Type of Document Dissertation Author Mancini, Christina N. URN etd-06112009-100248 Title Sex Crime in America: Examining the Emergence and Effectiveness of Sex Offender Laws Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Criminology and Criminal Justice, School of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Daniel P. Mears Committee Chair Kevin Beaver Committee Member Melissa Radey Outside Committee Member Keywords
- Sexual Victimization
- Sexual Offending
- Sex Crime
- Sex Offender Laws
Date of Defense 2009-06-05 Availability unrestricted AbstractIn the past two decades, every state in America has enacted some type of sex crime law, including sex offender registration, community notification, residency restrictions, castration policies, mandatory prison sentences for possessing child pornography, and a host of other sanctions. Scholars have noted that sex crime legislation has been “hastily passed” (Fortney, Levenson, Brannon, and Baker, 2007:1) and that “decisions about what to do with sex offenders are often made without the benefit of theoretical insights” (Kruttschnitt, Uggen, and Shelton, 2000:66) and instead have been in reaction to “unusual and compelling cases” (La Fond, 2005:9).
Juxtaposed against these observations is the fact that today we know little about most sex crime policies. In particular, we know little about why they emerged and whether they are, or are likely to be, effective in reducing sexual offending and victimization. To this end, the goal of this dissertation is to contribute to scholarship on and debates about sex crime policies by examining five key questions.
First, what is the range of the types of sex crime laws nationally? Second, to what extent do Erikson’s (1966) and Jensen’s (2007) theories about witch hunts explain the emergence of sex crime laws in recent decades? Third, to what extent are sex crime laws based on theory and research? Fourth, is there variation in public views about sex crime laws, especially concerning use of the death penalty for sex offenders? Fifth, does the U.S. Supreme Court use criminological theory and research in reaching decisions about sex crime policy, and if so, does the Court’s assessment of theory and research accord with the actual state of the literature?
Data for this dissertation come from a variety of sources, including information about state laws from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), national public opinion data examining views about sex offenders from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, and a number of U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The dissertation is structured around five substantive chapters that address the five questions above. It concludes with a discussion of the study’s implications and future directions for theory, research, and policy.
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