Free Essay About Sex Offenders Incarcerated
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Sex offenders are incarcerated to prevent recidivism. It is believed that sex offender treatment programs help rehabilitate sex offenders. Societies consider current measures sufficient and effective; yet, insist on looking upon them with disdain after they are released. This, in fact, challenges the effectiveness of sex offender treatment programs, since no actual results are shown. Perhaps, by considering the perception of incarcerated sex offenders in regards the treatment programs provided within their correctional facilities could help make these programs more successful and goal-achieving. Research has shown that inmates incarcerated for sex offenses believe that treatment facilitates self-transformation and may allow for early release. However, being obliged to disclose full details of their sex offenses in a very precise manner and repeat treatment in the community withdraw many sex offenders from participating. Their viewpoints could be considered for future improvements in the structure and methods used in treatment programs, to make sex offenders law-abiding citizens.
Sex offenders are incarcerated to prevent recidivism. Much have been written and said about the effectiveness of their treatment, and from what it seems, the debate will continue for many more years to come. Truth is sex offenders face more stringent sentencing laws; more than most other types of criminals. In addition, sex offenders are publicly known, making society look upon them with disdain. There are even community notification procedures and sex offender registries used in every US jurisdiction, providing online access to full information about criminals that have been sentenced for sex-related offenses (Tewksbury & Higgins, 2005). The reason behind the creation of these sex offender registries is to improve public safety, particularly towards children. It is believed that revealing the true identity of sex offenders online will reduce recidivism. How true is it though? According to empirical research, there is little-to-no effect on recidivism rates when communities are informed of the identity of sex offenders, either online or via any other means (Tewksbury & Higgins, 2005). However, the public insists on having community notifications and sex offender registries, believing that most sex offenders will continue committing sex-related offenses (Banks, 2012). It appears the people are not convinced that sex offenders are rehabilitated while in prison and for that reason they feel they have to protect themselves and their families from people that have committed sex-related crimes. The increased public knowledge of sex offenders within the community has prompted the creation of treatment programs specially developed for convicted sex offenders, to reduce recidivism (Center for Sex Offender Management, 2001). These programs and their effectiveness has been discussed and analyzed thoroughly over the years. The flaw in those discussions and analysis is that the effectiveness of sex offender treatment programs was seem through the prism of crime prevention. It seems that no one considered how sex offenders feel about the effectiveness of their treatment. Their perception could highlight critical weaknesses or obstacles in the treatment programs that could have been otherwise addressed and contribute to reaching the desired goal, which is to discourage sex offenders from re-committing an offense. For this reason, understanding the experiences of sex offenders and their perspectives may help improve the structure and operations of treatment programs, so communities are safer indeed.
What Sex Offenders Believe about Sex Offense Treatment Programs
Daly (2008) suggested that taking into account the opinions and needs of sex offenders undergoing treatment helps significantly to evaluate the rehabilitation programs. Those participating in sex offender treatment may provide perspectives that could be different from those of criminal justice practitioners and program counselors; yet, unique and valuable. When a group of sex offenders participating in the treatment program was surveyed, they provided perspectives that were relevant to the development of more effective treatment programs (Belcher, 2008). Objectives that could not have otherwise been seem if not for those imprisoned for sex-related offenses. Child-victimizing sex offenders entering treatment in a Canadian prison entered the program with feelings of guilt and a desire to discuss their personal issues, learn about sex offenses, and share the view that treatment should be mandatory (Drapeau et al., 2004). What is more, the same sex offenders also expressed that their most favorable treatment environment was the one that was relaxed and not demanding and stressful. They also mentioned that they would want to continue participating in this particular treatment program due to its environment, which urged other sex offenders want to be part of it, too. The majority of sex offenders also stated that they would prefer the number of participants per treatment group to be rather small, in order to maximize benefits, as they could concentrate and pay more attention when with a few other participants (Drapeau et al., 2004).
When a group of sex offenders that had completed their treatment program were also surveyed, they reported satisfied by the program they had attended (Garrett et al., 2003). The same applies to sex offenders in outpatient group therapy, who also reported positive evaluations for the sex offender treatment services. (Levenson et al., 2009). In particular, they felt benefited by the accountability practices, the relapse prevention strategies, and the demonstrations of victim empathy.
The sex offenders participating in multiple treatment programs gave valuable feedback in regards the motivation climate, openness, and trustworthiness fostered by both participants and counselors alike (Conor, Copes, & Tewksbury, 2011). It seems there are significant differences between treatment programs in terms of structure, which makes it evident that sex offenders can not only see value in the treatment programs created for them, but also identify operational and/or structural issues that may affect the effectiveness and success of these programs. Unquestionably, the failure of sex offender treatment programs will return a sex offender back to the community without having changed anything. Therefore, recidivism prevention will fail. The value of sex offender treatment, as seen through the eyes of sex offenders themselves is noteworthy. With their observations, the treatment programs can develop an increased understanding of sex offenders and their needs, as a means to reduce the chances of recommitting an offense and improve the treatment outcomes. Also, their perspectives may provide additional insight as per the activities that contribute to the effectiveness of the sex offender treatment programs. Maybe a small structural change and shift in treatment methods is needed to develop effective modifications and improvements, and the opinions of participants could complete the puzzle.
The Positives of Sex Offender Treatment Programs
A study conducted by Conor, Copes, and Tewksbury (2011) has revealed that many incarcerated sex offenders participating in sex offender treatment had both positive and negative experiences to share. In detail, they believed they learned more about themselves while voluntarily participating in these programs. The programs also helped them develop practical strategies that would keep the (the sex offenders) out of trouble and criminal behaviors. They became more aware of their underlying motivations for their sex offenses and gained “a better recognition of who they were as individuals, and the acquisition of life skills” (Conor, Copes, and Tewksbury, 2011, p. 9). With that new knowledge, sex offenders were more positive and confident about their ability to stay away from criminal behaviors once released from prison. Some sex offenders also claimed that they had managed to understand what led them up to the sex offense and realize that asking for help is perfectly acceptable and desirable; much more than not asking at all. They traced the events before their criminal offenses that motivated them to wrongdoing, identified character flaws, and experienced positive self-transformations through their desire to change that would help them change their lives and behavior in the future (Connor, Copes & Tewksbury, 2011).
Sex offenders gained insights related to the prevention strategies. The techniques taught helped them identify the environments and situations that nurtured their criminal behaviors. Hopefully, these approaches will prevent people from regressing into past habits that awaken sex offenses. Of course, there was a part of sex offenders that participated in the programs that did so for practical reasons. They wanted a faster way out of prison, since a sex offender’s participation in the sex offender treatment programs had an impact on the duration of their incarceration and made it easier to ask for parole or acquire good time benefits.
The Negatives of Sex Offender Treatment Programs
The main complaint of sex offenders was that they had to disclose all details related to their sex offenses with an entire group, when participating in the sex offender treatment. They were particularly discouraged by believing that treatment counsellors could remove them from the treatment if they felt that a participant was not responding with authenticity, based on the presentence investigation reports (Connor, Copes & Tewksbury, 2011). Inmates were feeling increased stress, out of fear the counselor might regard they had said something wrong, even if that was not the case. They were worried that their contributions may not be considered adequately complete and believable to their counselor(s). Some participants were intentionally adding to their stories, to make them more credible to their treatment counselors and avoid being removed from the program. Of course, such beliefs and attitudes diminished the treatment program’s integrity (Connor, Copes & Tewksbury, 2011).
Another issue reported was related to the fact that sex offenders have to attend similar treatment programs once they are released, which, to them, seemed like an extended punishment for their wrongdoing. After they had successfully graduated from sex offender treatment programs, they fact that they were obliged to participate in other similar programs outside prison made many sex offenders refuse becoming involved in the prison’s treatment program. In their eyes, the programs outside prison were identical with the ones provided in prison; hence, spoiled the privilege of early release and ruined the effectiveness of the prison-based program (Connor, Copes & Tewksbury, 2011).
Finally, refusing to participate in the treatment program was closely associated with spending more time in prison. Those rebuffing treatments were certainly looked unfavorably by parole boards, and sex offenders understood that successfully completing the treatment program would give them good time credits. For this reason, even though the treatment program is voluntarily, it is, in fact, somewhat mandatory. This is another reason sex offenders believe that treatment programs would most likely be ineffective, thus participating will not help them change and adopt positive behaviors that would keep them behind bars, once released (Connor, Copes & Tewksbury, 2011).
The paper discussed the environment and nature of the sex offender treatment program as participating incarcerated sex offenders view and experience it, as a means to provide insight into enforcing and improving in-prison treatment programs and structuring future sex offender treatment programs. Research has shown that sex offenders participating in the program gained a better understanding of themselves, felt more comfortable asking for help, and discussing their problems with others, in order to become better persons and stay out of sex offenses when released. It is believed that cognitive change is crucial to cease criminal behavior (Milkman & Wanberg, 2007). To rehabilitate, it is important that treatment programs encourage change and include coping strategies that sex offenders can learn from and prevent them from reoffending (Garrett et al., 2003). It seems that participating sex offenders also understand what motivated them to commit their sex offenses. By recognizing what led them breaking the law, sex offenders can plan their future course of action and make more wise and law-abiding decisions. Therefore, treatment programs that focus on sex offenders’ background may prove to be successful in recidivism prevention.
Given that some sex offenders just participate in the treatment programs to reduce their sentence, rather than personal growth, programs need to be attentive and careful as per who is participating to self-develop and grow and who is not. Sex offenders that are not motivated can affect the treatment sessions negatively and discourage other sex offenders from joining.
Since program counsellors need to assess the participants’ motivations, and members are discouraged to join in as they are afraid they might be rejected if the counsellors are not satisfied with what they hear, it may be disheartening to focus on accepting utmost authenticity on behalf of the participants. Losing faith in the program will most likely lead to its failure, and since offenders have already reported faking their way in the treatment programs, genuine change is significantly reduced
Some sex offenders were reluctant and unwilling to participate in treatment programs when they are released. To them, these programs seemed similar to the ones they had while incarcerated. Educating sex offenders about the structure of out-of-prison treatment programs will probably help them feel more comfortable about participating in them as well. That way, the in-prison sex offender treatment programs might be more successful as they could be complemented by the out-of-prison treatment programs and help sex offenders gradually become legitimate members of their community and society. Finally, considering that some sex offenders do not want to take part in the treatment programs means that they probably had an adverse experience. For this reason, they should also be surveyed to find out the vulnerable parts of the programs, and fix them if possible. Further research is suggested in regards the negative experiences of sex offenders from in-prison treatment programs.
In addition, registries and community notification seem to be particularly popular strategies used for sex offender management. Communities rely on these sex offender laws to shape opinions as per those that have committed sex-related crimes. However, there should be work been done to determine how, and if, these laws actually protect the public. Maybe, because of these strategies, citizens become more anxious about sex offenders, which could put obstacles to the effectiveness of sex offender treatment programs, both inside and outside the prison. If a sex offender is treated badly and is seen as an unwanted outcast from their community, they may not even want to participate in the treatment programs. They may not start acknowledge their offending and attend treatment. They may even participate in the treatment programs just for the chance of an early release and not because they want help to change and find themselves.
It became apparent that sex offenders can provide valuable insight as per the sex offender treatment programs in their correctional facilities. If both positive and negative experiences are discussed and attended, it will be easier to find ways to motivate sex offenders participate in them and be released back into society fully rehabilitated. The sex offenders’ perceptions of the efficacy of prison-based treatment can help better the techniques and strategies used to achieve their goal, which is to prevent recidivism. Revealing the various concerns of those participating in the programs should encourage efforts made by mental health and correctional communities to point a finger at both weaknesses and strengths of the existing treatment programs for sex offenders. All positive experiences should encourage the practices used to replicate. That said; there needs to be further research into how sex offenders see the in-prison sex offender treatment programs, in order to help develop new treatment practices that are more efficient or modify the existing ones to create sound treatment practices.
Banks, C. (2012). Criminal justice ethics: Theory and practice (3rd ed., pp.219-257). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.
Belcher, Louise (2008). A Critical Evaluation of Sex Offender Treatment Programmes Used in Prison. Internet Journal of Criminology. Retrieved Feb. 3, 2015 from: http://www.internetjournalofcriminology.com/Belcher%20-%20A%20Critical%20Evaluation%20of%20Sex%20Offender%20Treatment%20Programmes%20used%20in%20Prisons.pdf
Center for Sex Offender Management (2001). Recidivism of Sex Offenders. U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved Feb. 3, 2015 from: http://www.csom.org/pubs/recidsexof.html
Conor, Patrick, Copes, Heith, Tewksbury, Richard (2011). Incarcerated Sex Offenders’ Perceptions of Prison Sex Offender Treatment Programs. Justice Policy Journal. Volume 8 – No. 2 – Fall 2011.
Dally, Reagan (2008). Treatment and Reentry Practices for Sex Offenders: An Overview of States. Vera Institute of Justice. Retrieved Feb. 3, 2015 from: http://www.csom.org/pubs/Treatment%20and%20Reentry%20for%20SO%20an%20overview%20of%20states.PDF
Drapeau, M., Korner, C.A., Brunet, L., & Granger, L. (2004). Treatment at La Macaza Clinic: A qualitative study of the sexual offenders' perspective. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 46(1), 27-44.
Milkman, Harvey, Wanberg, Kenneth (2007). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment. National U.S. Department of Justice, Institute of Corrections. Retrieved Feb.3, 2015 from: http://static.nicic.gov/Library/021657.pdf
Tewksbury, R., & Higgins, G.E. (2005). What can be learned from an online sex offender registry site? Journal of Community Corrections, 14(3), 9-11, 15-16.
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