Sunday, September 22, 2013

Efficacy of sex offender treatment still up in the air

Sex offender group therapy
Original Article

Women commit sexual crimes as well, but we do understand that most are by men, but articles about sex crimes, in our opinion, should be gender neutral, and that is why we inserted the text in red below.


"Did he complete treatment?"

That is a front-burner question for judges and jurors in sexually violent predator trials. Understandably, before they decide to release someone who has been convicted of sexually molesting a child, they want reassurance that he is sincerely remorseful and has acquired the tools to turn his (their) life around. In short, they want a certificate of rehabilitation attesting to his (their) low risk.

But does formal sex offender treatment really lower risk?

A systematic review found no scientifically rigorous studies that establish a link between treatment completion and a reduced risk of reoffending among men (offenders) who have sexually abused children.

This isn't altogether fresh news. We knew from earlier research reviews that:
  • Any effect of treatment was modest, at best
  • Treatment works best for the tiny minority of very high-risk offenders, while possibly aggravating risk for the broad majority of men (offenders) at lower risk of recidivism
  • Older offenders, due mainly to their very low risk, derive no tangible benefits from treatment

But considering both the prevalence and the harm of child sexual abuse, there is surprisingly little high-quality research on effective interventions. Partly, this is because of the lock-'em-up-and-throw-away-the-key mentality of policy makers. And partly it is because of the ethical difficulties in implementing random-design procedures, a hallmark of the scientific method, because men (offenders) assigned to a control group would be denied treatment that could reduce their risk and in some cases shorten their prison terms.

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