Sex offenders are a unique class of offenders. Although all offenders have been affected by recent punitive policy mandates, changes in the philosophies of the criminal justice system have virtually separated the sexual offender from every other type of criminal (Edwards and Hensley, 2001). As a result, the imprisonment rate for sex offenders has grown faster than for any other crime, and sex offenders serve a larger proportion of their sentence when compared to other offenders (Greenfeld, 1997). On average, felony sexual assault offenders serve 64 percent of their sentences and spend 69 months in prison, and violent felony offenders serve 62 percent of their sentences totaling 56 months (Durose and Langan, 2003). Further, legislation mandating sex offender registration, community notification, DNA collection, and civil commitment have predicated increased community concerns over the dangerousness of sexual offenders (Sample and Bray, 2003). As such, sex offenders present unique challenges for institutional management and community corrections.
The examination of sex offenders as a population has been a major enterprise within a number of academic disciplines, particularly as it relates to the estimation of recidivism. However, little consideration has been given to the determinants of release on parole, or back-end discretion, for this group. The omission is potentially important given the recent increased public scrutiny over the release of sex offenders to the community. Although the use of parole boards has decreased substantially in recent decades, parole boards have considerable power to determine time served in states that have retained discretionary parole release. In addition, parole represents a largely hidden part of the criminal justice system. Identifying factors associated with parole release may offer insight into the offenders returning to the community and help craft parole policies tailored to address this unique group of offenders.
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