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Juvenile Sex Offenders and Recidivism

Updated on April 18, 2012


I chose to write about Juvenile Sex Offenders and Recidivism because in my field of study, Criminal Justice, Juveniles in general are not given the proper attention in areas of rehabilitation and treatment programs.Juveniles are less difficult to rehabilitate whereas to adults it is almost deemed as impossible because said offenses such as sexual crimes, are best detected and deterred at the earliest stage in which it is manifested.

Rehabilitative program methods of treating sexual offenders are geared towards adults and also is used to reenact such treatment as well as the determine outcome to be relevant to juveniles as well.Such irrational determinations are not of any assistance to juveniles at all because of the insecurities within research that has attempted to correlate adult sex offenders to juvenile sex offenders. Programs should be established with the grounded foundations of its purpose.


A Sexual offender is defined as anyone who commits a sex crime (Perelman, 2009). Sex crimes are determined by societal belief and it is not held to any demographical belief as to be a determinate. When one thinks of a sex offender, you may picture an adult figure with the targeted victim being a child. While in some instances this may be true, there are others that are the complete contrary. Most sexual offenders that target minors are indeed a kid themselves, ranking them as Juvenile Sex Offenders, leaving it more than complex to resolve because the offender as well as victim that stand is a minor.

Sexual offending is a broad term that includes hands on offenses, child and adult sexual offenses, and both violent and nonviolent offenses. Although more than 380,000 sexual assaults were reported in 1999, reported assaults are expected to be underestimating the number of actual sexual offenses by approximately one third (Zygoba & Simon, 2005).

Many efforts have been made to classify juvenile sex offenders with the goal of improving treatment and risk predictions. Characteristics including personality, physical force, and nonsexual offense history have been used to classify young offenders; however the most common method uses victim age to classify Juvenile Sex Offenders into groups who victimize children and those who victimize peers. (Kemper & Kistner, 2010)

There are well established programs that are put in place to help victims cope as well as rehab treatment for said offenders to control such actions and at most seize it. However the crime rate for sexual offenses is still continuously growing. Despite the increasing range of options for juvenile offenders and the mounting empirical evidence for specific programs, little is known about the public’s knowledge about programs effectiveness or its support for particular interventions (Perelman, 2009).

Leaving it questionable as to what impact does the facilitation of standard rehabilitative methods in Juvenile Sex Offender Programs have in regards to recidivism?


Conceptually, recidivism refers to the commitment of a new offense by an offender previously arrested, convicted, or incarcerated for an offense (Worling, 2003). Recidivism can be consistent with the previous type of crime, in this case a sexual offense, or it can be for a different type of crime altogether. Although the definition type of recidivism varies by study, at the most basic level, it includes an arrest for some types of offenses.

Juveniles are responsible for thirty seven percent of sexual abuse known by law enforcement to have been penetrated against children and juveniles in 2000 and 2001 and twenty percent of arrest of all sexual offenses. (Brandes, B., & Cheung, M., 2009) Zygoba & Simon believe that it is the social value of offender treatment programs that determines a single outcome, the offender’s level of recidivism. But, recognizing that sexual offending may be an enduring tendency for some offenders, reoffending behavior is monitored throughout time.

Quite extensive social, physical, sexual and cognitive developmental changes take place during adolescence and most risk factor research is based on follow up periods of three years or less. Taken together, this suggests the importance of noting that risk assessments are strictly time limited and should be repeated within certain intervals or following significant change in one or more of the risk factors. (Worling, 2003).

Amie Zyla

Amie Zyla was 8 years old when a 14-year-old family friend named Joshua Wade molested her. Wade was adjudicated for a misdemeanor in juvenile court in Wisconsin, where he and Zyla lived, and sent to a residential juvenile facility. That was the last Zyla knew about Wade until almost a decade later, in 2005, when she heard a TV news report that Wade was arrested for sexually assaulting numerous children. At the time of his arrest, Wade was 23. Authorities said that Wade befriended children, molesting many in his apartment and secretly videotaping some of them in the shower.

He is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence. It is a disturbing story that still haunts Zyla, who is now 19 and has become an advocate for including juveniles on public registries. If Wade had been subject to community notification as a teenager, parents and other community members would have been able to find out about his past record. During her testimony to the House Judiciary Sub-Committee in support of the Adam Walsh Act, Zyla said, “The simple truth is that juvenile sex offenders turn into adult predators.” That was certainly the case for Wade, who showed signs of heading for trouble long before he became an adult.

When he was at his juvenile treatment program for molesting Zyla, Wade made almost no progress and admitted that he had also assaulted numerous other children, according to records obtained by The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (His defense attorney said that the police were never able to confirm those assaults.) He was also considered a high-enough risk that he was sent to a detention facility following his juvenile program. (Jones 2007)

Juvenile Legislation

In some states when an adult is convicted of a sexual offense, first time around they have to register as a sexual offender. Complete contrary to the adjudication process for juveniles. First and foremost unless tried as an adult minors are not obligated by law to register ( Kimonis, 2011).

However, Over the years most local and state governments has extended policies originally established for repeated adult sex offenders to juvenile sex offenders. This was an attempt to minimize any problems of juvenile sexual recidivism.

During the 1990’s, states implemented a variety of policies that applied to sexual offenders, including community registration, notification, and civil commitment (Zygoba, 2005). Although these policies varied in their designs, their primary goal was risk reduction, protecting the public from sexual offenders, in concert, focus on building impulse control capacities to effectively manage these behaviors and, by doing so, reduce the risk of reoffending. (Zygoba & Simon, 2005)

One promising instrument for assessing amenability in juvenile offenders is the Risk- Sophistication-Treatment Inventory. The RST-I is an interview based rating system designed to assess factors relevant to transfer to adult court including risk, sophistication maturity, and treatment amenability. (Kimonis, 2011)

Even the lowest risk adolescents are potentially subjected to punitive restrictions, such as public registration, which may be unnecessary and often have long term, life altering consequences. As a result of the weakness of empirical support for risk prediction and group distinctions, juvenile sex offenders, while heterogeneous population, are subjected to generic treatment models that may fail to address specialized treatment needs. (Parks, G. P., & Bard, D. E., 2006)


Criminology is the scientific study of crime, criminals, criminal behavior, and corrections.(Morris, 2007).When studying Criminology in relations to Juvenile Sex Offenders, they have an indiscriminate choice of victim; this makes treatment for each individual offender complex and better treated if the psychological approach was taken. There have been various conclusions drawn as to what triggers have to be set off for offenders to either offend and to reoffend.

Some Victim-offender relationship is the most needed to be understood because it is the root of the concerned method to condition. Children who have been victims of abuse are more likely to grow up and be the perpetrator, Males younger than 18 account for 18% of the arrest for sexual offenses in the U.S. (Zakireh, 2008).

The goal is not to seek change in the way he or she may feel because as all, they do not want to feel such ways so the want for change will come from them actually understanding their feelings. Irrational acts are done when a person cannot fathom how to express themselves verbally. Leaving them to act out of whatever emotion they are feeling at that point in time, However it has been accepted within the cognitive behavioral movements from it beginnings in the 1960s that conditioning processes lay apart in the development of eccentric and deviant sexual behaviors.(Marshall, 2000).

Another psychological approach taken is in regards to the Social Learning Theory. In criminologydeveloped social learning theory to explain deviancy by combining variables which encouraged delinquency. Simply stating that action brought forth out of own effort could have indeed been learned earlier in life. Children who acquire to be a sex offender have been abused as victim at some point leading up to them being the ideal perpetrator.

Sub groups differences on other characteristics commonly explain in samples of sexual abusive youth, however, are far less consistent. For example some studies suggest that child molesters are deficient in general social skills, have problems interacting with peers and are more socially isolated than peer offenders.(Kemper & Kistner, 2010).

These two psychological approaches explained above are the most common used in rehabilitative treatments. They are also the most controversial theories as to whether the outcome is mainly negative or positive. Rehabilitative programs are to have set proven determent factors as to what works with people of such disorders not their age, as mental disorders and or incapacities are not discriminate upon age.There have been many theories as to how someone comes to be a sexual offender. The United States Juvenile System works a general habitat and is not specified to one problem.


The case of Luke, now 16 years old and finishing three years of treatment following his molestation of his younger sister, demonstrates that treatment can provide self-awareness that may potentially enable a developing sexual offender to turn his behavior around. Luke was committed to a secure correctional facility at 15 and spent two years in their sex offender program where he was confronted daily to recognize inappropriate behaviors and cognitive distortions.

He is an angry offender, resentful and jealous of the sister he victimized and afraid of rejection by his adoptive parents. His choice of victims may have been a classic setup to provoke (and thus control) the parental rejection he expected. For Luke, however, his offense did not result in parental abandonment and family therapy has been part of his treatment. After two years at the correctional facility, he returned home and continued treatment in an outpatient group in the community. In his final group, he summarized his rape cycle without prompting, pointing to examples in his daily life of situations which make him angry.

He acknowledged that anger is still a problem but feels his mother is a constant, available support, that she is not afraid for him to tell her about his negative feelings and that she is good at helping him figure out acceptable alternatives when he cannot. He seems confident in his knowledge of himself without minimizing his potential to re-offend if he is not alert to his feelings. He spent the most time dwelling on his fear of loss. His father’s recent experience with cancer makes this loss of a parent a very real threat, and he was able to acknowledge that loss will be his biggest trial. Luke describes his cycle as a “whirlwind,” how he can move through the stages in a matter of minutes, compared to other offenders who may spend weeks moving from stage to stage.

The speed of his cycle is the other real danger for Luke because a situation which triggers his feeling bad about himself can literally explode, isolating him within minutes. For this reason, prevention for Luke must concentrate on prediction of potential situations and development of escape plans to avoid the trigger situations. Once triggered, he must bail out immediately – walking away from the situation and immediately seeking his reality supports. It was suggested that he could have trouble if his mother was not available when he needed her, and that he needs to continue to define how she helps him process events until he can do it himself. Luke is still a sex offender. He is still at risk of offending, and always will be. But, he has been given the tools to control his behavior, if he chooses to do so. He has been given choices. (Ryan, G., & Lane, S., 2011)


It is defined as the treatment of offenders through a system of penal incarceration, rehabilitation, probation, and parole, or the administrative system by which these are effectuated. (Morris, 2007). After researching various topic within correction its well established that the staff members employed in juvenile institutions serves as the human face of rehabilitation, working in the trenches with some country’s most troubled youth. They literally raise the states’ problem children watching over them for months and years, working to help shape the young women and men they will become. (Inderbitzin, 2007).

There is a Safe Haven law that allows parents to drop their unwanted children to any hospital no question asked. (Mulder, 2011). These children are now wards of the states. They are housed at juvenile facilitates, the same that house both sex offenders as well as non sex offenders.

Given that residential sexual offenders were more likely to have histories of sexual abuse than were other juvenile offenders, one must consider the hypothesis that that sexual abuse may have contributed to the judgment to remove the youth form the community.(Zakireh, 2008).

Perfectly innocent children placed in hostile environments with the idea of them having the option to grow up with a just childhood. These sort of situations put children at risk to be exposed to all sorts of corruption as well as candidates of possible victims.

Sexual offenders have experienced childhoods characterized by abuse, neglect, and or rejection and that these experiences establish vulnerability. The vulnerability characterized by low self-esteem, poor relationship skill, and a desire for affection, increases their risk of being sexually abused and enhances their tendency to use sex as a way of making themselves feel better. (Marshall, 2000).

Juvenile sexual offenders are said to derive from home where it is built upon the foundation of a single parent environment. Also it is stated in various research that in these situations if they are an only child, parents shower them with materialistic things rather than affection. As on the other hand if not the only child, then the parents would not know how to properly show affection to more than one child adequately.

As complex as it gets it goes on to says that the same things can happen in a home with two parents who are both which working. Explaining that children are left home to build bonds and make decision on their own, decisions that are in which not suitable for the child to be making at the said age. Even though there are said characteristics that make up what a sex offender is, each is still very different both physically and mentally.

With all the traits and no proper way to diagnose each individual child how one can rehabilitate them and it be successful? One’s child behavior can be induced by anger as another may be induced by fear. With these set individuals being already sociably isolated how can they actually function in a group setting? Which most if not all sessions are administered.

A lot of these Juvenile sex offenders are released right back in the home of the victim. In rehabilitative setting they do not have to face their victims. Being in close quarters is a whole new set of feelings that were not seen in counseling are battled once or if the participant completed the set rehabilitation.

How can a child learn to cope with an emotion that lead to his deviant behavior if it is not captured within those moments of guilt, rage, anger, and sadness? These emotions are what are in motion when said acts are carried out. Talking or strategizing coping tips does not work when the child is not in a state to understand or accept them.

The United States as a whole lack monetary resources that will help aid in the mission to combat against Juvenile Sex Offenders Rehabilitative Programs. For more than 150 years, The United States has sent its wayward and delinquent youth to reformatories and training schools with largely disappointing results.(Inderbitzin, 2007).

Sexual offenses committed by male adolescents are significant social and clinical problem. Males younger than 18 years old account for approximately 18 percent of the arrest for sexual offenses in the United States. Although about one half of all adult sexual offenders committed their first sexual offense during adolescence, research has shown that recidivism rates are low. (Zakireh, 2008).

Professional Relation

Now that the educational journey of Criminal Justice has reached a peak to where the knowledge gained can be implemented in the real world, lessons learned through extensive studies and labs has assisted in the blooming endeavor of wanting to be the positive change in Juvenile Corrections, which by far is a career within the criminal justice field.

Having the ability to manifest knowledgeable as well as situational cohesive abilities to any given situation as well as appropriating the circumstances to be concluded as a result of hard work and dedication. Proves immensely that the idea candidate to bring forth such efforts to become a new light within the realms of Juvenile Corrections will be of a major impact in positively and reassuring decreasing the numbers of Juvenile Recidivism as a whole whether it be violent or nonviolent offenders.

Curriculum that has been bestowed within the past two years , has an empirical stance of factual findings that leaves a broad level of confidence that if implemented exactly as learned could never fail the intended clients that would be of a pleasure to serve as well as a stepping stone to new beginnings of better understandings and acceptance that knowledge taken will only positively change lives not negligently alter them.


Treatment adherence, problem solving abilities, and criminal behavior in the family were found to be predictive for severity of recidivism. Other findings further support the hypothesis that both individual and environmental factors, such as parenting skills and developing relationships with non-criminal peers should be targeted during intervention. The related recidivism underlines the importance of aftercare aimed at successful reintegration of the juveniles in the society. (Mulder2010).

After going through such iterations for such length of time when treatment is completed, whether it be successfully or not juveniles are still deemed as sex offenders. Treatment is often judged as ineffective or effective based on the relative rate of recidivism among treated and untreated sexual offenders. (Zgoba, 2005).

Reducing juvenile recidivism involves providing the right service to the right youth at the right time by the right person. Experts on organizational change repeatedly point out that the direct line supervisor performs perhaps the most essential role in agencies seeking to implement offender risk reduction practices. (Event Training, 2011).

An effective supervisor channels staff energies, coach’s individuals, and provides vital direction on how to best engage offenders in order to improve the odds that they will not reoffend. Supervisors will learn how best to teach and mentor intake and case managers in the four basic competencies: teaching juvenile offenders skills, using effective rewards and sanctions, solid case planning strategies, and developing a trusting relationship with you on supervision.(Event/Training, 2011).

The idea that a juvenile can indeed be a sex offender has been shoved under the rug and down played too many times and for far too long. Information of these said individuals are hard to be found or researched if someone wanted to grasp the idea and or understanding of who these people are characterize to be.

Established programs are deemed to only be of assistance in clinical research as to what does and does not work. There are no programs established to intervene and intercept these behaviors.

As of November 2011 there has not been any conclusion as to what is the basis for cure of Juvenile Sex Offenders. If in fact these juveniles may grow up without proper treatment as to where they are likely to reoffend, why are there programs designated to rehabilitate an untreatable disorder?


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