USA Today has an excellent investigative article on the DOJ's federal civil commitment program for sexually dangerous sex offenders. Not surprisingly, many of those requiring indeterminate incarceration were convicted of child pornography crimes.
According to the article:
Six years ago, the federal government set out to indefinitely detain some of the nation's most dangerous sex offenders, keeping them locked up even after their prison sentences had ended.
But despite years of effort, the government has so far won court approval for detaining just 15 men.
The Justice Department has either lost or dropped its cases against 61 of the 136 men it sought to detain.
Dozens of others are still waiting for their day in court. They remain in a prison unit where authorities and former detainees said explicit drawings of children are commonplace, but where few of the men have received any treatment for the disorders that put them there.
Despite that, neither the Justice Department nor other watchdog agencies have offered any public assessment of how well the federal civil commitment law works.
We have repeatedly pointed out that individuals incarcerated for possession, receipt and distribution of child pornography are significantly more likely than not to have sexually abused a child via a hands-on act.
In fact, a study at the federal prison in Butner, NC, which is the focus of the USA Today article, found that online criminal investigations, while targeting so-called “Internet sex offenders,” likely have resulted in the apprehension of concomitant child molesters. According to the research:
Upon being discovered these offenders tend to minimize their behavior. They may attribute their search for child pornography to “curiosity” or a similar benign motivation. They may “accept responsibility” only for those behaviors that are already known to law enforcement, but hide any contact sexual crimes to avoid prosecution for these offenses, or to avoid the shame and humiliation that would result from revealing their deviance to family, friends, and community. Only later do the majority of sex offenders who enter treatment acknowledge that they were not, as they initially claimed, merely interested in sexual images involving children; they were, and are, sexually aroused by children.
Further, as prior research and the current findings suggest, it appears that the manifestations of their deviant sexual arousal was not limited to fantasy. Rather, when an opportunity arose either incidentally or as a result of planned predatory efforts many offenders molested or raped children and engaged in a variety of other sexually deviant behaviors.
Michael L. Bourke & Andres E. Hernandez, The ‘Butner Study’ Redux: A Report of the Incidence of Hands-on Child Victimization by Child Pornography Offenders, Journal of Family Violence (2009) 24:183-191.
The USA Today article highlights the problems with the government's civil commitment program and the inconsistent application of a law designed to ensure that the most dangerous sex offenders are kept away from children. Unfortunately, the government's efforts seem to be in disarray since at least nine of the men who were let go without being committed have been convicted of new crimes or have violated probation.
Like most sex crimes against children, judges and the public have a hard time believing that these crimes even occur let alone considering the impact on the victims from such exploitation and abuse. One judge refused to believe a prisoner's confession to over a hundred sex crimes declaring that he "would be the Charles Manson of child molesters if even a small portion of the 149 incidents had actually happened."
Seriously underestimating the difficulty in locating victims and prosecuting sex crimes against children, the judge found that "he government offered no evidence to independently verify that any of these incidents occurred or that any of them—even one—ever resulted in investigation or prosecution." I guess the admissions of the one person who knew what happened—a convicted child molester—wasn't good enough for this judge. Like many other child sex abuse skeptics, the judge needed "proof."
In another case involving a clinically diagnosed pedophile who was somehow released from prison only to become involved with young children again, the parent of one of his potential victims told USA Today, "There was no harm, no foul…I honestly don't think he's dangerous."
This defendant was not only diagnosed as a pedophile, he collected child pornography and molested at least three young girls. Despite this, his latest victim's parents plan on asking his probation officer whether they can resume visiting him.
It's hard to say who is dumber in this case, the parents who are offering up their daughter to a convicted pedophile or the federal judge who let him go.
Read the entire article here on the USAToday website.