No Check We Won't Write: A Report on the High Cost of Sex Offender Incarceration

Elizabeth J. Letourneau, Travis W.M. Roberts, Luke Malone, Yi Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Child sexual abuse is a preventable public health problem that is addressed primarily via reactive criminal justice efforts. In this report, we focus on the cost of incarcerating adults convicted of sex crimes against children in the United States. Specifically, we summarize publicly available information on U.S. state and federal prison and sex offender civil commitment costs. Wherever possible, we used government data sources to inform cost estimates. Results indicate the annual cost to incarcerate adults convicted of sex crimes against children in the United States approaches $5.4 billion. This estimate does not include any costs incurred prior to incarceration (e.g., related to detection and prosecution) or post-release (e.g., related to supervision or registration). Nor does this estimate capture administrative and judicial costs associated with appeals, or administrative costs that cannot be extricated from other budgets, as is the case when costs per-prisoner are shared between prisons and civil commitment facilities. We believe information on the substantial funding dedicated to incarceration will be useful to U.S. federal, state, and local lawmakers and to international policymakers as they consider allocating resources to the development, evaluation and dissemination of effective prevention strategies aimed at keeping children safe from sexual abuse in the first place.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-82
Number of pages29
JournalSexual Abuse
Volume35
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Keywords

  • child sexual abuse
  • civil commitment
  • cost
  • prevention
  • prison

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Psychology(all)

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