Mancini 2009 Crime

Title Information

Author: Christina N. Mancini

Title: Sex Crime in America

Subtitle: Examining the Emergence and Effectiveness of Sex Offender Laws

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, Florida State University

Year: 2009

Pages: x + 199pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | U.S. History | Prosecution: Laws

Full Text

Link: DigiNole Commons [Free Access]

Additional Information

Author: Christina Mancini, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University


In 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.« (Source: Thesis)


  List of Tables (p. viii)
  List of Figures (p. ix)
  Abstract (p. x)
  1. Introduction (p. 1)
    Research Goal, Questions, and Strategies (p. 4)
    Structure of Dissertation (p. 6)
  2. Background (p. 7)
    Early Colonial Days: Unspeakable Crimes (p. 7)
    The Progressive Era: Moral Hygiene and Sex Offenders (p. 8)
    The 1930s-1950s: The Medical Model and Sexual Psychopathy Laws (p. 9)
    The 1960s-1970s: Deinstitutionalization and "Nothing Works" (p. 10)
    The 1980s: "Get Tough" Justice and Sex Offender Policy (p. 11)
    The 1990s: The Decade of the Sex Offender (p. 13)
    Sex Crime Laws Today: An Assortment of Policies (p. 16)
  3. Data and Methods (p. 18)
    Chapter 4 (p. 18)
    Chapter 5 (p. 19)
    Chapter 6 (p. 19)
    Chapter 7 (p. 19)
    Chapter 8 (p. 20)
  4. "It Varies from State to State": The Types of Sex Crime Policies Nationally (p. 21)
    Introduction (p. 21)
    Background (p. 22)
    The Present Study (p. 26)
    Findings (p. 27)
    Summary and Implications (p. 32)
  5. Sex Offenders—America's New Witches? A Theoretical Analysis of Sex Crime Laws (p. 46)
    Introduction (p. 46)
    Background: Sex Offenders—America's New Witches? (p. 48)
    Witch Hunt Theories (p. 51)
    Analysis (p. 57)
    Discussion and Conclusion (p. 67)
  6. Guided by Good or Bad Causal Logic? The Theoretical Underpinnings of Prominent Sex Offenders Policies (p. 75)
    Introduction (p. 75)
    Background (p. 76)
    Sex Offender Registraton and Community Notification Laws (p. 77)
    Sex Offender Residency Restriction Laws (p. 83)
    Castration Laws (p. 87)
    Discussion and Conclusion (p. 90)
  7. Equally Despised by All? Social and Demographic Variation in Public Support for Punitive Sex Crime Policy (p. 97)
    Introduction (p. 97)
    Background (p. 98)
    Data and Methods (p. 101)
    Findings (p. 109)
    Conclusion and Implications (p. 112)
  8. U.S. Supreme Court Decisions: Evidence-Based Policy? (p. 120)
    Introduction (p. 120)
    Background (p. 122)
    The Present Study (p. 127)
    Findings (p. 128)
    Discussion and Conclusion (p. 140)
  9. Conclusion (p. 150)
    Summary of Study Findings (p. 151)
    Theoretical Implications (p. 156)
    Research Implications (p. 159)
    Policy Implications (p. 162)
    Future Directions (p. 165)
  Appendices (p. 167)
    A. State Sex Offender Statutes (p. 167)
    B. U.S. Supreme Court Cases Cited (p. 170)
    C. Institutional Review Board Approval Letter (p. 171)
  References (p. 173)
  Biographical Sketch (p. 199)

Added: May 31, 2014 | Last updated: May 31, 2014