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Specialization and Persistence in the Arrest Histories of Sex Offenders: A Comparative Analysis of Alternative Measures and Offense Types

National 2006: NCJ 214926

This study examined the arrest patterns and cycles of sex offenders to test the assumption that sex offenders are a highly specialized and persistent type of offender.

NCJRS Abstract:

Results indicated that as a group, sex offenders were neither particularly persistent nor specialized in their criminal activities. The majority of sex offenders (60 percent) had only one arrest for a sex crime in their criminal histories and only 5 percent of the sample had exclusively sex related arrests.

When the different types of sex offenders were examined, child molesters displayed the most specialization but the degree of specialization was still rather weak when compared to other types of offenders, such as property offenders. The findings suggest that contrary to their public perception as serial sexual predators, the arrest patterns of offenders arrested for rape and child molestation do not indicate specialization or persistence in sexual offending.

The results have implications for the numerous crime control policies that are premised on the assumption that sex offenders are persistent and specialized offenders. In particular, the authors note that sex offender registry and notification policies are unlikely to decrease sexual victimization.

Data on over 38,000 offenders, including approximately 10,000 male sex offenders, who were released from prisons in 15 States in 1994 were originally collected through the U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics and are now available as a dataset from the Inter university Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan.
Note: including approximately 10,000 male sex offenders, who were released from prisons in 15 States in 1994 that note is referring to "Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994"
Data include both State and Federal Bureau of Investigation records of arrests and prosecutions; data were collected for the three most serious charges at each arrest date and were statistically analyzed. Future studies should attempt to replicate the results using self-report and arrest data. Tables, notes, references. ..NCJRS Source.. by Terance D. Miethe ; Jodi Olson ; Ojmarrh Mitchell

Sage Abstract:
A basic assumption underlying current public policy and crime-control efforts is that sex offenders are highly specialized and persistent. Using national data on about 10,000 sex offenders released from prison in 1994, this study explored this assumption by comparing the arrest patterns and cycles of sex offenders and other offenders.

As a group and across various measures, sex offenders had low levels of specialization and persistence in offending in absolute and relative terms. Similar conclusions were reached when specific types of sex offenders (e.g., rapists, child molesters) were compared with other particular offenders (e.g., robbers, burglars, drug offenders), but the results were more measure dependent.

Even among persistent serial sex offenders, rapists and child molesters were found to specialize only within a more predominant pattern of versatility across their criminal careers.

These results are discussed in terms of their implications for future research and current public policy that are predicated on assumed specialization and persistence among sex offenders. ..Sage Source.. by Terance D. Miethe ; Jodi Olson ; Ojmarrh Mitchell (Brief Abstract as compared to NCJRS Abstract)

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