Community Support Networks

The presence of prosocial influences is a key protective factor that reduces the likelihood of further recidivism in adult and juvenile offenders of all types, including sex offenders (see, e.g., Hanson & Morton–Bourgon, 2007; Hawkins et al., 1998, Petersilia, 2003; Prescott, 2006; Worling & Langstrom, 2006). Therefore, as plans are developed to facilitate the return of sex offenders to the community, it is crucial that community supports are established (Cumming & McGrath, 2000; Marshall et al., 2006). Such individuals (e.g., family members, mentors, employers, AA/NA sponsors, clergy, and, for youth in particular, teachers, coaches, and other school staff) can be actively involved in the transition planning process prior to release, and are ideally positioned to play critical roles in addressing and mitigating the myriad challenges that sex offenders typically face when they return to the community.

The presence of prosocial influences is a key protective factor that reduces the likelihood of further recidivism.

To maximize the value of community support networks, agency policies should require institutional caseworkers and case managers to address community support networks as part of the transition and release planning process. The process should outline expectations pertaining to the individuals who should be considered, the specific criteria that must be met to qualify as an appropriate community support, specialized training for community support network members (including an emphasis on dynamic risk factors and the dynamics of sexual abuse), and expectations regarding their role in release planning and community stabilization efforts. Some agencies also require sex offenders to demonstrate the presence of an adequate and informed community support network prior to release (Marshall et al., 2006).

(For more information about community support networks, see the Supervision section of this protocol.)

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