Thursday, December 26, 2013

2014 Book by Virginia Commonwealth University Assistant Professor Christina Mancini - Sex Crime, Offenders, and Society: A Critical Look at Sexual Offending and Policy

For a month and a half I had been waiting for a new book Sex Crime, Offenders, and Society: A Critical Look at Sexual Offending and Policy by Virginia Commonwealth University Assistant Professor Christina Mancini to be released. 

I even emailed with Asst. Professor Mancini 2 weeks ago advising her of my advocacy here in Virginia and my anticipation to receive her book. 

Over the last 5 years I have read more than 30 of the books listed here on Sex Offenders, Registries, Restrictions, Collateral Consequences, Policies, On-line Crimes and Civil Commitment of SVP’s. Not including the additional books I’ve read on America’s Justice System, Prosecutorial Misconduct, the Medias Role in Hype, Myth and Hysteria in Moral Panics plus False Accusations or Memories. 

Two days ago on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, Mancini’s book arrived and I put aside Prosecution Complex: America's Race to Convict and Its Impact on the Innocent and immediately began reading, I finished it early this morning.  

I am going to highlight some areas of the book in this post and I hope after reading it, you will add this book to your reading list for 2014. 

Part I -The Nature and Extent of Sex Offending and Prominent Theoretical Explanations
Chapter 1 - Sex Crimes and Offenders
Chapter 2 - Measuring Sex Crime
·         Official Data Collection
·         Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)
·         National Incident- Based Reporting System (NIBRS)
·         Unofficial Data Collection
·         National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)
·         National Women’s Study (NWS) and National Women’s Study- Replication (NWS- R)
·         National Violence against Women Survey (NVAWS)
·         National College Women Sexual Victimization (NCWSV) Study
·         National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS)
·         National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV)
Chapter 3 - Sex Crime Patterns and Trends
·         Data Examining General Sexual Offending and Victimization
·         UCR Data
·         NCVS Data
·         Other National Surveys of Adult Women
·         Child Sexual Abuse Statistics
·         National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS)
·         NatSCEV
Chapter 4 - Prominent Theoretical Explanations
·         Biological Perspective
·         Hormone Production
·         Neurophysiological Functioning
·         Social Learning Theories
·         Differential Association
·         Neutralization/Drift
·         Feminist Perspective
·         Patriarchy
·         Rape Culture
Part II - Societal Responses to Sexual Offending
Chapter 5 - Societal Myths (and Facts) about Sex Offenders
Chapter 6 - Public Attitudes toward Sex Offenders
Chapter 7 - Historical Emergence of Sex Offender Laws in the U.S.
Part III - Sex Crime Policy and Reform
Chapter 8 - Logic and Efficacy of Sex Offender Laws
Chapter 9 - Methods to Assess Sex Offender Recidivism and Treatment Needs
·         Static-99/Static-2002
·         Stable-2007/Acute-2007
·         Minnesota Sex Offender Screening Tool-Revised (MnSOST-R)/
·         Minnesota Sex Offender Screening Tool-3 (MnSOST-3)
·         Juvenile Sex Offender Assessment Protocol-II (J-SOAP-II)
·         Estimate of Risk of Adolescent Sexual Offense Recidivism (ERASOR)
·         Sex Offender Risk Assessment Controversies
Chapter 10 - National Variation in Sex Crime Reforms
Chapter 11 - Legal Challenges to Sex Crime Laws
Chapter 12 - The Future of Sex Crime Policy  

On Tables 10.1 and 10.2 there are errors, I have advised Professor Mancini. 

While reading this book I noted that numerous phrases and summaries made by the author are in fact the same stances and statements I have been making to Virginia lawmakers and Commissions for years. But here is a researcher, an educator, someone with a Ph.D backing up the claims that many Virginia Legislators have scoffed at, discredited and ignored because I was the deliverer of the information. 

I was extremely please this book is not a duplicate of so many already written books on this topic. It does include the history of public registries including Megan’s Law, the Wetterling Act, Adam Walsh Act, etc but as with any book on this topic some background is needed for those who are reading their first book on these issues. 

This is the first book to cover a 34 (1976-2010) year span of sex crimes in the U.S. shows not only are sex crimes down but they dropped before the creation of the public Sex Offender registries and all the restrictions and regulations were implemented. So the perception by Victims groups that sex crimes have increased over the last 20 years that there is an epidemic is false. Then there are groups who’ve claimed that the creation of the registries and laws is what has reduced recidivists and first-time offenders, they too are false based on the 34 year time-frame the drop had already occurred. 

As most of us know Victim’s groups beat the drum of unreported and under-reported crimes, that only a very small portion of sex crimes are ever reported, investigated and result in a conviction. Well again Professor Mancini covers all the “unofficial” reporting methods created in the 1990’s by Crime, Violence, Victim’s, Sexual Violence and Women’s Groups to capture what they call the “dark figure of crime”.  

It turns out that the trend /percentage of “unreported” assaults are very much in-line with the “reported” crimes for both adults and for children. And again there is not an epidemic of sex crimes reported or unreported. 

Another issue I have not read in other publications is the Rape Shield Laws; this is an issue I mention regularly when meeting with Virginia lawmakers.  

Victims groups when pushing for the Rape Shield Laws claimed the changes to evidence and testimony removed “non-relevant facts” from the proceedings, protected the identity of the victim and allowed for the reporting of a crime without any time constraints or limitations.  

Missing from the Rape Shield portion of this book is the shift of the burden of proof being put on the defendant and no longer on the prosecution, that an accusation is entered into evidence (even though it is NOT evidence), that no corroboration (witnesses, physical evidence, specific dates, times, places,) is required to be given by the victim or produced by the prosecution, that a polygraph is no longer required to be taken by the victim because they should be believed no matter what and the insistence of a polygraph means the State doubts their claim (but yet the State still pushes the defendant to submit to a polygraph)and the overall standards of guilt were lowered resulting in an environment of  guilty until your defense attorney proves your innocence (more than 93% of charges are settled with a plea deal) creating many more felons and lifelong Sex Offenders in the Commonwealth. 

Over the years numerous reporters have made misleading statements to their readers that the Virginia Age of Consent is 15 years old. But yet numerous 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 year olds have been prosecuted for sex crimes and labeled a Sex Offender for life with consenting partners ranging from 14 to 17 years old.  

If the Virginia Age of Consent (which is the age in which all sex is consensual with anyone above that age) was actually 15 years old then these acts would not be crimes. So where is the disconnect? 

Every sex act in Virginia has a separate statute and some statutes have an age gap allowance and some don’t. Virginia’s Age of Consent is not black-and-white as it is in other states and because of the array of VA Code and the specifications buried in each one, the real Age of Consent in Virginia is 18 years old but no reporter ever notes this. In Professor Mancini’s book she points out that only if BOTH participants are 15 years old is the sex act not a crime. 

This book deserves a full read, not just a skimming. 

There are chapters where harsher laws in other states are discussed and I do wonder if some Virginia lawmaker may think to themselves “hmmm, maybe we should do that here”. But in recommending an extremely thorough and current book I have to put aside my worries that some “career politician” will look past the invaluable information within it and pick out harsher more punitive sanctions currently implemented elsewhere. 

For those lawmakers who have dismissed me and my message for the last 5 General Assemblies this book written by an unbiased, educated researcher comes to many of the same conclusions, points and solutions I have been recommending all along.
  • Too often, discussions about sex offending and sexual violence have been reduced to pithy arguments and snappy sayings instead of serous and educated dialogue
  • The public registries and all the legal restrictions have not reduced sex crimes
  • With few exceptions, purely clinical assessment tools have been shown to be poor indicators of sex offender recidivism
  • Meta-analyses conclude that treated Sex Offenders fare far better than offenders who receive no treatment (Treatment does work!)
  • Current policies that were hastily passed are built on weak theoretical and logical foundations
  • Not all sex crimes are created equal and treating, monitoring, managing and classifying all Sex Offenders the same is counterproductive and a waste of resources
  • The pubic has been intentionally mislead by the lawmakers and the media about the actual risk, the re-offense rates , the legal mandates and restrictions and who is a “Sex Offender” in America today
  • It’s time to “narrow the net”
If I had the $6,500 to buy 145 copies for every State Legislator and the incoming Administration I would, every policymaker needs to read this book. It's time for them to stop proposing laws based on myth and vengeance and to start proposing laws based on empirical evidence. 

If you read only one book on Sex Offender issues in 2014 it should be Sex Crime, Offenders, and Society: A Critical Look at Sexual Offending and Policy by Virginia Commonwealth University Assistant Professor Christina Mancini. And I recommend it be put at the top of your reading list, not the bottom. 

Mary Devoy