Ready…..Or Not?

Recently I attended a group therapy session for male sex offenders. Each member of the group was on parole for a sex offense and was court ordered to attend therapy.  I was invited to participate in the session by the regular therapist who was present.  Having conducted hundreds of groups over many years I was eager to attempt one of my own tried and proven methodologies.  After a round of small talk consisting of updates provided by all clients I began to explore sex offense specific issues.  It is a common practice of mine to have all clients present their case to their peers for review.  Each client is afforded the opportunity to explain his offense, in some detail, and receive feedback, in the form of questions and comments, from group members and from the therapist.  These reviews are not time limited.  One of the benefits derived from this approach is that it allows offenders to discuss their attitudes about their offense with less concern over possible negative judgments from their reviewers.  I called on a client who I’ll call Jeb to begin the exercise. Jeb’s initial response was that he couldn’t remember what his offense was nor could he recall information (gender, age, relative or not, etc.) about his victim. Being familiar with his case I jogged his memory in an effort to encourage participation. At that point he flatly refused to participate, saying “Just take me back to prison”. I immediately informed him that if he did not comply with my request at the next group session I would request a judicial status conference and have him explain his position to a judge. In the days following the session the regular therapist had conversations with several group members who felt that Jeb should be given more time to get “comfortable” with the group. That opinion was shared by the therapist. I disagreed. I feel that clients should make attempts to comply with requests for participation even tho’ the process may be painful in the initial stages of treatment. Sex offenders generally pose risk to the community and such risks should be addressed ASAP. The question is should we wait for offenders to be ready to engage therapy or should we (therapists) insist that they comply with the requirement that they participate immediately? Should we move forward whether they are ready…..or not?

Return

Hello to everyone.  For several months I have been absent from the site because of illness.  I’m back now and promise to publish some interesting and perhaps controversial entries related to the field of sexual offending.  Stay tuned!

The Dr.

Justice or Revenge?

Today the Associated Press reported that a man shot and killed the man who had sexually molested his daughter in 2001.  His daughter was seven-years-old at the time of the molestation.  Raymond Brooks was the man who was shot and killed.  In 2002, he was convicted of sexual abuse and sentenced to five years in prison but later was placed on probation.  The exact reasons for the shooting were unclear at the time the report was published.  No clear connection between the sex offense conviction and the shooting has bee made.

There are lots of “ifs: to this story.  If the shooter killed Brooks because of the sex offense he committed, was he (the shooter) justified?  Many people would say “no” because the law had taken its course and should not be interfered with.  Some would say “yes” because a brief prison sentence cannot compare with the lifetime of anguish experienced by the victim of sexual assault.

The question of what do we do with convicted sex offenders again rears its head.  Sentences are sometimes less than those experienced by those in possession of drugs.  Should consequences be more intense?  Is it wrong for victims to mete out their own punishments given the extreme damage inflicted upon them by offenders?  Will stronger sentences deter others from committing similar crimes?

The public must decide how it wishes sex offenders to be dealt with and consequences must be swift, appropriate and consistent.  If this ever happens it may not be necessary to evaluate the behaviors of the shooter who killed Raymond Brooks.

Registration Expectations

When there is news of convicted sex offenders committing another sex offense people are often confused as to how this could occur especially since most sex offenders have to register.  It is important to understand what registration accomplishes and what it does not accomplish.  Basically registration is a notification process.  Offenders must provide current information to law enforcement personnel regarding where they live and work and other such information which would facilitate making contact with them.  The law also provides for the establishment of a public information site which contains specific sex offender demographics.  This is the “sex offender website”.  Registration does not prevent anyone from re-offending.  The process simply let’s us know (generally) where sex offenders can be found.  There is controversy surrounding sex offender registration laws (which are established by individual states and some Indian tribes).  Are the laws fair?  Do we even need them?  Do they open the door for unwarranted discrimination against offenders?  These questions are being debated as we speak.  What do you think?

Would you feel safe living near a convicted sex offender?

One of the biggest challenges we face in managing convicted sex offenders is helping them find suitable housing once they return to the community.  Of the few landlords that will rent to them, many [landlords] offer substandard apartments at inflated rents.  I propose that we develop highly structured (supervised) units for ex-offenders on probation.  They would consent to rental agreements, pay reasonable rents and be subject to conditions such as restricted visitors, regularly scheduled unit inspections, no alcohol or other drugs, etc.  This is a project that I am now seeking funding for.  Sex offenders must live somewhere.  Why not provide environments and conditions which decrease the probability of re-offense?