chapter  10
A criminal career approach to sex offender subtypes: is there a relationship between pathways in the offending process and the criminal career of extrafamilial sexual offenders?
Pages 30

The criminal careers of sexual offenders have only recently received increased attention in the research literature (e.g., Blokland & Lussier, 2013; Lussier & Cale, 2013; Lussier, LeBlanc, & Proulx, 2005). The criminal career approach is concerned with the longitudinal sequence of crimes committed by an offender (Blumstein, Farrington, & Moitra, 1985). One of the primary goals of this perspective when first introduced (Blumstein, Cohen, Roth, & Visher, 1986, p. 15) was to inform policy-makers about: (a) the heterogeneity of the criminal population; (b) individual offending patterns and associated individual characteristics; (c) the various dimensions of the criminal career. One key underlying aim of the criminal career approach, therefore, was to determine whether a classification system based on the criminal careers of offenders could be helpful for criminal justice decision-making. Interestingly, until recently, the criminal career research paradigm has not been echoed in the field of research on sexual offending. Paradoxically, the various criminal justice strategies that have emerged in Canada and the United States, among other countries, to tackle the issue of sexual violence largely reflect a selective incapacitation approach. Critically, these strategies (e.g., civil commitment, dangerous offender legislation, long-term supervision orders, public notification, sex offender registries) have been advocated in the absence of knowledge and evidence pertaining to the criminal activity and criminal careers of sex offenders. As a result, many have been based on the common misperception that the risk of recidivism for sexual offenses is high across these particular offenders, and, stable and persistent across time and setting (Lussier & Davies, 2011; Lussier, Tzoumakis, Cale, & Amirault, 2010). Clearly, there is a paucity of research on the longitudinal pattern of offending of sex offenders. Nevertheless, some recent studies using the criminal career approach have helped to elucidate the criminal activity of this subgroup of

offenders (Cale, 2013; Cale, Lussier, & Proulx, 2009; Harris, Smallbone, Dennison & Knight, 2009; Lussier, LeBlanc, & Proulx, 2005; Miethe, Olson, & Mitchell, 2006; Simon, 2000; Proulx, Lussier, Ouimet, & Boutin, 2008; Smallbone & Wortley, 2004). These studies have predominately explored the extent to which sexual offenders tend to specialize in their sexual crimes over time. The theoretical rationale for such an approach is that sexual crimes are embedded in trajectories of offending, i.e., criminal careers, characterized by multiple crime types. Importantly, however, several other important aspects of the criminal careers of sexual offenders have largely been neglected in the few analyses that have been conducted along these lines (Lussier & Cale, 2013).