Repeat sex offenses have serious consequences both to the victims and the accused. Let’s take a close look at a case that made headlines in July 2017.
On July 14th, registered sex offender Eric Scott Ruska was found at a Shell station in Munisin, Michigan with his 28-year-old victim. He had strapped her to the passenger seat of his car.
Ruska subsequently confessed to having lured the victim, who was known to him, on a boating trip and kidnapping her for a week. He showed FBI agents the locations on federal land where the crime took place at Hiawatha National Forest. This is where he repeatedly raped her, after having threatened her that he would kill her family if she did not comply.
He’s currently being held without bond, awaiting trial.
Ruska was convicted in 2004 of third degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping and placed on the sex offender registry for life. This was his second offense. His case will be tried by federal authorities because his crimes took place on federal land.
How Common Are Repeat Sex Offenses?
The story of Eric Ruska is, unfortunately, going to get highly publicized. It’s a general public fear that sex offenders will re-offend, especially violent predatory rapists like Ruska and child molesters.
Due to several high profile cases in the 1990s, laws were enacted that were supposed to help society keep tabs on those convicted of criminal sexual assault.
The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Act and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act and Megan’s Law worked in tandem to create the sex offender registry. The general attitude surrounding a person convicted of a sexually based crime is one of high suspicion and mistrust. This is particularly if that person committed a violent crime.
Some studies suggest people believe that sex offenders will re-offend at a 75% rate. The rate is actually much closer to 0 for some offenses.
According to Scientific American, “The 15-year recidivism (the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend) rate is:
- 13 percent for incest perpetrators
- 24 percent for rapists
- 35 percent for child molesters of boy victims
Other studies published in the American Journal of Public Health show a significantly lower recidivism rate:
“In New York, of the 11 898 registered sex offenders released from prison between 1985 and 2001, 251 (2.1%) were returned to prison for another sex crime. The Arizona Department of Corrections reported that between 1984 and 1998, the recidivism rate for sex offenders was 5.5%, and Ohio reported that sex offenders released from prison in 1989 had a 10-year recidivism rate of 8%.
According to the US Department of Justice, registered sex offenders are the least likely class of criminals to reoffend, with 3.5% of registered sex offenders released from prison in 1994 being reconvicted for another sexual offense within 3 years of their release. Finally, Harris and Hanson found that the risk for recidivating decreases significantly over time, with most reoffenses occurring within 5 years of the original conviction.”
Penalties for Repeat Sex Offenses
In the State of Michigan, repeat offenders are sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison, according to Section 750.520f.
In Ruska’s case, because his second offense was sexual criminal conduct in the first degree, he would be at risk for a life prison sentence. However, his first conviction was not a first-degree conviction. Section 750.520b(c)
There are 8 states which allow surgical or chemical castration as a punishment for repeat sex offenses: California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Michigan is not one of them. However, this is an example of how seriously our criminal justice system takes repeat sex offenses. The punishments can be severe indeed.
Due to the psychological toll it takes on victims and families, it is regarded as a public health concern, and rightly so. There is concern, according to the studies above, however, that all of the monitoring and mistrust of sex offenders, rather than keeping the public safe, has created an increase in recidivism rates.
What do you think? Is it irresponsible of media outlets and shows like Law And Order: SVU to highly publicize the relatively low occurrences of repeat sex offenses? Do we owe it to ourselves to correctly understand the nature of sex offenses and sex offenders? To know the actual rates of recidivism among this population? If sex offender registry is actually making the problem worse, should we change it?
If you or anyone you know has been accused of a sex offense, it is imperative that an experienced attorney be consulted. This is life-altering conviction with serious consequences. Please call my office today.