In Puritan America, a married woman’s illicit affair with a minister landed her in jail. After her release, Hester Prynne was sentenced to forever wear a big red “A” on her dress. 

Nearly 375 years later, the U.S. continues to be scandalized, tantalized and perplexed by sex, especially about sex offenders. Tough on crime, we’re still struggling to learn: 

  • Why domestic violence and incest are so under-reported by victims? 
  • Why most people think every sexual offender is a serial rapist? 
  • Why, even among therapists, many continue to believe sex-offenders to be untreatable? 
  • Why supervision after offenders’ release tends to-wards punitive rather than restorative? 

It’s time to bring the subject of sex crime out of the dark ages, time to help victims shed the shame and trauma of their experience. It’s also time to allow offenders an opportunity to show they can change, make amends and start to earn back trust and acceptance from society.

Sex Offender Treatment Program Scrapped in UK Prisons...Why?

A recent article published by the BBC (click here) said that a long-standing sex offender treatment program used for incarcerated male sex offenders in the UK has been scrapped. The conclusion: it appears that those who received treatment in prison were more likely (by a very slim amount) to re-offend sexually than those who received no treatment.

I found myself getting edgy while reading because the article raised more questions than it answered. First, it did not say what the program consisted of, although it did say that it consisted of 180 hours of "group" treatment, and did not mention "individual" treatment as a complimentary part of the program. Secondly, it mentioned that the program was thought earlier to actually reduce the chances of re-offending. What changed?

At the end of the article, there was a clue to where to begin questioning the findings of the Ministry of Justice. As mentioned above, relying solely on group work is a mistake; individual counseling is crucial in getting the offender to reflect on and take responsibility for their crimes. But it looks like the program was changed in 2000.  "The sessions had become too generic," the report said, "and based around a 'detailed manual', rather than tailored to each offender."

In place of that program, the Ministry is running two other programs: Horizon and Kaizen. "Horizon, aimed at medium-risk offenders, aims to teach them "to manage unhealthy sexual thoughts and behaviours" and make other positive changes to their lives," the article said. Without more information, it's hard to say what "teaching" actually means, but I interpret that as a method familiar in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT, while effective to a degree, has been augmented with other programs, like Dialectical Behavior Treatment (DBT) which relies on a more robust interaction with the treatment provider, more personal reflection and more strategies for coping with relapse triggers.

 Another new change includes group members not being required to discuss details of their crimes. Maybe the program managers believe that sharing their crime with others in the group only triggers more fantasies, not less. "Kaizen, a Japanese word used in business to refer to continual improvements in performance, is focused on the highest risk offenders." It didn't detail the nuts and bolts of that curriculum. But the Ministry of Justice did allow that: "We keep treatment programmes under constant review to reduce reoffending and protect the public."

Begin with the Breath

Are Women Exempt from the Sex Offenders Label?

Are Women Exempt from the Sex Offenders Label?