REGION: Sex offenders share lack of empathy
Experts say refusal to acknowledge crime increases chance of new offense
Some are young, some are old, some are middle-aged.
They can be poor, wealthy or middle-class. Some are smart, some not so smart.
While researchers say sex offenders fit no typical profile, they share the characteristics of deviant sexual arousal, interests or preferences, according to the U.S. Department of Justice's Center for Sex Offender Management.
Those include sexual contact with young children or adolescents; sexual contact with others against their will; inflicting pain or humiliation on others; taking part in or watching violent acts; exposing themselves in public; and secretly watching others undress or engage in sexual contact.
When they commit their crimes, nearly all sex offenders are aware that what they are doing is illegal and harmful to their victim, the center says.
"Yet they engage in the behavior anyway," the center says. "What happens is that sex offenders may tell themselves that the behavior is not harmful, or that it is less serious, or claim that the victim enjoyed the behavior."
Sex offenders such as John Albert Gardner III, who refuse to take responsibility for their crimes, are more likely to commit another sex offense, according to a San Diego State University sociologist.
"With adolescents, the earlier you identify them, the more successful treatment is," said Dr. Thom Reilly, director of the university's School of Social Work. "The older someone gets, and if they are unwilling to admit their offense, the chances of treatment being successful are a lot less."
Gardner's records show he repeatedly denied committing the lewd and lascivious acts with a 13-year-old girl that resulted in a six-year prison term in 2000.
It was the girl's mother, not he, who was responsible for beating her, the then-20-year-old Gardner told authorities.
"The defendant made no mention whatsoever of feeling contrition or remorse," according to a pre-sentence report.
Denying culpability signals a likelihood to reoffend, Reilly said during an interview last week.
"With someone who refuses to acknowledge their crime or who blame others, there's a lot less chance that the behaviors will be changed," he said.
Four years after he was paroled in 2006, Gardner, 30, is charged with the Feb. 25 slaying and sexual assault of Chelsea King, 17, of Poway.
Gardner is also charged with the Dec. 27 assault on a jogger at Rancho Bernardo Community Park, the same park near where Chelsea was slain.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and he remains the only named suspect in the February 2009 disappearance and murder of 14-year-old Amber Dubois of Escondido.
Lack of empathy
San Diego clinical psychologist Dr. Michael Mantell has worked with sex offenders for decades and says most share a characteristic: "These are people with tremendous deficits of empathy."
Sex offenders are almost always victims of some type of abuse when they were young.
Gardner, for example, told authorities after his arrest in 2000 that he often was beaten by his father, whom he described as an alcoholic.
"The psychology of the offender almost always includes having been offended themselves," Mantell said.
"Somewhere in their life, the person has been preyed upon and hurt emotionally. I haven't seen any (sex offender) who wasn't her- or himself hurt in a physical, emotional or sexual way."
Researchers say it's those who are never treated for such abuse that pose a higher risk of becoming sex offenders later in life.
Mantell said his experience in working with sex offenders convinces him they are driven by impulse to commit their crimes.
"These people are obsessed," he said. "It's always on their minds."
From everything he has learned about Gardner, including the conclusion of the psychologist who interviewed Gardner in 2000 and determined he was a predator who represented a continuing danger, Mantell said he believes the murder suspect "has all the signs and symptoms of a multiple sex offender."
"When a psychologist says 'he cannot be rehabilitated,' you need remarkably compelling evidence to the contrary to believe the behavior will ever change," Mantell said. "These are people who, in their core belief system, think that having sex with kids is OK. It's only the ones who show genuine remorse and are really working at it who are good candidates for rehabilitation."
Someone who kills in the commission of a rape or an attempted rape, as Gardner is accused of doing, is considered a "lust murderer."
"They enjoy watching their victim suffer," Mantell said.
No simple cures
A report issued by the California Sex Offender Management Board in January cautions that there is no magic formula for identifying, treating or monitoring sex offenders.
"No two sex offenders pose the same level of risk, nor can they be managed or supervised in identical ways," the report concluded. "Similarly, policymakers and the public should be suspicious of any one technology or strategy which promises to solve the problem of sex offenders."
At any given time, California has about 10,000 sex offenders under county probation officer supervision and an additional 6,800 on parole from prison and under the watch of state parole officers.
Treatment services for those individuals are often nonexistent, according to the management board report.
There is no formal sex offender treatment program in the prisons, and the report urges Sacramento lawmakers to fund one, as well as post-prison counseling.
Gardner violated his parole on at least seven occasions.
But those violations ---- speeding, driving without a license, marijuana possession ---- were considered minor and not enough to revoke his parole or have him committed to a mental hospital for evaluation.
That's one of the areas that state lawmakers and the parents of Chelsea King now say needs a comprehensive review.
The Sex Offender Management Board issued that same message in January, saying the state needs a more efficient screening process to determine which parole violations indicate a stronger chance of the person reoffending.
Politics and recidivism
Calls for mandatory "one-strike" laws that would lock up a sex offender for life after a single conviction came shortly after Gardner was arrested.
In fact, numerous studies of convicted sex offenders show that the majority are never arrested for a second sex offense.
Their recidivism rate is far lower in California and nationwide than for most other types of crimes.
A 2008 report to the state Legislature that studied more than 4,000 sex offenders after their release from prison found only 3.5 percent committed a new sex offense within three years.
Thirty-five percent, however, were returned to prison because of a parole violation, according to the study.
The relatively low likelihood of a second sex offense, but required lifetime registration requirement under Megan's Law, creates questions of appropriateness, according to Jody Armour, a University of Southern California law professor.
"Unlike murderers, arsonists and other people convicted of committing serious bodily injury, it's only sex offenders who have continuing lifetime reporting obligations," he said. "How do we square that with how we treat the others?"
Armour said he recognizes the calls for tougher punishment and even more monitoring of sex offenders.
"But we need to make sure we temper our judgment with a sense of proportionality," he said.
*California sex offender recidivism breakdown:
Returned to prison because of new sex offense within three years: 3.5 percent
Returned to prison because of a new nonsex offense within three years: 4.5 percent
Returned to prison for parole violation: 35.5 percent
*Source: California Sex Offender Management Board January 2008 Report to the Legislature. Study followed 4,287 sex offenders released from state prisons in 2003.
*General recidivism rates among 2005 California parolees returned to prison within two years:
Vehicle theft: 67 percent
Possession of a controlled substance: 62 percent
Robbery: 52 percent
Burglary: 52 percent to 59 percent depending on classification of crime
Forgery: 48 percent
Arson: 46 percent
Sexual penetration with an object: 34 percent
Lewd act with a child: 32 percent. This is the charge for which Chelsea King homicide suspect John Albert Gardner was convicted of in 2000.
Rape: 28 percent
Murder: 3.3 percent
*Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The individuals in the study were returned to prison because of new offenses or violation of their parole conditions.
Call staff writer Mark Walker at 760-740-3529.
Here's the problem. When one lacks empathy, it's a sign that they're sociopathic. It does not excuse their guilt, but it explains why we have assholes on the street and in jail today.
Some of these sociopaths are mommy-coddled, like Scott Peterson, Misty Croslin, Casey Anthony, etc.; they all want be declared "innocent", and walk out of jail as though nothing happened.
Gardner is of this mode, because of his first victim, he blamed the victim's mother for the bruises he inflicted on his victim. Like Peterson, Croslin, and Anthony, they want to ignore the victim as though she doesn't exist, even though they thought that the victim was interfering in their selfish interests.
In addition, Gardner was an abuse victim, and nobody gave a fuck about him when he was little. If we gave counseling to the victim early on, he or she may get on with life.
Instead, idiot politicians want "one strike" offenses for all sex offenders. They think that if you increase the severity of the prison term, it would stop all predators. IT DOESN'T WORK LIKE THAT! HELLO?!!!
Predators are mostly men with anger on their mind. Why? They were once abused, so they will prey on children and others they believe they are weak, because they're not happy in their own lives. In other words, if the child is happy, they don't want the child to be happy, so he or she will be the victim.
This is true of these people who were once abused. These include:
Richard Allen Davis
Joseph Edward Duncan III
Brian David Mitchell
John Albert Gardner III
Why do these man exist? Nobody helped them as victims, and they became the abusers and aggressors. We need to stop begatting abusers. Residency restrictions and tougher sentences won't stop future predators. They need help then, and we don't need more Dateline Predator shows to show what predators are now.
STOP ABUSE BEGATTING ABUSE.