Council on Sex Offender Treatment Treatment of Sex Offenders - Effectiveness of Treatment

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Incarceration in a penal institution does not deter repeat sexually violent predators or the proliferation of sexual violence. Decades of research across a broad spectrum of issues show that punishment merely suppresses deviant behavior and does not eradicate it (Cole, Cory, McKenzie, and Meyer, 1997). With this in mind, over the past 30 years an enormous amount of research has shown relevant information regarding the assessment, treatment, and containment of sex offenders, which in turn has enhanced public safety. There have been considerable advances in our knowledge about the characteristics of effective treatment programs (Bonta, 2001). The purpose of treatment is to modify both cognitive distortions and deviant sexual behavior to reduce the risk of re-offending. Research and clinical reports have begun to demonstrate that a number of treatment methods are effective in modifying some forms of sexual deviance. The following are studies that show the effectiveness of treatment:

 

  • In a 2004 study of 31,216 sex offenders, Hanson observed on average that the sexual recidivism rate was 13%, violent non-sexual recidivism at 14%, and general recidivism at 36.9%
  • In 2000 Hanson found that the overall effect of treatment demonstrated reductions in both sexual recidivism (10% of the treated subjects to 17% of untreated) and general recidivism (32% for treated subjects to 51% of untreated subjects).
  • In the December 2002 publication of Psychiatry News, an article titled “Sex Offender Recidivism Rates Below Expectations: A 15 Year Prospective Study” concluded that more than eighty percent (80%) of sex offenders who have undergone treatment do not re-offend within fifteen (15) years. The study of 626 individuals was reported at the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law. The study found that sex offenders who were compliant with treatment were less likely to re-offend. Approximately forty percent (40%) of these individuals received anti-androgenic drugs in order to lessen their sex drive.<
  • Child molesters who participated in a cognitive behavioral treatment program had fewer sexual re-arrests than the sex offenders who did not receive any treatment (13.2% vs. 57.1%, respectively). Both groups were followed for 11 years. The recidivism data was obtained by official sources and self-reports. Treated exhibitionist were reconvicted or charged with a sexual offense less than the untreated exhibitionist (23.6% v. 57.1%, respectively) (Lane, Council, 2003).
  • Recidivism rates for sex offenders do decrease with proper treatment. A meta-analytic study showed that treated sex offenders recidivated at a rate of 19% (Hall, 1995).
  • Treated offenders are more likely to make emotional and psychological restitution for the offender's deviant behavior and be available to contribute to the victim's treatment process.
  • When treatment programs are compared with criminal justice sanctions, the findings show treatment is more likely to reduce recidivism. Even detailed analyses of types of sanctions show no one particular sanction as significantly effective in reducing recidivism. If we are to enhance community safety, offender rehabilitation programs that follow the principles of effective treatment are most likely to meet with success (Bonta, 1997-2001).
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Last updated April 05, 2010
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    Council on Sex Offender Treatment