Effectiveness of Blended Sentencing of Sex Offenders
Sexual offending is considered one of the heaviest crimes the person can commit and is strongly condemned not only be the court, but by the society as well. The percentage of minors who are accused of sex offending is high, though they are not usually put into adult prison. In such cases, blending sentencing is used.
This way of punishment is relatively new and appeared in the 1990s. This method aims at combining retribution every punishment has and rehabilitation, which is the main idea of juvenile court system. Kristin L. Caballero (2005) describes five models used in blending sentences:
juvenile-inclusive model combines adult and juvenile correctional methods;
according to juvenile-exclusive model the offender can go to adult penitentiary, but the case is prosecuted in juvenile court (the information about the crime is not public);
according to juvenile-contiguous blend model the offender can be sentenced for a punishment that will last after the majority of the convict in adult penitentiary;
According to criminal-inclusive and criminal exclusive models, the minor is sentenced to the same things as in the juvenile models, but the crime is prosecuted in the criminal court.
There are various ways to sentence minor sex offenders so that the convict will not suffer from stigma, shame, excessive violence of adult prisons and will have a possibility for rehabilitation. Though, the question is whether these ways are effective. Kristin L. Caballer (2005) in the article “Blended Sentencing: A Good Idea for Juvenile Sex Offenders?” gives two examples of different verdicts on similar crime. In the first case two officers of police sodomized an arrested man with a broomstick so that he needed a number of operations. In the second case three members of the football school teem were raped by senior members with golf balls and broomsticks. The officer in the first example received thirty years of prison, but the teenagers were just sent to treatment center, military camp and probation. The reaction of the society was evident: people considered the way to punish minors too mild and ineffective. In turns out that minors are grown up to commit sexual offenders, though there are too small to be responsible for their actions. As a result, the judicial system cares more for the physical and psychic health of the defendant rather than of the victim.
There is much discussion of the question whether blended sentencing system is giving positive results. Cheeseman, F. L. and Waters, N. L. (2010) argue who needs a second chance for rehabilitation in the question of sexual abuse and come to a conclusion that minors need it more than adults. The opposition gives the arguments that are quite persuasive to support the idea that the juvenile court should be reformed. First, those defendants who are sixteen years old should go to adult criminal court and face not only more severe sentencing, but also publicity. If the crime has some mitigating circumstances, the judge can impose a blended sentence. However, the rehabilitation program should be combined with adult punishment. In this case a teenager might think twice before making any sexual actions, because it would be clear that his future life will be ruined.
Though there are many counter-evidences considering the effectiveness of the blended sentencing system for minors, it has even more supporters. According to the report on “Recommendations of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services” (2007), those minors who were transferred from juvenile punishment institution to adult prison are more likely to become criminals in future. The rate of violence among the young offenders also increases in such surrounding.
Another fact that supports the idea of effectiveness of blended sentencing is that the teenagers are different in their mental abilities and processes from adults. They do not have a rigid and entirely formed psyche that is why it is possible to help them change their way of conduct. In addition, minors are more affected by instinctive behavior, they are “exploring their sexuality” as psychologists say and they usually do not fully understand the consequences of their actions. Minor criminals who committed sexual offend are usually appointed a guardian if the circumstances of the crime were not extremely violent.
Kristin L. Caballero (2005) emphasizes several important psychological factors that lead to criminal way of conduct and sexual offends. The most important thing is that those minors who rape someone have suffered from sexual harassment too when they were smaller. Nearly 89 percent of minor sex offenders were once victims. This forms a so-called “cycle of abuse”, which is very hard to break.
Such teenagers were often born to mentally ill or declassed parents. A bad example of relations and criminal surrounding are also a solid base of anti-social behavior. Juvenile sex offenders often have psychological problems with aggression and impulse control (Ryan, 1995). The system of blended sentencing might help them in overcoming these problems and the society will get law-abiding citizens instead of criminals.
There is no certain proof of the idea that both adult and juvenile sex offenders do not have chances for rehabilitation. In this case, there is no need to hurry in blaming the person as a life-long criminal. However, there is also no evident proof that the treatment works. It is extremely problematic to make the statistic data that will reflect the truth. There are many cases of sexual offends that are unknown to police (Reitz, 2002). Those people who undergo this crime sometimes prefer to keep it in secret even from the relatives. There are many reasons for it and the most important are the shame or embarrassment. In addition, even the official position of the court is that the rapist is to blame in the crime, the society sometimes thinks different. People often say that the victim provoked the offender with immodest behavior or clothes, or communicated in a bad company.
Blended sentencing is considered the ideal one for the cases of juvenile sex offenders. It allows combining treatment and punishment in the percentage that is more effective in the case. This method helps the court to individualize the punishment according to the circumstances. Those minors who committed crimes that are more serious receive a more severe penalty (Knox, 2010). The bigger criminal autobiography of the teenager is, the less his chances are to be treated. Another important issue in blended sentencing is that the juvenile understands that he can be sent to adult penitentiary. He does not know in advance that the sex offend will not lead to harsh punishment only because he is a minor. This might prevent teenagers from such unreasonable actions.
It is also necessary to note that not all juvenile offenders will be rehabilitated after probation or military camp. Those who were trying to show that they are not behaving like criminals anymore and understand their past mistakes might be released from the treatment institution. However, the police and the guardian will control strictly the teenager’s behavior after it. In case of even small signs of anti-social behavior appear, the sex offender goes to the adult penitentiary. For example, seventeen years old defender is accused of sex offend. The juvenile sentence lasts only until his twenty first birthday. After it the sentence is reevaluated. If the results are not optimistic, the young rapist does to the correctional institution for adults. So the sentence is not annihilated by time.
Caballero, K. L. (2005, April). Blended Sentencing: A Good Idea for Juvenile Sex Offenders? Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development. Retrieved from http://scholarship.law.stjohns.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1139&context=jcred
Cheeseman, F. L., Waters, N. L. (2010, Winter). Who Gets a Second Chance? An Investigation of Ohio’s Blended Juvenile sentence. Journal of Health and Human Services Administration. Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 406-450. Retrieved from
Hahn, R. McGowan, A. (2007, November). Effects on Violence of Laws and Policies Facilitating the Transfer of Youth from the Juvenile to the Adult Justice System. A Report on Recommendations of the Task Force on Community. Recommendations and Reports. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwR/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5609a1.htm
Knox, A. (2010). Blakely and Blended Sentencing: A Constitutional Challenge to Sentencing Child “Criminals”. Retrieved from
Reitz, K. R. (2002, April). American Law Institute, Model Penal Code: Sentencing, Plan for Revision. Buffalo Criminal Law Review. Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 525-672. Retrieved from
Ryan, R. M. (1995, Autumn). The Sex Right: A Legal History of the Marital Rape Exemption. Law & Social Inquiry. Vol. 20, No. 4 pp. 941-1001. Retrieved from