nearly 40% of sex offenders currently on probation, on parole, or in prison admitted that they had previously committed a felony sex offense as an adult and reported that they had no relationship to the criminal justice system at the time of their current sex offense. This suggests that more can be done to prevent re-offending by known felony sex offenders. Additional research that tracks a cohort of released sex offenders should be conducted to determine the recidivism rate of released sex offenders.

This report summarizes sex offenses reported to law enforcement, sex offenders in criminal justice custody or supervision, admissions to and releases from correctional facilities, registered sex offenders, and sex offender treatment providers.

Sex Offenses Reported to Law Enforcement
Over 1,000 sex offenses were reported to law enforcement in 2000; only 12 of these involved a firearm. The majority of offenses were forcible fondling or forcible rape. Most occurred at a residence or home. The majority of offenders were adult males and the majority of victims were juvenile females related to or otherwise known to the offender. More sex offenders were reported to law enforcement in suburban counties rather than in rural counties. Because more people live in rural rather than suburban counties, this was not expected.

Sex Offenders in Criminal Justice Custody or Supervision
In late 2000, 920 sex offenders were housed in correctional facilities, supervised by parole services, or supervised by county probation. The majority of these offenders were housed in the Division of Corrections’ facilities, primarily in Mt. Olive, the state’s maximum security facility for male offenders.

Admissions to and Releases from Corrections
The correctional population forecast estimates that 152 sex offenders will be admitted and 147 will be released on average per year between 2000 and 2010. The number of confined sex offenders is expected to average 620 each December between 2000 and 2010.

Discharge, without parole, was the most common method of releasing sex offenders in 1999 at a rate of 54.8% of released sex offenders. This is expected to decrease to 30.6% of released sex offenders during the next ten years. During this time period, 60% of sex offenders are expected to be released by parole.

Registered Sex Offenders
In 2001, there were 1,468 registered sex offenders in West Virginia, one-quarter of whom were convicted in another state. Since first registering, 60% of the registrants reported only one address. More registered sex offenders were convicted in and currently reside in rural counties rather than in suburban counties. Although more people live in rural rather than suburban counties, the percent of sex offenders convicted in and currently residing in rural counties was even greater than expected.

Sex Offender Treatment Providers
A total of 66 counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists provide treatment to sex offenders in West Virginia. Although 58.2% of the psychologists and counselors reported that their treatment program was required by the criminal justice system and 34.6% provide their services in a criminal justice facility, only 29.8% were named by parole and probation offices as possible treatment providers. This suggests that the use of available treatment providers has been limited.

Treatment methods provided by survey respondents include counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, medication management, medical castration, arousal management, anger management, empathy induction, education, and self-esteem improvement. Some of these providers use the Abel Assessment for sexual interest and other risk assessments to assist with treatment or to assist the courts.

Of the 24 members of the West Virginia Polygraph Association, 15 work for law enforcement agencies and 10 attended a recent training on post-conviction sex offender testing. Membership is not required for practicing polygraph examiners and only those who administer tests to employees or prospective employees are required to be licensed with the Commissioner of Labor.

For the remainder of this paper: by Division of Criminal Justice Services, Criminal Justice Statistical Analysis Center

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