Because reentry planning should begin early in an individual’s placement in a correctional or residential setting, policies and procedures should require the use of assessments, beginning at the point of intake, to guide sex offender reentry efforts (Bengis et al., 1999; Marshall et al., 2006). This ensures that recidivism risk, intervention needs, and anticipated barriers are identified at the outset, such that informed case management plans that begin to address some of the unique challenges of sex offender reentry can be developed well in advance of release. Because a number of risk factors are unique to adult and juvenile sex offenders, these early assessments should include research–supported sex offender–specific tools to identify the targets of intervention that are most likely to result in risk reductions and successful reintegration with adult and juvenile sex offenders (see, e.g., Hanson & Harris, 2000; Hanson & Morton–Bourgon, 2005; Prescott, 2006; Worling & Langstrom, 2006). (For additional information about the use of assessment tools to inform decisionmaking throughout the criminal and juvenile justice systems, see the Assessment section of this protocol.)
Agency policies or procedures should also require the use of repeated assessments to ensure that ongoing case management decisions, as well as release decisions, are based on current levels of risk and needs. Ideally, the various agencies involved in the overall sex offender management process adopt the same adult or juvenile sex offender–specific risk and needs assessment instruments. This reduces unnecessary duplication of assessment efforts and provides a common language among facility providers, community–based practitioners, and release decisionmakers during the transition and release planning process.
Invest in Evidence–Based Strategies and Other Key Services within Facilities to Support Sex Offender Reentry
Years ago, in response to the belief that “nothing works” in rehabilitating offenders, criminal and juvenile systems shifted toward more punitive philosophies and practices, and reduced their investments in rehabilitative programs and services (see, e.g., Petersilia, 2003). These more punishment–driven approaches, however, have not translated into recidivism reductions (see, e.g., Cullen & Gendreau, 2000). More recently, with the growing awareness of evidence–based interventions as a means of reducing recidivism, a renewed interest in a more rehabilitative orientation has begun to emerge (see, e.g., Cullen & Gendreau, 2000; Petersilia, 2003). This renewed interest is particularly evident in jurisdictions that recognize the value of evidence–based interventions in successful reentry.
The prevailing responses to sex offenders, however, continue to move towards longer sentences, tighter restrictions, and more intensive monitoring, often at the expense of treatment. This remains the case despite the growing body of research demonstrating that adult and juvenile sex offenders who receive treatment recidivate at significantly lower rates than those who do not (Aos, Phipps, Barnoski, & Lieb, 2001; Aos, Miller, & Drake, 2006; Hanson, et al., 2002; Lösel & Schmucker, 2005; MacKenzie, 2006; Reitzel & Carbonell, 2006). To maximize the potential for effective reentry strategies with adult and juvenile sex offenders, jurisdictions should invest in interventions that demonstrate the potential for reduced recidivism.
Ideally, this investment extends beyond sex offender–specific treatment and takes into account the multiple needs of justice–involved individuals which, if targeted through appropriate interventions, will result in positive outcomes (see, e.g., Aos et al., 2001, 2006; Lipsey, Wilson, & Cothern, 2000; MacKenzie, 2006; Seiter & Kadela, 2003). Such interventions include:
- Cognitive skills training;
- Substance abuse treatment;
- Family–based interventions;
- Educational services;
- Vocational skills training; and
- Health and mental health services.
In addition, as described later in this section, attention to the continuity of service delivery must be addressed by both correctional/juvenile justice and community–based agencies. Research indicates that reentry efforts are more likely to be successful when evidence–based and other key programs and services within institutional settings are linked with parallel services in the community (see, e.g., Altschuler & Armstrong, 1996; Petersilia, 2003; Seiter & Kadela, 2003).
Experts agree that the longer individuals remain in institutional or residential facilities, the more they become detached from positive community supports and influences; in turn, this decreases their likelihood of reintegrating successfully post–release (see, e.g., Altschuler & Armstrong, 2001; Altschuler, Armstrong, & MacKenzie, 1999; Petersilia, 2003). With adult and juvenile sex offenders, this has particular salience. Adults with sex offense convictions are imprisoned nearly twice as long as other types of incarcerated criminals (Greenfeld, 1997; Langan et al., 2003; Langan & Levin, 2002); juvenile sex offenders also spend longer periods of time in facilities than other types of youthful offenders (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006).
Providing evidence–based rehabilitative programs and services may be one means of mitigating these potential effects. However, agency administrators should also implement specific strategies to include non–treatment staff (e.g., custody officers, youthcare workers) in supporting reentry efforts with adult and juvenile sex offenders. As noted earlier, administrators must demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that all staff members recognize their vital role in sex offender reentry. This commitment can be reinforced through training efforts geared toward empowering custody staff and youthcare workers to share ownership in the larger effort to promote successful transition through their work with sex offenders in facilities. The following are examples of issues and concerns that must be addressed (Bumby et al., in press; CSOM, 2007; Spencer, 1999):
- Providing education about adult and juvenile sex offenders and effective management strategies. Education can dispel myths and misperceptions custody staff may hold about sex offenders (Weekes, Pelletier, & Beaudette, 1995). When custody staff and youthcare workers have misinformation about adult and juvenile sex offenders, it may fuel negative attitudes, drive unproductive interactions, and interfere with or undermine treatment efforts (see, e.g., Fernandez & Marshall, 2000; Spencer, 1999).
- Increasing awareness of the potential for facility violence. This is particularly important because convicted sex offenders are more likely to be victimized than other offenders in facilities (Austin, Fabelo, Gunter, & McGinnis, 2006; Human Rights Watch, 2001; Owen & Wells, 2006; Struckman–Johnson, Struckman–Johnson, Rucker, Bumby, & Donaldson, 1996). Critical considerations include training for custody staff and youthcare workers about preventing rape and other assaults within these facilities, and how to respond effectively (e.g., connecting victims with medical and/or mental health services) when they do occur. Like any other victims, individuals who are sexually assaulted or otherwise victimized while in a residential/institutional facility can experience a range of short– and long–term negative outcomes. If unaddressed, the impact of victimization can affect overall adjustment and stability, which ultimately can be associated with additional difficulties post–release.
- Recognizing the potential negative implications of sexually exploitative materials within facilities. For some sexually abusive individuals, the nature and content of these types of materials have the potential to exacerbate deviant interests, pro–offending attitudes, and sexual preoccupations that are associated with recidivism among sex offenders (see, e.g., Hanson & Morton–Bourgon, 2005). Through collaboration with treatment providers within adult and juvenile facilities, custody staff and youthcare workers can learn more about the differences between what may be considered healthy sexual outlets and the types of materials that could undermine the treatment process. Furthermore, staff can take opportunities to reinforce the treatment process when some of these issues arise.
- Maximizing the use of visitation practices as a mechanism for strengthening family relationships and other sources of community support. Visitation provides opportunities to engage families in the overall intervention process, including transition planning. At the same time, custody staff and youthcare workers should ensure that visits and other contacts do not occur with victims or others for whom no–contact orders are in place, and that inappropriate contacts with other vulnerable individuals are prevented during visits.
As will be discussed later in this section, clear policies and procedures must be in place to prevent and mitigate the effects of juvenile sex offenders’ prolonged exposure to negative influences in residential/institutional facilities. To begin to address this, it is important to train youthcare workers and custody staff about the potential for negative peer influences within these facilities that can result in increased recidivism post–release, even when these youth are placed together for intervention purposes (see, e.g., Dodge, Dishion, & Lansford, 2006). Because youthcare workers and custody staff interact with these juveniles throughout the day and evening hours, and routinely observe the interactions between youth, they are uniquely positioned to address delinquent attitudes, values, and behaviors as they arise. Conversely, they can learn how to reinforce and support juveniles when they engage in prosocial behaviors and assist them with practicing the positive skills (e.g., communication, problem solving, anger management) that they are being taught in treatment, which may ultimately serve them well upon release.
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