The effective supervision of sex offenders is contingent upon the timely development and implementation of individualized case plans that are responsive to their differing risk levels, diverse needs, and circumstances. Research has established that better outcomes are achieved when the intensity of interventions is matched to offenders based on assessed level of risk (see, e.g., Andrews & Bonta, 2007). Specifically, prioritizing higher risk adult and juvenile offenders for higher intensity supervision will likely have a greater impact on reducing recidivism than providing that same level of supervision to their lower risk counterparts. In fact, delivering intensive interventions to lower risk offenders has limited to no impact and, in some cases, may actually result in increased rates of recidivism (see, e.g., Andrews & Bonta, 2007; Cullen & Gendreau, 2000; Gendreau, Goggin, Cullen, & Andrews, 2001).
Although the initial research supporting the differential approaches based upon assessed level of risk involved “general” offenders, a growing body of evidence suggests that it is also applicable to sex offenders (Friendship, Mann, & Beech, 2003; Gordon & Nicholaichuk, 1996; Hanson, 2006; Mailloux et al., 2003). This has significant implications for sex offender supervision. Therefore, a critical goal of the initial supervision case planning process is to identify the risk posed by adult and juvenile sex offenders so that supervision levels can be matched accordingly. This also helps to ensure that supervision agencies maximize the impact of their limited resources.
Agency policies and procedures should require the inclusion of a formal risk assessment in the development of all sex offender supervision case plans. Ideally, for adult sex offenders, one or more empirically–validated sex offender–specific risk assessment tools should be used. Examples include the Rapid Risk Assessment for Sexual Offense Recidivism (RRASOR; Hanson, 1997) and the STATIC–99 (Hanson & Thornton, 1999). With youthful sex offenders, officers or case managers can administer the Juvenile Sex Offender assessment Protocol–II (J–SOAP–II; Prentky & Righthand, 2003) as a means of identifying those youth who may require more intensive supervision based on level of risk. In some instances, these instruments may have been administered by others and, as such, their results (assuming that they are current) can be simply integrated into the supervision case plan.
There are a number of other important written sources of data that can be particularly helpful during the initial supervision case planning process. Pre–sentence investigations or pre–disposition reports and psychosexual evaluations often provide helpful information about sex offenders’ needs and circumstances that guide the creation of the supervision case plan. (See the Assessment section of this protocol for a detailed description of the pre–sentence investigation or pre–disposition report, and the psychosexual evaluation.)
The involvement of and input from collaterals are also key in the creation of responsive and individualized supervision plans. Family members, members of the faith community, mentors, and other significant others in the lives of offenders can provide important insights into key issues that are likely to be related to community stability and should be addressed in supervision case plans. Examples of these critical considerations include daily activities, employment difficulties, concerns with peers and associates, family problems, and transportation needs (see, e.g., Cumming & McGrath, 2005). For juvenile sex offenders in particular, supervision plans should include a strong emphasis on the parent/family, peer, school, and environmental factors that contemporary research indicates are associated with general juvenile delinquency (see, e.g., Hunter, 2006; Hunter, Figueredo, Malamuth, & Becker, 2004). Furthermore, while policies and procedures should ensure that supervision plans for youthful sex offenders comprehensively address the multiple domains that may be associated with their risk to reoffend, it is also critically important that plans identify strengths of the juveniles and their families, and outline strategies to build upon these.
Supervision plans should also be generated with active and explicit consideration of victim safety needs. Indeed, policies and procedures should identify victim–impact statements and input solicited directly from victim advocates as important information sources to be utilized in supervision case planning (Barbaree & Cortoni, 1993; CSOM, 2000; D’Amora & Burns–Smith, 1999; Jones, et al., 1996; NAPN, 1993). With juvenile sex offenders, ensuring victim protection and sensitivity may be especially challenging—when developing supervision plans, as many victims of juveniles are in the family or home environment.
Sex offenders themselves are also essential stakeholders in the case planning process. Their active involvement promotes investment and ownership, and ensures that they are fully aware of and clearly understand the imposed expectations and restrictions (Cumming & McGrath, 2000, 2005; Gray & Pithers, 1993; NAPN, 1993). When creating supervision plans for juvenile sex offenders, it is important that officers or case managers also recognize parents or caregivers and other family members as “experts” in their families, and include their perspectives in the development of case plans (Gray & Pithers, 1993; Jenkins, 1998; Longo & Prescott, 2006; Ryan, 1997b; Worling, 1998).
In addition to establishing risk levels and providing guidance about the intensity of supervision at the outset of the process, assessments are important in identifying specific supervision targets—the dynamic risk factors that are present and require attention in the case plan and must be monitored by officers or case managers over time. As discussed in other sections of this protocol, there are a number of promising research–supported assessment measures that can be used by officers for this purpose, and that should be included in supervision policies and procedures. For example, the Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (LS/CMI; Andrews, Bonta, & Wormith, 2004) is helpful with adult offenders for determining “general” recidivism risk and identifying criminogenic needs to be targeted through supervision and other interventions. The parallel version for juveniles is the Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI; Hoge & Andrews, 1997), which is widely used for assessing general risk and developing individualized supervision plans among justice–involved youth. It should be noted that neither the LS/CMI nor the YLS/CMI is a sex offender–specific instrument. However, these tools are very instructive nonetheless because they can provide a broad foundation for case management plans, particularly in light of the research that demonstrates that when adult and juvenile sex offenders recidivate, their crimes are more likely to be non–sexual in nature (see, e.g., Langan, Schmitt, & Durose, 2003; Waite et al., 2005; Worling & Curwen, 2000).
Unlike the research on “general” recidivism risk, until recently, much of the professional literature on sex offender–specific risk assessment emphasized static—or unchangeable—risk factors. Although useful for establishing risk levels and providing guidance about the intensity of supervision at the outset of the process, static variables provide little guidance with respect to the elements that, if targeted by supervision officers over time, may have an impact on reducing sexual recidivism risk. Contemporary empirical examinations have, however, begun to provide very valuable insights into some of the dynamic or changeable risk factors related to sex offending that warrant close monitoring and intervention by supervision officers (Beech, Friendship, Erickson, & Hanson, 2002; Dempster & Hart, 2002; Hanson, 2000; Hanson & Harris, 2000a, 2000b, 2001; Hanson, Morton, & Harris, 2003; Hanson & Morton–Bourgon, 2005; Hudson, Wales, Bakker, & Ward, 2002; Prescott, 2006; Thornton, 2002; Worling & Langstrom, 2006).
There are two types of dynamic risk factors that are related to sexual recidivism: acute and stable (Hanson & Harris, 2000a, 2000b, 2001; Hanson & Morton–Bourgon, 2005). Acute dynamic risk factors are elements that change rapidly and have been found to differentiate sex offenders who recidivate sexually from those who do not. They include (Hanson & Harris, 2000a, 2000b, 2001):
- Disengagement from supervision;
- Demonstration of deceitful or manipulative behaviors;
- Consistent tardiness or failure to attend scheduled appointments;
- Overall non–cooperativeness and noncompliance; and
- Opportunities for victim access.
These acute dynamic risk factors have significant implications for supervision officers, in that close and continuous monitoring should occur in order to identify their presence (Cumming & McGrath, 2005; Hanson & Harris, 2000a, 2000b, 2001). Once identified, supervision officers must be poised to provide timely and effective responses to reduce the short–term risk of reoffending (Cumming & McGrath, 2005; Hanson & Harris, 2000a, 2000b, 2001).
Stable dynamic factors are more enduring in nature, and are associated with longer–term sexual recidivism risk. While they may not be specific targets of the day–to–day work of supervision officers, they are, nonetheless, critically important in the sex offender management process. They include (Hanson & Harris, 2000a, 2000b, 2001; Hanson and Morton–Bourgon, 2005):
- Substance abuse;
- Intimacy deficits and conflicts in intimate relationships;
- Antisocial or otherwise negative lifestyle factors;
- Attitudes tolerant of sex offending;
- Problems with sexual self–regulation;
- Problems with general self–regulation; and
- Poor overall appearance.
These elements are generally addressed in treatment. Supervision officers are ideally poised to assist treatment providers to monitor them and to reinforce the important work done to address them in the clinical setting.
To assess the dynamic risk factors specifically relevant to ongoing supervision strategies with adult sex offenders, the Sex Offender Need Assessment Rating (SONAR)—subsequently separated into the STABLE–2000 and ACUTE2000—is a very promising tool (Hanson & Harris, 2000a, 2000b, 2001). It was designed for supervision officers as a means of providing structure and focus for their monitoring efforts (Hanson & Harris, 2000a, 2000b, 2001). In addition, the Sex Offender Treatment Needs and Progress Scale (McGrath & Cumming, 2003) can assist supervision officers with identifying dynamic risk factors that will need to be addressed in initial supervision plans and establishing baseline levels of risk and needs against which changes can be gauged over time. Both tools are designed to be re–administered at regular intervals, so that increases or decreases in risk level and changes in needs can be identified, and appropriate responses and interventions can be implemented by officers.
The empirical research on dynamic risk factors with juvenile sex offenders is somewhat limited. However, a considerable body of literature exists on the prediction of non–sexual offending among juveniles, which may be useful for identifying areas of intervention for juvenile sex offenders who are under supervision. Among the strongest predictors of juvenile delinquency and youth violence are substance abuse, aggressive behavior, lack of social ties, antisocial peers, negative attitudes about school, poor academic performance, and negative parent–child relationships (Hawkins, et al., 1998; Lipsey & Derzon, 1998). These elements—in combination with those that are believed to be important considerations in the context of sexual recidivism (e.g., social competency deficits, antisocial values and behaviors, deviant sexual interests, impulsivity, non–compliance with treatment)—may hold particular promise as targets of supervision for juvenile sex offenders (Worling & Langstrom, 2006).
For sexually abusive youth, the J–SOAP–II can be used by supervision officers or case managers to monitor changes in risk level over time and to adjust supervision intensities and strategies accordingly (Prentky & Righthand, 2003). There are four subscales on this instrument, two of which include dynamic risk factors that are particularly relevant to supervision officers and case managers (Prentky & Righthand, 2003). Another promising instrument for youth is the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths–Sexual Development Scale (CANS–SD; Lyons, 2001). This needs assessment instrument guides supervision officers or case managers through a comprehensive exploration of a wide range of variables across a number of important domains (e.g., risk behaviors, school functioning, supervision and monitoring needs, caregiver capacity, family functioning), all of which are important considerations when supervising juvenile sex offenders. One of the benefits of the CANS–SD is that it provides a structured and consistent method for officers or case managers to assess the strengths and assets of youth and their family members.
Both the J–SOAP–II and the CANS–SD are intended to be used at regular intervals so that the efforts of officers or case managers are responsive to the risk level, unique needs, and circumstances of each case.
In addition to utilizing research–supported assessment instruments to guide supervision practices and the ongoing case management process, information from other sources is essential. It is, therefore, critical that agency policies and procedures define the stakeholders from different agencies and disciplines whose perspectives are important in the ongoing case management process. Individuals who over time can offer particularly valuable insights into the adjustment and stability of adult and juvenile sex offenders include professionals such as treatment providers and victim advocates, as well as members of community support networks. Input from these parties should inform the supervision plan and the strategies that supervision officers and case managers employ on a daily basis to manage the risk that adult and juvenile sex offenders pose, and to support their participation in programming and services.
Standard conditions and restrictions of supervision (e.g., scheduled office visits, school attendance for juveniles, curfews, prohibitions against associating with negative peers or associates) are necessary but not sufficient to monitor and intervene effectively with the critical areas of risk that are unique to adult and juvenile sex offenders (Bumby & Talbot, 2007; CSOM, 2000, 2002a, 2002b; Cumming & McGrath, 2000, 2005; English et al., 1996, 2003; Heinz & Ryan, 1997; Scott, 1997). Therefore, specialized conditions of supervision have become commonplace in many jurisdictions. Agency policies and procedures should support the selective application of specialized conditions such as:
- Prohibiting contact with victims;
- Prohibiting or limiting contact with minors;
- Participating in sex offender–specific treatment;
- Close monitoring of and limiting access to the Internet;
- Establishing employment and residence restrictions that limit access to potential victims;
- Restricting movement within and outside of the community; and
- Submitting to polygraph examinations (when appropriate).
With juvenile sex offenders, additional conditions may be warranted, including those that address extracurricular activities, and television programming and video games with violent or sexual themes. Family participation in treatment and supervision is also likely to be an important expectation (Barbaree & Cortoni, 1993; Bumby & Talbot, 2007; Heinz & Ryan, 1997; Longo & Prescott, 2006).
Because sex offenders are diverse and “one size fits all” approaches to supervision may not be effective, application of specialized supervision conditions should reflect the varying levels of risk posed—and the dynamic risk factors that are presented—by each offender. This will help to ensure that resources are maximized and supervision interventions are more likely to reduce recidivism.
When selectively applying conditions, it is necessary for supervision officers and case managers to think beyond prohibitions and placing restrictions on the behavior and activities of sex offenders. It is also important for officers to remember the importance of balancing surveillance and monitoring activities with a focus on treatment. Consistent with the rehabilitation–oriented approach to supervision, case plans should identify positive goals and activities that sex offenders can work towards and that will increase the likelihood that they will live fulfilling and positive lives in the community. Referred to as “approach goals” (see, e.g., Hunter & Longo, 2004; Mann, Webster, Schofield, & Marshall, 2004; Thakker, Ward, & Tidmarsh, 2006), examples include participating in pro–social leisure activities, achieving and maintaining positive school adjustment (for juveniles), establishing pro–social peers or associates, and gaining and maintaining appropriate employment. These goals are vital because their achievement increases adult and juvenile sex offenders’ stability in the community, enhances the likelihood that their needs can be met in constructive ways (and not at the expense of others), reduces the likelihood that they engage in inappropriate or risky behaviors, and ultimately enhances community safety.
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