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April 4, 2022

"No Check We Won't Write: A Report on the High Cost of Sex Offender Incarceration"

The title of this post is the title of this new article in the journal Sexual Abuse authored by Elizabeth Letourneau, Travis Roberts, Luke Malone and Yi Sun. Here is its abstract:

Child sexual abuse is a preventable public health problem that is addressed primarily via reactive criminal justice efforts.  In this report, we focus on the cost of incarcerating adults convicted of sex crimes against children in the United States.  Specifically, we summarize publicly available information on U.S. state and federal prison and sex offender civil commitment costs.  Wherever possible, we used government data sources to inform cost estimates.  Results indicate the annual cost to incarcerate adults convicted of sex crimes against children in the United States approaches $5.4 billion.  This estimate does not include any costs incurred prior to incarceration (e.g., related to detection and prosecution) or post-release (e.g., related to supervision or registration).  Nor does this estimate capture administrative and judicial costs associated with appeals, or administrative costs that cannot be extricated from other budgets, as is the case when costs per-prisoner are shared between prisons and civil commitment facilities.  We believe information on the substantial funding dedicated to incarceration will be useful to U.S. federal, state, and local lawmakers and to international policymakers as they consider allocating resources to the development, evaluation and dissemination of effective prevention strategies aimed at keeping children safe from sexual abuse in the first place.

April 4, 2022 at 04:41 PM | Permalink


It's just a juvenile debater's stunt to focus ONLY on the costs of doing X. Would we consider it anything but idiotic to focus only of the costs of: fighting the Nazis in WWII, preventing the spread of and curing COVID, searching for a cure for cancer, reducing world hunger, eliminating illiteracy, etc., etc.? Focusing only on the costs of X is designed to get the reader to have a negative view of doing X, but "stupidly myopic" is the kindest phrase I can think of for such an approach.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 4, 2022 5:52:42 PM

You need to spend some time in federal prison with sex offenders. They are a very sick group of people and there does not seem to be a cure. 90% of them will do it again and again if given the chance. I was in federal prison for a drug offense and was shocked at the cavalier attitude they possess regarding what they do. You'd have to read the reports on what they did to understand how sick they are ... I spent 10 years around them - no remorse and only waiting to do it again. A very sad situation!

Posted by: Dennis | Apr 4, 2022 8:23:56 PM


However, those with convictions for receipt/possession of child porn only (that is, non-contact offenses) have the lowest recidivism rate of all cohorts (4.7%) other than murderers (this from U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics). These are 'first time offenders' and the vast majority do not re-offend.

I was in federal prison (low security) for just under a year. While there was a percentage of sex offenders who had committed truly horrific sex crimes (and were serving significant sentences) and who would be considered "high risk" if ever released back into the community, the greater number of sex offenders doing time consisted of child porn offenders who did not commit 'contact offenses'.
These inmates did not posessess as you describe "a cavalier attitude", did not boast of their sexual offenses, seldom if ever talked about their offense, were non-violent, and presented as far more "normal" than those with drug convictions. Perhaps you were in a higher security level prison with far more dangerous inmates?

Posted by: SG | Apr 5, 2022 6:10:21 AM

I believe that the Guidelines for child porn possession are heavily weighed towards the number of images.

Now, you could obtain ten thousand images in a few clicks, just as easily as you could obtain one, and yet the punishment in the former case is off the charts with no substantive difference in what the offender actually did.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Apr 5, 2022 8:24:39 AM

"Child sexual abuse is a preventable public health problem"

Since 97 percent of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by those close to the child, exactly how is this public health problem "preventable?" Cameras in the bedrooms?

Why would someone start their paper off with this absurd fantasy? What would be the point of saying such a preposterous thing?

The only thing "preventable" about this whole area is over-incarceration of the guilty. Work on that would be worthy.

Otherwise, like Professor Gad Saad has said, the way to prevent child sexual abuse is to prevent the existence of stepparents. Make laws preventing re-marriage while children are under the age of majority, and poof! That's all the prevention you really need.

I await a paper written based on these real world solutions.

Posted by: restless94110 | Apr 6, 2022 9:11:31 AM


You are joking, aren't you? Eliminate 'step-parents' and that's all the prevention you need?? Really? Please tell me that was your attempt at humor.

Other cohorts of offenders include: Coaches, priests, teachers, teacher's aids, next door neighbors, law enforcement officers, other family members (siblings, cousins, uncles, grandparents), and dozens of other categories too numerous to list - all have abused children/teens under 18 in every town, village, city, urban center, etc. all over the world. What are you thinking?

Posted by: SG | Apr 6, 2022 8:00:13 PM

Did they happen to look into the societal cost of the victim being molested? Therapy, foster care (if a parent is the perp), and the financial results of the damage done. Molested children are much more likely to become less educated, poor, criminals, victims or perps of violence themselves, and a strain on the system. That does not begin to address the emotional trauma and what that is worth, even if it cannot be put in a dollar amount.

Locking them up and throwing away the key is s bargain.

BTW, the “non-contact” offenses comments are pathetic. Viewers of child porn drive the industry and a person holding a single image on his hard drive is no less a sick f*** as the one with 10,000.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Apr 6, 2022 8:49:13 PM


Not all, but it is a great first step. Non-biological “parents” are by far the biggest perpetrators of molestation. Occurrences are far less likely in intact families, just as these families are much less likely to be impoverished. Society does not want us to say that, however, because bastardy has become a virtue and the single mom a hero.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Apr 6, 2022 8:53:02 PM


I would suggest you make a deeper dive into the phenomenon of viewing child porn - its causes/roots (which is quite varied) and the reaction thereto, as well as the flawed public policies addressing this crime.

Just one such cause is exposure to this material as part of employment, i.e., lawyers, investigators, law enforcement, prosecutors and even judges, who must necessarily view these images. One such case that I recall was the head of ICE in Miami, Fla. who was arrested, prosecuted, sent to prison for 5 yrs for collecting/viewing this material(ICE is the federal law enforcement agency tasked with policing this area).

Others who have been arrested, convicted, etc. include those from every demographic and what have you (all ages, races, ethnicities, religions, political affiliations, etc.). This includes both defense attorneys AND prosecutors, and even judges. To refer to all as "sick" is, in my opinion, an over-simplification.

I understand about subjective reactions to this subject. It is understandable and I certainly join in the moral outrage. But emotions and moral outrage alone leads to very flawed public policy, and fails to focus upon issues such as the prevention of such crimes, and effective treatments for those who develop this addiction.

Posted by: Drug Cnslr | Apr 7, 2022 6:21:35 PM

I began serving my Federal criminal sentence in 2000 at the Low Security Prison at Butner, North Carolina. The BOP's 40 bed "Sex Offender Treatment Program" was set up at the Medium Security Prison across the street at Butner. About half of the 1,600 inmates at the Low were sex offenders waiting for a bed to open up for them across the street at the Treatment Program. One thing I learned about true sex offenders which is not generally known or appreciated in society or among lawyers and judges, is that at least 2/3 of all pedophiles were themselves victims of sexual abuse while they were children. Because they were victimized at young ages, they don't have a normal sense of personal and sexual boundaries. Yet, even with treatment it is difficult if not impossible to make it unlikely that these people will re-offend if released back into society without strong supervision. They are like Lepers, and might as well live in colonies of like people.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Apr 8, 2022 9:03:01 PM

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