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Facing the Challenge of Sentencing Adolescents who Offend Sexually: Controversies in the assessment and treatment of juvenile sex offenders Frank DiCataldo,

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Presentation on theme: "Facing the Challenge of Sentencing Adolescents who Offend Sexually: Controversies in the assessment and treatment of juvenile sex offenders Frank DiCataldo,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Facing the Challenge of Sentencing Adolescents who Offend Sexually: Controversies in the assessment and treatment of juvenile sex offenders Frank DiCataldo, Ph.D. Roger Williams University

2 Juvenile Sexual Offenders in DYS, Massachusetts 2004

3 Moral panic: media examples Inmate is freed in teen sex case October 27, 2007 ATLANTA - A young man sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year- old girl was freed yesterday by Georgia's highest court. Georgia's Supreme Court ordered the release after Genarlow Wilson, 21, had been imprisoned for more than two years. The court ruled, 4 to 3, that the sentence Wilson received was cruel and unusual punishment. He was 17 when the incident occurred. (AP)

4 Moral Panic: Media examples Brookline High teens face charges of statutory rape By Peter Schworm, Globe Staff | October 19, 2005 BROOKLINE -- Two Brookline High School athletes, accused of taking turns having intercourse with a 15-year-old female classmate, have been charged with statutory rape and suspended indefinitely, school officials said yesterday. It was the third criminal case involving Brookline students and underage sex since February, and it prompted school officials to send letters home to parents and to hold an assembly yesterday to remind teenagers about the criminal ramifications of underage sexual activity. The two students charged, both 17, will be kept out of school while criminal charges are pending.

5 Moral Panic: Media examples Boy's suspension in harassment case outrages mother seeks new school for son, 6 By Ralph Ranalli and Raja Mishra, Globe Staff | February 8, 2006 BROCKTON -- A 6-year-old boy suspended last week after school officials said he sexually harassed a girl in his class does not understand what he did wrong and should be moved to another elementary school to avoid becoming stigmatized by the incident, his mother said yesterday. The Brockton school district gave the boy a three-day suspension on Jan. 30 after conducting an internal investigation -- which they forwarded to the Plymouth district attorney's office. Prosecutors, however, have not brought any charges, in part because state juvenile criminal laws do not apply to those under age 7, said prosecutors. The suspension outraged the boy's mother, who said her son is far too young to know the meaning of sexual harassment. ''What is that supposed to mean? He's only 6 years old. I didn't raise my son like this," she said last night in an interview at her home.

6 Moral panic: national trends in residential placement of JSOs _________________________________________________________________ Juvenile Sex Offenders in Residential/Correctional Placement, _________________________________________________________________ YearTotalPublicPrivate Total34%20%62% Source: Sickmund, M., T. J. Sladley, and W. Kanf Census for juveniles in residential placement databook.

7 Increase in residential placements occurred during decline in the arrest rate for sexual offenses among juveniles

8 Moral panic: A booming sexually-at-risk youth cottage industry In 1982 there abut 20 treatment programs across the county By 1993, there were over 800, an increase of 4000% in 10 years By 2002, there were over 1,300 programs for adolescents and for children with sexual behavior problems Average length of treatment in programs is 18 months, much longer than for other delinquent youth In 2002, a estimated total of 21, 000 adolescents and about 5,000 children were in residential treatment programs for sexual offenders About 75% of the programs for adolescents and 90% of the programs for children were operated by private agencies (vast majority of adult programs are publically-operated)

9 Civil Death for the Juvenile Sex Offender Invisible punishments for the juvenile sex offender Transfer to adult court Involuntary civil commitment Lengthy commitment to secure treatment programs Registration and community notification Expulsion from school Eviction from public housing Residential exclusion zones

10 Transfer or waiver of JSOs to adult court Juvenile crime wave in the late 1980s and early 1990s 46 states passed legislation enabling swifter, automatic movement of juveniles into adult court for prosecution At least 25 states passed legislation that made it mandatory for juveniles accused of sex crime This number climbs to 35 (67%) when you include states that specifically include sex offenses as among the eligible offenses for transfer without consideration of the offenders amenability to treatment, sophistication, and dangerousness Little empirical research about the prevalence rates of juvenile sex offenders waived to criminal court or about their characteristics.

11 The Civil Commitment of JSOs as Sexually Dangerous Persons 18 states, including Massachusetts, have legal provisions for the civil commitment of sex offenders 13 of them (about 67%) specifically state that a delinquency adjudication of a sexual offense constitutes a conviction or that the states juvenile justice system can be considered an agency of jurisdiction with the authority to notify the Attorney General or District Attorney that a juvenile scheduled for discharge is eligible for civil commitment as a SDP. five states have statutory provisions that specifically state that juvenile records are not confidential and can be used to support a civil commitment as SDP

12 Civil Death for the Juvenile Sex Offender On the varieties of civil death for the juvenile sex offender: a review of the states A total of 32 states (61.5%) have enhanced penalties for juvenile sex offenders beyond registration and notification Often include such requirements as mandatory risk assessment or treatment, DNA sample, school notification, and residency restriction No empirical studies on the effectiveness of these laws for juvenile sex offenders

13 Research evidence about JSOs Juvenile sex offender is a legal category masquerading as a clinical one Juvenile sex offenders bear little resemblance to adult sex offenders (particularly SDPs) Juvenile sex offender are a heterogeneous mix of adolescents who are difficult to reliably distinguish from general delinquents

14 Are juvenile sex offenders adult sex offenders in the making? In 1970s and 1980s, a series of often- cited research reports discovered that the sexual deviance of sexually dangerous adult offenders first emerged in adolescence and concluded: When in fact: JSO SDP JSO SDP

15 A significant portion of juvenile sex offenders have a history of nonsexual offending Estimates of general nonsexual offending in juvenile sex offenders has ranged from low of 50% to high of 90% Methodological problem – sampling and selection bias Best solution – unselected samples or minimally tampered samples Youth Report Survey (Weinrott, 1996) – 93% of the youth in a community sample who admitted having committed a sexual offense in the last year also reported having committed a nonsexual offense Ronis and Borduin (2007) – 600 consecutively admitted youth in Missouri; found that 94% of peer/adult sex offenders and 89% of child offenders has engaged in one or more nonsexual offenses Conclusion: Juvenile sex offenders are not delinquent specialists but are delinquent generalists

16 Sexual abuse as a causal variable Problem of sexual abuse hypothesis Most sexual abuse victims do not go on to be sexual offenders Majority of juvenile sex offenders do not report a history of sexual abuse; range from 8-80% with most < 50%. Sexual abuse is prevalent in the history of juvenile delinquents generally Conclusion – sexual abuse does not seem to be a particularly strong marker for sexually offending; and is neither a necessary or sufficient condition to be a juvenile sexual offender

17 Juvenile sex offenders as sexually deviant Sexual deviance as a promising marker for juvenile sex offenders? Most JSOs do not exhibit fixed deviant sexual arousal (10-15%) Sexual fluidity (Diamond, 2009): sexual deviance will resolve with maturation Question as to whether reliable (consistency) and valid measure of deviant arousal in adolescents is even possible

18 Assessment instruments for juvenile sex offenders Recent development of specialized risk assessment instruments for juvenile sex offenders: Juvenile Sex Offender Assessment Protocol (JSOAP) Estimated Risk of Adolescent Sexual Offense Recidivism (ERASOR) Juvenile Sex Offense Risk Assessment Tool (JSORAT)

19 Predictive validity for JSO sex offense risk instruments has been elusive The low base-rate of sexual recidivism of JSOs has functioned as a predictive barrier that may be statistically impossible to overcome (5-15%) Problem of inflated false positive rate Begs the question of the clinical need and utility of these instruments

20 The problem of low base-rates: A demonstration Assume the following 15% of JSOS will recidivate. 80% of recidivists will score high on an assessment instrument. 20% of non-recidivists will also score high A JSO is tested and scores high on the assessment instrument. What is the probability that he will be a recidivist?

21 The problem of low base-rates: A demonstration Answer: 41.4% Conversely: 58.6% would be wrongly assessed as a recidivist

22 The problem of low base-rates: A demonstration Assume 1000 jsos are tested and the recidivism rate is 15% Group 1 – 150 recidivists Group 2 – 850 non-recidivists 80% of recidivists score high -120/150 20% of non-recidivists score high – 170/850 True positives =41.4 (120/290) False positives =58.6 (170/220) predicted yesno observed yes no

23 The current state of sex offender treatment for adolescents Manualized, dogmatic, rote, one-size-fits-all approach downwardly extended from the treatment of adult SDPs Hodge-podge of unsupported assumptions predominate: All JSOs must have sex offender- specific treatment All JSOs have a history of sexual victimization, and if you search deeply enough you will find it JSOs must admit that their sexual abuse was traumatic and damaging Denial must be broken down with in-your-face confrontation Must admit to the presence of deviant desires and are issued fantasy logs to record them Treatment must be intensive, long-term within quasi-correctional institutions Must make offense fit into a stock, prefabricated dynamic about the need for power or the objecitfication of victim Must admit that their sexual deviancy is an incurable condition, like a chronic disease, that is life-long and they can never been around children again They are dangerous predators who must wear their deviance like a Scarlett Letter Not a single one of these assumptions has been empirically supported and continued promulgation of them may be harmful

24 Treatment as social control community first approach: community is the client Non-confidentiality of treatment client as alien being: The sexually abusive youth thinks differently from other youth. (Ryan and Lane, 1997): deceptive, cunning, devious, etc The adolescent sex offenders motivation is to mislead the clinician so that the offender can appear to cooperate with treatment. (Perry and Orchard, 1992). He may present as cooperative, compliant, and agreeable: a nice boy…That pleasant, seemingly remorseful young man is at risk of committing another sexual offense. (Perry and Orchard, 1992) Victims, without therapeutic intervention, are often destined to a future of repeated victimization of themselves, the inability to protect others, or the development of similar abusive behaviors toward others. (Becker, 1990, 111)

25 Newer promising approaches Good-Lives Model (Ward 2002) Holistic or Well-Being Approach (Longo, 2004) Multisystemic Treatment (Henggeler) – two randomized controlled studies; only evidenced based practice for juvenile sex offenders, but used in less than 10% of programs

26 For copy of slides contact me at: The Perversion of Youth: Controversies in the assessment and treatment of juvenile sexual offenders (2009). NYU Press

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