There is little doubt that our society is unforgiving when it comes to sex crimes, especially those involving children. The physical, emotional, and psychological toll sexual abuse takes on its victims cannot be overstated.
Nevertheless, not everyone agrees on the appropriate way to punish sex crimes. In particular, the relatively low rates of recidivism among sex offenders have led some to question, including sex crimes lawyers in Dayton and state-wide, whether we should rethink our approach to sentencing and put a greater emphasis on treatment.
Penalties for Sex Offenders
The United States has the greatest incarceration rate in the world, with 20% of all incarcerated people right here in the U.S. In fact, nearly 1% of the American population is in jail or prison. By far, the largest percentage of these people committed drug crimes. However, more than 10% have sex crime convictions.
Various federal laws enacted over the past several decades have taken a hard line when it comes to sex crimes through things like federal sentencing guidelines, mandatory minimums, and the national sex offender registry. But does the punishment actually fit the crime?
In comparing federal sentencing guidelines for various crimes, it turns out that they can impose greater sentences for lower-level sex crimes than for serious crimes of violence. For example, the sentencing guidelines recommend a prison sentence of 10–13 years for taking a pornographic photograph of a 17-year-old. On the other hand, the guidelines recommend sentences of only 6–7 years for assaulting an adult or child with intent to kill and only 2-3 years for accidentally killing someone when assaulting them.
Child pornography is a particularly difficult area. Each individual photograph possessed by a person can constitute a separate crime. This can result in hefty sentences for those who possess multiple images. Some claim that those who view child pornography are not directly harming children. Others point out that supporting the industry at all contributes to child exploitation.
Are Long Prison Sentences the Best Way to Go in Ohio?
Legislatures justify harsh sex crime penalties as a means of keeping offenders off the streets. But in Ohio, like the country at large, sex offenders are actually less likely to re-offend than those imprisoned for other types of crimes. In fact, a study of Ohio sex offenders found that 10 years after release, only 8% of offenders had been recommitted for a new sex offense. Further, psychological treatment can be very effective in reducing further offenses.