Book Review: Sex offenders, stigma, and social control

Date01 March 2022
Published date01 March 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
students and scholars examining policy reform specic to the subsystem of policing. Whether
through a political, public policy, or criminal justice lens, the author provides his reader with
broad, provocative policy alternatives to signicant challenges in todays ever-changing world of
Rickard, D. (2016). Sex offenders, stigma, and social control. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. vii,
199 pp. (paperback), $28.95, ISBN 978-0-8135-7830-9.
Reviewed by: Angela Silletti, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, NY, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0734016819833428
Sex Offenders, Stigma, and Social Control studies the narratives of six sex offenders who have violated
against minors and live in the free community. In doing so, they consider their processing through the
criminal justice system and how it stigmatizes them and further labels them as deviant. Rickard s tudies
how their label impacts their sense of self and highlights their efforts to nd meaning postlabel and
offense. Rickard constructs her text through the prism of the new penologywhich minimizes the reha-
bilitative ideal and highlights the net-widening of sex offender laws and policies. Through the mens
narratives, she investigates how their disproportionate sentences, punishments, and the stigma of offend-
ing against a minor complicate their ability to live normal, prosocial lives in the community.
Chapter 1 begins by framing the mens narratives within a system of legislationbasedonemotionand
moral panics. She highlights this with an emphasis on the collateral consequences of having the label
sex offender.These consequences include degraded civil status, invisible punishments (e.g., sex
offender registries), and disintegrative shaming. Shaming is often done through media outlets which
present sex offenders as horric, regardless of where their offenses fall on the continuum of behaviors .
Chapter 2 presents the mens individual stories including personal histories, events leading up to
their offense, and ultimately the violation that put them in contact with the criminal justice system.
She acknowledges that she is looking to nd a counternarrative or the real truthof what really hap-
pened as she found herself questioning certain accounts of their stories, showing reexivity.
Nonetheless, I found her portrayal of her respondents as fair and without judgment. The researcher
understands that her position as a female researcher may impact the interviewees responses but
states that to what extent that may impact her data collection is unclear.
Chapter 3 investigates the respondents ability to maintain bonds within the community. All
respondents reported the ability to maintain social bonds through church, work, family, and
friends. Specically, Rickard notes that familial relationships remained strong and supportive regard-
less of their offense. This chapter also presents the mens stories individually.
Chapter 4 investigates how punishments imposed on the men impacted their status in the commu-
nity. Through labeling, shaming, and other sanctions such as Megans law, Rickard addresses ve
themes that were analyzed through the mens narratives. Themes included social control and civil
restrictions, employment, housing, subjective experiences of stigma, and the loss of community
(this theme applied to one offender).
Chapter 5 discusses the strategies that the men developed to maintain a sense of social connection
and a normalsense of self. Constructed similarly to the previous chapter, Rickard discusses four
themes that are revealed. Themes included the mens assertion of the real selfthat was separate
from their offense, their concurrence with mainstream viewsof sex offenders, and the need for
Megans Law type legislation, while at the same time separating themselves from the need to be clas-
sied as the dangerous other. Additional themes included critiques of sex offender policies and their
victimization by the labeling process.
124 Criminal Justice Review 47(1)

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