Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Chigon Kim (Committee Member), Karen Lahm (Committee Member), David Orenstein (Committee Chair)

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


In a historically recent development, sex offenders have arguably become a focal point of attention in discourses surrounding sexuality, childhood, and crime. Much research has been accomplished regarding the treatment and recidivism of such offenders, as well as consequences of sex offender legislation and policy initiatives. However, little research has been done regarding specifically the discretion of criminal justice agency professionals involved in the day-to-day handling of these types of cases. This study focused on the effects of such policies on judicial discretion, as measured by sentencing outcomes. Data was collected from publicly available internet sexual offender registries and county court records in two adjoining Ohio counties. A multiple linear regression analysis was used to create a model that predicts 46% of the variance in correctional sentencing outcome. Results indicate that judicial discretion appears to exist, yet is informed heavily by the presence of a rape charge, chronological age gaps between offenders and victims, and whether a case ends in a trial or a plea agreement. This study concludes that the effect of sexual offender legislation and policy on judicial discretion is one of sufficient limitation.

Page Count


Department or Program

Applied Behavioral Science

Year Degree Awarded