When Science Matters: Shifting Influences on Sex Offender Punishment

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When Science Matters: Shifting Influences on Sex Offender Punishment. Chrysanthi Leon, JD, PhD Candidate Jurisprudence & Social Policy Program University of California, Berkeley santhi@aya.yale.edu. I. Grounding theories of contemporary penality through historical comparison
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When Science Matters: Shifting Influences on Sex Offender PunishmentChrysanthi Leon, JD, PhD CandidateJurisprudence & Social Policy ProgramUniversity of California, Berkeleysanthi@aya.yale.eduI. Grounding theories of contemporarypenality through historical comparisonII. Ch. 1 The Sexual Psychopath Era:A. Panic & PolicyB. Mediating PunitivenessThe Mystery:CA Sex Offense Prison AdmissionsFrom 1940 to 1971, 48% decreaseFrom 1971 to 1984, 486% increaseIntellectual and Legal History, 1930-presentCaselaw and legislation (California)News MediaTheory and Research (Psych, Crim and Soc)Longitudinal Prison Admissions DataCalifornia case studyInterviews with law enforcement and treatment professionals Participant Observation in state-wide coalition on sexual offendingThe ProjectKnowledge and Practice in Three Eras
  • Sexual Psychopath Era,1930-55:
  • dominated by a notion of criminality
  • Therapeutic Optimism, 1955-80: dominated by an ideology
  • Containment Era, 1980-present:
  • dominated by a practiceThe Sexual Psychopath Era: FindingsBeliefs—the media constructs, fringe experts confirm, and law refers to a monstrous sex fiend, plagued by uncontrollable desires who must be captured. Strategies—Gov’t responds, first with policies based on incapacitation, then research/ treatment emphasis.Prison—No Significant change, despite sexual psychopath laws.The Sexual Psychopath EraConclusions: Conflicts Deflect Punitiveness
  • Criminological Expertise: Fringe vs. Mainstream; Mainstream moves on.
  • Construction of Monstrous Offender (by media and fringe experts) vs. Neighborhood Crank/Regular Guy
  • “the most notorious that have occurred within the state ofCalifornia in recent years……received so much newspaper publicity and were somuch the subject of general conversation …..unbelievable that any person who hadread the newspapers at all, or who had indulged inordinary conversation with his neighbors or friends, wasnot made familiar with the details of the atrocitiesperpetrated in each of those cases.” People v. Adams, 1939 at 163. Glucoft Murder & Its Influence: Edwin Sutherland
  • a crackdown on strip clubs
  • strict enforcement of registration laws
  • a $50,000 apportionment to a sex offender clinic, and
  • the creation of a coordinated detail on sex offenses in the LAPD.
  • Cesare Lombroso, Criminal Man: Criminality as Biology“Some sex crimes are caused by congenital tendencies in born rapists with a cretinal diathesis that either stimulates the genitals or provokes insanity.”Public Opinion: Biology/Incapacitation“When I read accounts of a sex crime I am again amazed at the stupidity of the public in general and the lawmakers in particular. Surely everyone knows that there is a cure for the sex maniac… any surgeon can do it in a few minutes.”N. K. Randolph, MD, 1949Gov. Earl Warren’s Conference, 1949: Policy-makers Respond“the public is aroused and it has a right to expect action. He asked for special consideration of ways of halting attacks on little children”1934: APA Section on Forensic Psychiatry1937: Natl Cmte for Mental Hygiene "The Challenge of Sex Offenders"1937: MI sp law (later found unconst)1938: IL sp law 1939: CA sexual psychopath law1947: Sex offender Registration Law (CA)1950: Sexual Deviation Research Act (CA)Key Events in the SP EraThe Mystery Revisited: Flat Sex Offense Incarceration Rates During the Sexual Psychopath EraMediating Public Punitiveness“People who are so incensed today and who are urging drastic measures like castration for sex criminals, are the same ones who in a couple of years will be importuning us to quash a case against some pillar of the community-- some churchman or kindly old grandfather.”LAPD Officer, 1949Snapshot of LA County: 1949
  • 3000 arrested for child molestation
  • most often charged as misdemeanor – six months probation
  • 1078 “imprisoned”– 281 enter prison
  • “a little, high-domed man… admits molesting more than 100 little girls”Theories of penality require historical comparative researchPublic anxiety is a necessary but insufficient condition for increasing incarceration.
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