Preventing Sexual Violence: Alternatives To Worrying About Recidivism

Framing the central question about sexual violence in terms of managing
the risk of recidivistic violence presupposes that recidivism is one of the central
problems to be managed. It isn’t.
The alternative is to put recidivistic violence
in its proper place, as a small part of the problem, and dismantle the regulatory
regime that has been built on the wildly exaggerated myths about recidivism.

To do this requires understanding that we have developed such a singular focus
on recidivism because it serves to protect traditional gender hierarchies. The past three decades have produced a massive and wide-reaching movement to incarcerate people convicted of sex offenses. In addition to classic criminal justice responses—steadily increasing sentences and lengthy periods of post-confinement supervision.
—this space has seen an unprecedented and unique reliance on regulatory means to achieve confinement and incarceration. Such regulatory means include civil predictive confinement (more commonly referred to as Sexually Violent Predator laws or Sex Offender Civil Commitment), broad registration and public notification schemes, and a variety of behavioral restrictions limiting where persons convicted of a sex offense may reside and what online facilities they may use. The proliferation
of these aggressive forms of non-penal, non-bricks, and mortar incapacitation
has shown remarkable resistance to a robust, empirical critique and to a
growing wave of penal reforms that have addressed other aspects of mass


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