The 1990s witnessed a flurry of legislative initiatives—most notably, “Megan’s Law”—designed to control a population of sex offenders (child abusers) widely reviled as sick, evil, and incurable. In Sex Offenders, Stigma, and Social Control, Diana Rickard provides the reader with an in-depth view of six such men, exploring how they manage to cope with their highly stigmatized role as social outcasts.
The six men discussed in the book are typical convicted sex offenders—neither serial pedophiles nor individuals convicted of the type of brutal act that looms large in public perceptions about sex crimes. Sex Offenders, Stigma, and Social Control explores how these individuals, who have been cast as social pariahs, construct their sense of self. How does being labeled in this way and controlled by measures such as Megan’s Law affect one’s identity and sense of social being? Unlike traditional criminological and psychological studies of this population, this book frames their experiences in concepts of both deviance and identity, asking how men so highly stigmatized cope with the most extreme form of social marginality. Placing their stories within the context of the current culture of mass incarceration and zero-tolerance, Rickard provides a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between public policy and lived experience, as well as an understanding of the social challenges faced by this population, whose re-integration into society is far from simple or assured.
Sex Offenders, Stigma, and Social Control makes a significant contribution to our understanding of sex offenders, offering a unique window into how individuals make meaning out of their experiences and present a viable—not monstrous—social self to themselves and others.