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Recidivism Among Registered Child Pornography Offenders in Ontario, Canada

 By Lori Whitten, Staff Writer, RTI International, Rockville, MD

Since April 2001, individuals living in the Canadian province of Ontario who have been convicted of possessing, making, accessing online, or distributing child pornography have been required to register annually with the Ontario Sex Offender Registry (OSOR). Angela W. Eke, Ph. D., of the Ontario Provincial Police and colleagues examined official crime data from a sample of child pornography offenders registered on the OSOR to determine recidivism rates, the types of offenses committed, and predictors of new crimes, including violent ones. Research on recidivism and risk for sexual offenses among registered individuals may eventually help to determine the percentage of child pornography offenders who later commit new crimes, and the percentage of such crimes that involve sexual offenses against children.This photograph shows a young mother holding a smiling baby who is looking into her eyes.

In the study, Eke and colleagues extended an original follow-up of 201 male child pornography offenders (Seto & Eke, 2005)—examining recidivism about 6 years, on average, following their child pornography conviction. The researchers also determined re-offending rates for another 340 male child pornography offenders, so that the full sample comprised 541 men, with a total average follow-up of about 4 years. They distinguished between nonviolent offenses (e.g., theft and possession of a narcotic) and violent offenses (e.g., assault). Eke and colleagues examined all sexual offenses in these two categories separately as well. Nonviolent sexual offenses included indecent exposure and invitation to sexual touching. Violent sexual offenses included sexual assault and other sexual touching or sexual contact with a child. They isolated child pornography recidivism as a distinct outcome. Because the study relied on official data--that is, only crimes reported to police--re-offending rates are most likely underestimated.

Among men in the original sample of 201 child pornography offenders, 34 percent of offenders had had a new criminal charge in the 6 years since their child pornography conviction. Categories of re-offenses charged against men in this group included the following: contact sexual offense against a child (6 percent); historical contact sex offenses (i.e., previously undetected offenses) (3 percent); any child pornography offense (and 9.5 percent). Among the full sample of men, recidivism rates during the 4 years since registration were generally similar to those of the original group (see graph). Approximately a quarter of the men in the study were sanctioned for failing to meet a condition of release (e.g., house arrest, regular reporting to police) and in half of these failures, offenders had contact with children or used the Internet to access child pornography. Predictors of new violent offending, including sexual contact, were a history of offenses prior to the child pornography charge, history of violent offenses, and a younger age at the time of the first documented offense. These predictors are consistent with those indicated by prior research on recidivism in the general population of sex offenders.

Eke and colleagues also examined whether the men had, at some point in their lives, any police-documented offense involving sexual contact with a child; if so, they described the nature of perpetrator-victim relationship. They found that 164 offenders—30 percent of the full sample—had officially documented contact with a total of 372 child victims. The largest proportion of these, 59 percent, had an acquaintance relationship with victims (e.g., volunteers with a children’s activity group and neighbors). Relatives (including step-parents) were also common offenders (43 percent). Cases involving a stranger were relatively rare at only 4 percent, and half of these offenders also victimized children they were acquainted with prior to the assault. (The percentages totaled more than 100 percent because a few offenders had more than one victim, and their relationship to these additional victims sometimes fell into a different category.)

The authors note that arrests for child pornography offenses have increased—most likely because of growth in the number of people using the Internet, the greater availability of child pornography online, and enhanced resources focused on investigating and charging involved individuals. Eke and colleagues argue that their findings could be useful in assessing the future risk of convicted child pornography offenders. This would, in turn, help protect the public, assist in police investigations, assist in mental health care, and offer guidance regarding use of resources and decisions on offender management. For example, the finding that in half of conditional-release failures, offenders increased their risk for re-offending by being alone with children may help criminal justice professionals make decisions about the supervision needs of child pornography offenders on probation or parole. Future research should more fully describe the underpinnings of child pornography offending and develop treatments to reduce the risk for continued use of child pornography and other sexual offending.

For more information, contact Dr. Angela W. Eke, Ontario Provincial Police in Orillia, Ontario, Canada,

Prospective Study of Recidivism Among Child Pornography Offenders

Among 541 men convicted of a child pornography offense and registered with the Ontario Sex Offender Registry, about one-third committed any type of offense during the 4-year follow-up period.


*Charged with a sex offense that was previously undetected.

Please Note: “Any Failure On Conditional Release” refers to violation of a condition of parole or probation (e.g., failing to report to police as scheduled).

Posted Mon, Sep 9 2013 9:53 AM by Tracey Vessels
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