Less than three months after Lowndes County resident Raymond Karr was released from prison for touching a child for lustful purposes, he was arrested again on four counts of the same charge.
Karr, 34, served three years of a 10-year sentence, seven of those years suspended at the time of his 2013 conviction. His suspended sentence was revoked in February in Lowndes County Circuit Court, and he’s back in the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center.
And he’s not alone in being accused of again committing sex crimes. Johnny Saddler, 62, also of Lowndes County, was convicted of touching a child for lustful purposes in 2014. He was released from the Mississippi Department of Corrections in July 2016 and was just indicted this year on new counts of fondling.
It’s not necessarily common for child molesters to be released after such short sentences, District Attorney Scott Colom said — the three years Karr served would be considered “light” — but it does happen, usually because of lack of witnesses.
“A lot of times, a child victim doesn’t want to testify,” he said. “Their parents don’t want them to testify.”
But simply locking up a child molester for a few years and then releasing him or her isn’t going to solve the problem, said Mallory Malkin, an assistant psychology professor at Mississippi University for Women and a licensed therapist who works with victims of child sexual abuse.
Psychologically pedophilia is a disorder — specifically a compulsive behavior, Malkin said. Approximately 3 to 5 percent of the adult male population has it. And like all disorders, there is treatment, she said — but it’s rare that pedophiles get it in prison.
“In a lot of prison settings, they aren’t necessarily equipped or funded to have appropriate treatments available, so they would not be likely to receive the necessary treatment that they would need to not recidivate,” Malkin said.
Like all sex offenders, child molesters have to register with the state upon release from prison, Colom said. They also usually have some type of probation upon release. But he doesn’t know of any therapy or other kinds of treatment judges mandate pedophiles attend or seek out, the way judges sentence defendants in other cases to mandatory substance abuse counseling.
Cognitive behavioral intervention
Pedophilia is not an addiction, but the treatment is similar, said Mitch Berman, Department Head of Psychology at Mississippi State University. It’s what’s known as cognitive behavioral intervention.
“(You try) to change the emotions and behaviors associated with stimuli or events that are associated with behaving,” he said.
For example, a therapist helping someone treat a drinking addiction would tell the client not to drive by a liquor store on the way home — find an alternate route, Berman said. For a child molester, a therapist would want to first figure out what’s making the person want to do what they’re doing — whether it’s going online to look at pornography or some other criminal behavior — and find a different way to cope with it.
“Obviously this isn’t super effective,” he said. “It seems to have modest benefits. That’s a lot of work. And if somebody’s not willing to engage or not willing to even consider changing their behavior, it’s not going to be useful.”
There aren’t many psychological studies looking at treating child molesters, Berman said. Even those that do may be underestimating recidivism rates, which are often based on re-arrests, because not every offense comes to the attention of law enforcement or the judicial system.
‘There’s no cure’
Berman cited a 2013 “meta study” that looked at results of about 40 studies of treatment for sex offenders all over the country. There were almost 10,000 sex offenders — though Berman said this study included more than just child molesters — between the studies, and the results looked at recidivism for those who received some sort of treatment compared to those who didn’t. The general findings from the studies were that recidivism for treated sex offenders was about 12 percent, while recidivism for those who didn’t receive treatment was about 17 percent.
“That’s still a pretty high recidivism rate,” he said. “Especially if it’s just (based on) re-arrest or re-offense rates. But it’s a difference.
“So that’s your take-home message,” he added. “It can potentially reduce it, but it doesn’t eliminate it. There’s no cure.”
But that doesn’t mean treatment is a useless endeavor, Berman said.
“If you can get one out of every 20 people who engage in sex offending to reduce their recidivism, think about how many victims you could potentially prevent,” he said.
If anything, recidivism rates and the need for treatment highlight the importance of identifying instances of child sexual abuse, Malkin said.
“People need to recognize pedophilia is a disorder,” she said. “But that does not mean it’s an excuse for the behavior they’re engaging in. And really it just highlights that children need to be supervised at all times and listened to. … Parents, guardians, other family members really need to listen to children when they bring up any of these concerns and report any sort of suspicion. It’s not only going to help the victims, but it does help the perpetrator get into treatment.”
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