Diverse and Special Needs Populations

As has been emphasized repeatedly in the professional literature and throughout this protocol, sex offenders are a diverse group of individuals with a wide range of unique needs to which treatment interventions must be responsive. Among other key factors, this diversity relates to culture and gender. For example, gender–responsive treatment programs must be developed for female sex offenders, based on an understanding of the unique risks and needs of justice–involved women and adolescent girls (see, e.g., CSOM, 2007). In addition, staff training and client programming may need to be tailored to address special needs populations such as hearing– or visually–impaired clients, individuals with low cognitive functioning, those with serious and persistent mental illness or medical disabilities, or incarcerated offenders in protective custody or segregation status. Although it is beyond the scope of this protocol to review treatment approaches or other management strategies for diverse and special needs populations, the importance of taking into account these critical issues must be emphasized for all who have a role in sex offender management. Unfortunately, this is an area that remains considerably underdeveloped within the research and practice literature (see Haaven, Little, & Petre–Miller, 1990; Laws, Hudson, & Ward, 2000; Longo & Prescott, 2006; Marshall, Fernandez, Hudson, & Ward, 1998; and O’Reilly, Marshall, Carr, & Beckett, 2004 for reviews of interventions with several special populations).

Another special population in some jurisdictions is the group of high risk sex offenders who have been civilly committed. Under this scheme, individuals determined to have a mental abnormality that predisposes them to commit sexually violent or predatory offenses, who are unable to control their behaviors, and who are determined to pose a high risk to reoffend are committed through civil proceedings at the expiration of their prison sentences. This is an area of controversy because of constitutional questions, high operational costs, limited numbers of releases, differing policies and practices, and a lack of evidence–based guidance for programs (see, e.g., Janus, 2006; LaFond, 2005; Schlank, 2001; Schlank & Cohen, 1999; Winick & LaFond, 2003). Specialized policy and practice considerations must, at a minimum, take into account the following:

Given the unique issues associated with this management strategy, jurisdictions considering civil commitment should carefully review the available research, practice literature, and relevant case law, and consult with states who have engaged in rigorous policy analysis and program implementation relative to this special population.

Click here to assess your policies and practices in this area.