"Can the Punishment Fit the Crime When Suspects Confess Child Sexual Abuse?"

Michigan Law Authors
Publish Date
Child Abuse & Neglect
Publication Type
Journal Article

To determine significant predictors of severity of sentencing of sex offenders of minors in a jurisdiction which obtains many confessions.

Data were abstracted from 323 criminal court case records of sexually abused minors over 11 years in a county which places a high priority on sexual abuse prosecution. The sample used in this analysis consisted of 218 men who received a sentence for a sex offense. Multiple regression analysis was used to examine what factors predicted severity of sentences. Specifically this study explores whether, in a county which is very successful in obtaining confessions to sexual abuse of children, the severity of sentence is explained by the seriousness of the crime (more severe type of sexual abuse, younger age of the victim, prior conviction of a sex offense, and abusing more than one child), or by factors unrelated to the seriousness of the offense, offender confession and/or having a court-appointed attorney.

Factors that predicted the severity of the sentence were the seriousness of the sex crime, prior conviction of a sex crime, and young age of the victim.

This community, with a high confession rate and a high conviction rate, imposed sentences that were consistent with the crimes, with more severe sentences for more serious crimes. Convenience factors, such as the fact the offender confessed, and systemic factors, such as having a court-appointed attorney, did not result in more severe sentences.

Full Text