Specialization and persistence in the arrest histories of sex offenders: A comparative analysis of alternative measures and offense types

Terance D. Miethe, Jodi Olson, Ojmarrh Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations

Abstract

A basic assumption underlying current public policy and crime-control efforts is that sex offenders are highly specialized and persistent. Using national data on about 10,000 sex offenders released from prison in 1994, this study explored this assumption by comparing the arrest patterns and cycles of sex offenders and other offenders. As a group and across various measures, sex offenders had low levels of specialization and persistence in offending in absolute and relative terms. Similar conclusions were reached when specific types of sex offenders (e.g., rapists, child molesters) were compared with other particular offenders (e.g., robbers, burglars, drug offenders), but the results were more measure dependent. Even among persistent serial sex offenders, rapists and child molesters were found to specialize only within a more predominant pattern of versatility across their criminal careers. These results are discussed in terms of their implications for future research and current public policy that are predicated on assumed specialization and persistence among sex offenders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-229
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Volume43
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2006
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Criminal careers
  • Sex offenders
  • Specialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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