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RIT study is Butner Redux deja vu

Michael M . . . A recent study conducted by researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology, or RIT, is already being cited in Federal Court cases to support the false presumption of a high rate of unreported child molestations by those convicted of child pornography offenses. This is despite the fact that it suffers from exactly the same serious flaws and inaccuracies as the infamous and thoroughly discredited “Butner Redux” study, which first appeared in the Journal of Family Violence in 2009.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Butner Redux controversy, here are some of the basics. There were actually two studies conducted at FCI Butner. The “First Butner Study”, a preliminary study done in 2000, suggested a significantly higher rate of hands-on offenses among the population of child pornography offenders than had been known at the time of sentencing. That study involved just sixty-two people in a Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) group, whose crimes “involved the production, distribution, receipt, and possession of child pornography, or involved luring a child and traveling across state lines to sexually abuse a child.”

Butner Study Redux, or the second study, was conducted between 2002 and 2005. It began with 201 SOTP participants and concluded with 155. The 46 exclusions were for voluntary withdrawals, expulsions, and one death. The results of the study suggested that at sentencing, 26% of the study subjects were known to have committed a hands-on offense against a minor. By the end of their SOTP treatment, 85% had admitted to molesting at least one child. The study’s conclusions were widely circulated in the media and cited by prosecutors in court cases to justify longer prison terms for CP defendants.

Almost immediately, the Butner studies came under intense scrutiny and criticism for institutional bias, sloppy methodology, misrepresentational sampling, flawed data gathering, and subject coercion.

First, let’s examine how this “peer reviewed study” first appeared in the Journal of Family Violence.  From their submission guidelines: “Pay $3000 for Springer Open Choice [Plan] to have articles made available with full, open access.” The guidelines also state, “All manuscripts are assigned to an editor who will manage the external peer review process. The Journal encourages authors to recommend individuals who could be considered as reviewers [and] are given the opportunity to request the exclusion… of individuals.” In other words, the author gets to pick who does – and doesn’t – conduct the so-called “peer review.”

Second, let’s take a look at the subjects of the study. Each had been convicted of at least one federal sex crime which involved child pornography and was incarcerated in a federal prison. To characterize this sample as being typical of all persons in the general population outside of prison who have ever viewed child pornography would be somewhat akin to comparing those in federal prison for larceny with everyone who has ever stolen a candy bar.

Next, consider the way SOTP works. The foundational purpose of SOTP is to get participants to overcome denial, admit their wrongdoing, take responsibility for it, and commit to never offending again. It is typically, for all intents and purposes, a one-size-fits-all curriculum that unfortunately treats all sex offenders like violent rapists. It is extremely ill-equipped to address non-contact crimes such as internet crimes or child pornography. As a result, this often results in group facilitators and participants attempting to “shoe-horn” non-contact crimes into a “hands-on” criminal context for lesson plans and exercises.

Participants who minimize or justify their crimes are shamed or berated. Anyone who claims to have been wrongly convicted is reprimanded and may be thrown out of the program. On the other hand, participants who admit to wrongdoing – any wrongdoing, even hypothetical acts or fantasizing about them – get rewarded.

One should also keep in mind the fact that the facilitator gets to define “sex crimes” however he or she likes. I once had an SOTP facilitator tell me that spooning with my wife while she sleeps is a sex crime, since she cannot give consent to being touched while sleeping! Participants were instructed by facilitators that their recollections didn’t need to be accurate and, in fact, shouldn’t be so accurate that they could result in being charged with additional crimes. Participants were even encouraged to include incidents that occurred when they were very young children.

In the end, many prison SOTP participants tell program facilitators exactly what they want to hear, since successful completion of SOTP can lead to their eventual freedom. The system is highly coercive and gives participants every reason to exaggerate or lie about any previously unreported offenses. After all, they have nothing to lose by doing so and everything to gain. In statistical terms, studies utilizing such methodologies suffer from “researcher demand characteristics.”

Fast forward to 2018, and researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology have used exactly the same flawed methodology as Butner to conclude: “More than half of the men on federal probation in western New York for child pornography possession had instances of sexual contact with children that were previously unknown to legal authorities.”

Respected researchers and statisticians should thoroughly examine the RIT study immediately and critically before it becomes another Butner “blunt force object” to be used by prosecutors nationwide to paint all CP defendants with the label of “unindicted child molester.”

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Michael M.

Michael M. is the published author of several non-fiction books, a writer/researcher for NARSOL, and the executive editor of The Registry Report. He also assists NARSOL in marketing, social media, and podcasting.

This topic contains 10 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Maestro 1 week ago.

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  • #50735 Reply
    Michael M.
    Michael M.

    Michael M . . . A recent study conducted by researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology, or RIT, is already being cited in Federal Court case
    [See the full post at: RIT study is Butner Redux deja vu]

  • #50739 Reply


    Class action defamation of character lawsuit is this possible?

  • #50740 Reply


    On Rochester, NY
    Gimme a break. East coast elites claiming they’ve identified an overlooked aspect about the causal connection between child pornography and sexual aggressiveness like child molestation. It is a false narrative. Pictures or other images that contain naked babies or nude children are too often erroneously characterized as PORNOGRAPHY! Here again we must mark the distinction between being ACCURATE or\and being VALID. What makes images immoral or abhorrent is a strictly cultural distinction that law (not individuals) cannot readily define.
    Mike is absolutely correct the Up State New Yorkers are relying solely upon the “self reporting” type of statistical information gathering for their report. That particular survey type has some inherent technical problems with over and under reporting. In fact, it’s flaw well known and tends to effect the measurements of standard deviation. IMHO the report is propaganda.

  • #50748 Reply
    Michael M.
    Michael M.

    The only material difference between the two studies is the fact that in the Butner studies, the participants were prisoners hoping for parole, while the subjects of the RIT study are on federal probation hoping to avoid revocation and successfully “graduate” from the sex offfender treatment program.

    Every data point in this new study – every factor, variable, or parameter relies upon on self-disclosed information from participants who are being coerced and rewarded for telling facilitators and therapists exactly what they want to hear. None of the information provided by partipants – including reports of participants’ own childhood abuse, mental illness, sexual paraphilias, and history of deviancy were in any way objectively validated by the researchers.

    I’ve seen the process at work, up-close and personally, while participating in an SOTP therapy group. Facts are endlessly “massaged until they fit the narrative.” Your sexual history (a writing assignment all SOTP particpants must complete) is submitted and “critiqued” by the group and its facilitator. Then, they literally tell you how to rewrite it. If you balk at this attempt to rewrite your own personal history, you risk being thrown out of the program and having your probation revoked. And, as if that weren’t bad enough, you may be required to take polygraph exams to “verify” this largely coerced and possibly bogus sexual history narrative. Imagine taking a “lie-detector” test about events that may or may not have happened to you as a child, decades ago.

    It is upon such a foundation that this study, and others like it, rest. To say that its conclusions are derived from palpably flawed data and a demonstrably disingenuous methodology is to grant it a level of charity that it doesn’t deserve.

    To read the actual report in its entirety: An Exploratory Analysis of Child Pornography Possessors Supervised by Federal Probation in the Western District of New York –

  • #50758 Reply


    Don’t be surprised. The study was commissioned by federal probation officials, meaning RIT was probably specifically instructed what the study’s’ conclusions were before the grant was paid.

  • #50774 Reply


    Thank you for sharing this information and taking the time to spell it out. So true. These programs get to the point where folks say what they know they want to hear because it is the only way. It is a shame because that can make a miss opportunity to help, heal and learn.

  • #50791 Reply


    I was told that by Federal Parole officer when I was let off supervision. The whole I’ll see you again because thats what stats say and probably for something worse. Owell jokes on her its been 8 years since then and I have not. 2 years and I can apply to get off the registry and my SOR Officers says he likes to help and put in good words for the ones that are able. So hopefully this will happen.

  • #50795 Reply


    Thanks for bringing this information out. There was one piece I was curious about…
    You mentioned $3000? The participants paid money to be in the set of date??? Or got paid??? Regardless, anytime money or something of value (say freedom!) is offered beyond reimbursement for time and expenses to a data set group, the results are invalidated. All this study would prove is something like: ‘50% of people who paid $3000 to be included in this study were willing to claim previous symptoms in order to gain a favorable completion’.

  • #50806 Reply
    Michael M.
    Michael M.

    No, Kathleen…

    The “researchers” (likely) paid a magazine $3000 to have their paper published in the Journal of Family Violence. This is what we authors call “vanity publishing.” In other words, if what you are writing is any good, publishers will pay YOU for your work. When it comes to research papers and the journals which publish them, the reputable ones don’t charge you a fee for inclusion. They also don’t let you pick who gets to do the “peer reviews” of your work… another indiction that the Butner study was a piece of crap.

    As for the R.I.T. study, it was commissioned (paid for) by the (Federal) Western District of NY Probation Department, which already tells you where the inherent bias is going to be. And it has NOT undergone any type of peer review and probably wont get published in any reputable journal for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Even so, it is being used by prosecutors and probation officers to justify longer prison sentences and probation revocations.

  • #50834 Reply


    Like Robinson Crueso its primitive as can be. One wonders in these studies. I wonder if no man is an island. Sure man wants results, and with more results government seems to get by with pursusion, inducment intimidation, force, or other means for one to confess in criminal Justice cases or take the ole plea deal of true justice. I wonder if this country is for the people with those of social standards or is it some media factror today.

    I wonder who’s accoutable in this wall of understanding. Is this not some peoples way of hocus pocus of truth. I wonder if a lot of us today are treated like the hole-in-the wall gang in or by this devious human justice means.

  • #50970 Reply


    “I once had an SOTP facilitator tell me that spooning with my wife while she sleeps is a sex crime,”

    By this logic EVERYONE is a sex offender and NO ONE should ever speak poorly of those convicted of sex “crimes” ever again. See, this quoted statement above, spoken from the mouth of someone who is in the business for the paycheck, should be what gets published in a nation-wide magazine article. Imagine the relationships and marriages THAT type of statement would/could ruin. “Hunny, don’t you dare make any contact with my body while I’m sleeping! And don’t kiss the kids on the forehead while they’re sleeping either. You read that article! Don’t become a pervert!” Yeah, that’s what marriage is all about.
    (Seriously, saying that spooning with your sleeping partner is a sex crime sounds very liberal left-feminist.)

    But of course you’ll have your typical high and mighty goodie-two-shoes who will “minimize” such an “offense” and still wish death on OTHER sex offenders.

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