This article looks at the characteristics of 29 juvenile sex offenders at the McLaughlin Youth Center (MYC) who participated in the sex offender treatment program and were released during the period July 1, 2004 – June 20, 2007. All of the 29 juvenile sex offenders (hereafter referred to as “MYC sex offenders”) were male, and no offender was excluded from the following analysis. Data for the analysis were retrospectively obtained after the youth turned 18 years of age from the statewide juvenile offender management information system (JOMIS). For each youth, we examined their delinquency history up to age 18. This article summarizes the demographic characteristics of each youth and their involvement in delinquent behaviors.
Sex Offender Race
Most offenders were White (38%), Native (35%), or multiracial (21%) (Table 1). Native offenders (N = 10), multiracial offenders (N = 6), and other minority offenders (N = 1) were vastly over-represented. In particular, 8 percent of male youth (age 0 to 17) in Alaska are Native, but 35 percent of MYC sex offenders were Native. Similarly, 9 percent of male youth (age 10 to 17) in Alaska are multiracial, but 21 percent of MYC sex offenders were multiracial. In contrast, 66 percent of male youth (age 10 to 17) in Alaska are White and 38 percent of MYC sex offenders were White. In looking at all male youth in Alaska, the rate of institutionalization for sex offenses was 7.51 times higher for Native youth than for White youth, 3.85 times higher for multiracial youth than for White youth, and 2.58 times higher for other minority youth than for White youth.
Referral and Adjudication
For each youth, we tabulated the number of referrals and adjudications up to age 18. Youth are referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice by law enforcement agencies when there is probable cause that they committed an offense which would be criminal if committed by an adult, committed a felony traffic offense, or committed an alcohol offense after two prior convictions in District Court for minor consuming. Some referrals lead to an adjudication—a finding of guilt (for additional details on the juvenile justice process, see the Winter 2010 issue of the Alaska Justice Forum). The lifetime number of referred charges for both sex and non-sex offenses varied from a low of one to a maximum of 46, with a mean of nine referred charges per youth (s = 8.5). (The total number of charges referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice for the 29 MYC sex offenders at age six to 17 is shown in Table 2.) Over half (55%) of the 29 MYC sex offenders had eight or fewer referred charges from age six to 18, but 41 percent had ten or more referred charges. The number of adjudicated charges was obviously lower, with only 7 percent of the 29 MYC sex offenders having eight or more adjudicated charges. Over half (52%) had four or fewer adjudicated charges. The number of adjudicated charges varied from a low of one to a maximum of 33, with a mean of five adjudicated charges per youth (s = 5.9).
Overall, the 29 MYC sex offenders were adjudicated for a total of 151 offenses (both sex and non-sex offenses), including 29 felonies (19%), 57 misdemeanors (38%), and 65 probation violations (43%). These offenders were referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice for a total of 77 sex offenses, 44 of which (57%) resulted in adjudication. On average, MYC sex offenders were adjudicated for 1.0 felony offense (s = 1.3), 2.0 misdemeanor offenses (s = 3.1), and 2.1 probation violations (s = 2.9). The average number of adjudicated sex offenses was 1.5 (s = 1.2) (Table 3). The 29 MYC sex offenders were adjudicated for a variety of offenses—44 sex offenses, 107 non-sex offenses, and 65 probation violations.
Age at Referral and Adjudication
Four youth (14%) were first referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice at age 10 or younger (Table 4). Slightly over half of the MYC sex offenders (52%) were first referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice before their fourteenth birthday. No youth was adjudicated prior to age 12, but over half (62%) were adjudicated prior to their fifteenth birthday. The average age at first referral was 12.8 (s = 2.8) and the average age at first adjudication was 14.2 (s = 1.4).
Age at first referral and adjudication for sex offenses is shown in Table 5. Twenty-eight youth were referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice for a sex offense, and 26 were adjudicated. (Not all 29 youth were referred and adjudicated for a sex offense, but all youth who participated in sex offender treatment were included in this evaluation.) More than half (57%) of the MYC sex offenders were referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice for a sex offense before age 15. The first adjudicated sex offense did not occur until age 12. Over half (54%) of the MYC sex offenders were adjudicated of a sex offense between 12 and 14 years of age. On average, the MYC sex offenders were referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice for their first sex offense at age 14.0 (s = 2.0) and were adjudicated of their first sex offense at age 14.4 (s = 1.4).
The 29 MYC sex offenders spent a considerable amount of time, 30,217 days, detained or institutionalized in a Division of Juvenile Justice facility. On average, the offenders spent 1,042 days detained or institutionalized (s = 265.0), or 2.9 years (s = 0.7). In this sample, the least amount of time detained or institutionalized in a Division of Juvenile Justice facility was 593 days, while the greatest amount of time was 1,785 days. Additional detail on the total length of detention and institutionalization is provided in Table 6. Only one youth spent less than two years detained or institutionalized. Over half of the MYC sex offenders (66%) spent two to three years detained or institutionalized and an additional 24 percent spent three to four years. Two of the MYC sex offenders (7%) spent four to five years detained or institutionalized.
Group-based models were utilized to identify distinct developmental trajectories (or histories of delinquent behavior) from age six to 17 for the 29 MYC sex offenders based on referred charges. At each age, we calculated the rate of referred charges. The rate of referred charges is calculated as the number of charges referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice when individuals are at-risk of offending. Stated differently, these rates control for periods of detentions and institutionalizations when youth are not at-risk of offending. Rates of offending are only calculated when youth are neither detained nor institutionalized. Results clearly revealed that the 29 MYC sex offenders belonged to two distinct groups of offenders, with different offending trajectories from age six to 17. Results are graphically displayed in Figure 1. For each group, Figure 1 depicts the rate of referred charges per year from age six to 17. Of the 29 MYC sex offenders, 21 (72%) were classified in a low delinquency group while eight (28%) were classified in a high delinquency group. Up to age 11, offenders in both groups were indistinguishable. Starting at age 11, offenders in the high delinquency group experienced a dramatic increase in offending, up to age 15 when they were referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice for an average of almost five charges per year. Offenders in the low delinquency group experienced a more gradual increase in offending, up to age 16 when they were referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice for an average of almost two charges per year. By age 17, offenders in both groups showed dramatic decreases in offending. These declines in offending are not attributable to being detained or institutionalized because the models control for periods of detention and institutionalization. (Rates are calculated based on the amount of time youth are at-risk of offending). Instead, these declines are congruent with other research that supports the effectiveness of sex offender treatment and supervision provided by the Alaska Division of Juvenile Justice. The decline in offending at age 17 was particularly true for offenders in the high delinquency group who, on average, were referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice for 0.00002 charges when at-risk of offending. Although one group was clearly offending at a higher rate, both groups showed signs of desistance by age 17.
The racial composition of the two offender groups is shown in Table 7. White offenders were significantly more likely to be in the high delinquency group than Native or other offenders (p = 0.01). More specifically, six (75%) of the eight offenders in the high delinquency group were White. Native offenders and offenders from other racial groups were more likely to be in the low delinquency group than in the high delinquency group (but differences were not statistically significant).
Two distinct groups of juvenile sex offenders can be identified from among those participating in the MYC sex offender treatment program. After age 17, both the high and low desistance groups reveal signs of desistance. At younger ages, from 11 to 16, juvenile sex offenders appear to be different; by age 17, the differences in rate of offending have diminished and both groups reveal signs of desistance.
Juvenile sex offenders are often viewed as an intractable problem with little evidence of effective treatment. The special MYC juvenile sex offender treatment program coupled with supervision and maturation offers evidence of successful treatment. Although costly in time and money, such treatment and supervision seem worthy of further investigation.
Dr. André B. Rosay is the Director of the Justice Center. Dr. Ronald S. Everett is an Associate Professor with the Justice Center. This project was funded by the Alaska Native Justice Center, Inc. We thank the Alaska Division of Juvenile Justice and Susan McDonough (Research Analyst IV) for providing all data.