Friday, January 25, 2013

The New Yorker Addresses Child Pornography & Civil Commitment

Rachel Aviv, The Science of Sex Abuse, The New Yorker (Jan. 14, 2013)

Some interesting reading for those of you dealing with child pornography cases, and who isn’t nowadays?  The article explores the prosecution of such crimes and the civil commitment process as well as the fallacy of the DSM on sexual disorders, focusing on a 31-year-old soldier who started downloading child pornography and couldn’t make himself stop but never molested or abused a child.

A few tidbits:

- "According to the largest study of released prisoners, conducted by the Bureau of Justice, the re-arrest rate for sex offenders is lower than that for perpetrators of any violent crime except murder. But the notion that sex offenders have a unique lack of self-control has been repeated so frequently that it has come to feel like common sense."

- "Michael First, the editor of the two most recent editions of the D.S.M., [said] there is no scientific research establishing that abnormal desires are any harder to control than normal ones. ‘People choose to do bad things all the time,’ he said. ‘Psychiatry is being coopted by the criminal-justice system to solve a problem that is moral, not medical.’"

- In Minnesota, 670 inmates in a civil commitment program "work on correcting distorted thoughts about sex (at a cost of a [$120,000] per person annually), but in eighteen years only one man has been discharged from the program."

- By 2007, roughly 4500 sex offenders were civilly committed nationwide and just over 10% have been released.

- "A third of the men detained under the Adam Walsh act had been convicted of child-pornography crimes."

- "‘The idea of this one-to-one correspondence—if you are attracted to children, you will act on it—is now a widespread misconception,’ Michael Seto, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto . . . ." (Yes, that’s the Seto whose study is often cited in child porn cases, usually against the defendant.)

The soldier in the article was arrested in 1998, sentenced to 53 months (a light sentence by today’s standards), sentenced to another 2 years in 2005 for violating probation, and then was civilly committed for being a "sexually dangerous person." He’s now at FMC Butner going through the Commitment and Treatment Program.


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