Surprisingly, Texas Police Found Drunks in Bars
Define That Term #72

Sex Offenders--Distinguishing Between Myths and Reality

I've previously discussed the problem of how to deal with post-release sex offenders on a number of occasions on this blog, and struggle with the appropriate balance between protecting potential future victims and the rights of the individual who has served his/her time.  As a result, I found this paper linked to at this post from the Sentencing Law and Policy blog to be very interesting.  It's  from the Center for Community Alternatives and is entitled "Responding to Sexual Offenses: Research, Reason and Public Safety."   

The paper addresses evidence-based research regarding sex offenders and concludes that a more nuanced approach is necessary.  Here are the first two paragraphs from the paper:

    There is likely no criminal behavior that breeds as much condemnation and fear as sex offending. There are tragic examples of young victims of sex offenders in New York State and across the country that have raised our concerns, and prompted calls for increased surveillance, control and incapacitation. It is responsible public policy to address these concerns in ways that will increase public protection that are based on research and evidence. An evidence-based approach ensures that we will sequester only those who are likely to reoffend by committing serious, violent sexual offenses and affording treatment and effective supervision for those who do not fall into this category.    

To date, much of the debate about sex offenders has been driven by the most horrific and heinous crimes that contribute to the myth that nothing works.  This ignores a growing body of research that documents what works, for whom and in what setting and context. This policy alert calls attention to some of the literature, and urges that new legislation on sex offenders, both criminal and civil penalties, be guided by this research and further expert consultation. We briefly address three key areas: assessment of people who commit sex offenses, the efficacy of treatment — what works for whom, and the use and misuse of civil commitment.  Finally, we draw upon lessons learned from the past and New York's experience with legislation that was driven by fear and political rhetoric — the Rockefeller drug laws.

It sounds like there might be hope after all.  I was always under the impression that there was no cure and that the situation was hopeless.  Hopefully more research will along these lines will be conducted.  As a society, we need to learn more about the problem in order to address this issue--the sooner, the better.


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