A 25-year-old Madison, Alabama man named Justin David Beatty was recently taken into custody on a single count of electronic solicitation of a child, the result of an ongoing police investigation.
Authorities allege that Beatty solicited a child under the age of 16 to post explicit photos on the Internet. He is being held on a $100,000 bond.
This is not Beatty's first offense. In 2012, he was arrested for the possession of child pornography and allowed to participate in a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders.
Cases like this one, sadly enough, reinforce public opinion that sexual predators do not benefit from treatment programs, since recidivism rates are high in any case, and there is nothing that can be done about it. In fact, this belief is not true. Recidivism rates among sex offenders is actually lower than that of other criminals, with about a 20 percent reconviction rate for child molesters and a 47 percent reconviction rate for non-sex offenses.
With treatment, these percentages go down. One published review of 80 independent comparisons between those who received treatment and those who did not found that recidivism rates declined 37 percent with treatment, from 17.5 percent in the control group to 11.1 of those who went through treatment programs.
Intervention programs like the one Beatty entered are one of the best ways to lower the rate of child sex offenses. Nevertheless, public perception continues to favor tough sentences and draconian measures aimed at putting offenders in prison for a long time. Unfortunately, the result is that a number of first-time offenders -- approximately 40 percent -- go on to commit non-sexual crimes after serving time behind bars when they could have entered treatment programs instead.