Section 1: Supervision of Sex Offenders
in The Community:
An Overview of The Training
3 hours, 45 minutes
TOPIC: EMERGING APPROACH TO SEX OFFENDER SUPERVISION
(60 minutes, including Learning Activity)
Probation/parole agencies are faced with a number of significant
challenges in their efforts to supervise sex offenders safely.
|CHALLENGES AND RESPONSES|
It is not surprising, then, that in many jurisdictions around
the nation, an approach to sex offender supervision is emerging that includes the following
- Victims who are usually sexually assaulted in or near their homes by individuals
- Offenders who are being supervised in the same community where they have
committed their offenses and where their victims and potential victims also
- Offense patterns that are characterized by deceit, secrecy, repetitiveness,
and extreme trauma to victims;
- Offense patterns that include a variety of offenses, making potential victims
harder to identify and protect; and
- A fragmented criminal justice and social service system in which responsibility
for investigating, prosecuting, sentencing, supervision, treatment, and monitoring
of sex offenders is dispersed across agencies, disciplines, and branches of
- An understanding of the importance of a shared and consistent philosophy
and strategy for the supervision of sex offenders in the community. Because
so many agencies are involved in the identification, assessment, supervision,
and treatment of sex offenders, a common philosophical framework and set of
expectations are essential to allow successful collaborative work. In addition,
the secrecy, manipulation, and deception that characterize sex offending behavior
demand that there be a clear set of expectations for all involved to minimize
the ability of offenders to circumvent the goals of community supervision.
- A primary concern for the prevention of future victimization and the
safety and recovery of previous victims, to the extent possible. Probation/parole
agencies have traditionally been offender centered in their work. As the concepts
of community and restorative justice spread, the notion of the victim as a
primary concern in supervision is also growing. Because of the devastating
impact of sexual assault on victims, prioritizing victim safety as a critical
element of community supervision has become an urgent challenge for probation/parole
agencies. Concerns for the recovery of the victim and the well-being of
the community should guide the development of policy, the implementation of
programs, and the actions of criminal justice practitioners and other professionals
working with sexual assault victims and supervising perpetrators. These policies
and programs must be sensitive to specific needs of victims and must not increase
- An acknowledgment that sex offenders must be held accountable for their
actions. The notion that sex offenders should be involved in treatment
in no way suggests that they be allowed to escape responsibility for their
own actions. Indeed, the offense-specific treatment that is emerging and becoming
accepted across the nation holds the offender accountable, is victim centered,
and is limited in its confidentiality. Some jurisdictions have found that
integrating postconviction polygraph examinations helps bring sex offender
behavior more out into the open, where it is subject to monitoring and intervention.
These interventions aim to be preventive in nature and are based on the proposition
that an offender who can successfully manage his behavior to avoid offending
in the future is less of a risk to potential victims.
An understanding that some offenders can be managed safely in the community.
The research is promising regarding the ability to influence the likelihood
of rearrest for sex offenses, given an adequate program of supervision and
treatment. For those who cannot be safely managed in the community or who
will not take responsibility for their continued abusing behavior, incarceration
is the appropriate response.
||Use Slide #34:
Emerging Practices of Sex Offender Supervision
[Click to Enlarge]
Note: For more information about polygraphs and sex offending, see Special Issue: Post-Conviction Sex Offender Testing. Polygraph. American Polygraph Association (29:1), 2000.
- A collaborative effort that begins with the cooperation of supervision
agencies and offense-specific treatment providers. Such an effort involves
the recognition that information must be shared freely between supervision
and treatment to prevent sex offenders from maintaining secrecy and deception
or playing members of the team against each other to their own advantage.
This collaboration requires a waiver of the confidentiality that is traditionally
afforded patients in other kinds of mental health treatment.
- Collaborative efforts may extend to include the polygraph examiner and
victim advocate in a "Containment Approach" and may also extend
to other agencies and individuals, such as law enforcement, who share responsibility
for sex offender management. The polygraph is attaining greater use as
a tool to aid in the disclosure of a full sexual history, which is important
for treatment and supervision purposes; to monitor compliance with supervision
requirements; and to assist in the "maintenance" of offenders under
long-term supervision. Victim advocates are essential to ensuring that victim
safety and other victim concerns are adequately addressed in policy and practice.
The development of intra-agency, interagency, and interdisciplinary teams
(at both policy and case management levels) helps jurisdictions overcome the
fragmentation that often results from a complex criminal justice system and
assists in the development of more effective supervision strategies for sex
offenders. These teams develop and consistently evaluate policies, procedures,
and protocols for managing sex offenders. Collaboration is vitally important
in the effective supervision of sex offenders in the community because it
Improves communication among the agencies involved;
- Allows for quicker and less intrusive responses to victims;
- Promotes the exchange of ideas among individuals with different perspectives
- Facilitates the sharing of information about specific cases and resources;
- Improves system problem-solving ability;
- Provides ongoing support for team members;
- Increases the understanding by all team members of what everyone else on
the team needs to do their jobs well; and
- Fosters a unified and comprehensive approach to the management of sex offenders.26
||Learning Activity: Collaboration|
Ask participants to develop a list of all the agencies that
have some role in sex offender supervision in their jurisdiction.
Note: If time permits, use a round-robin process to get a list of all potential stakeholders or ask them to share in small groups.
Note: This brief exercise will illustrate the complex web of involvement that multiple agencies share in this matter, and encourage participants to begin thinking about their experiences with collaboration and what they may need to work on in order to implement some of the ideas that have come out of the training.
- What are some examples of how these agencies have worked together successfully
(on sex offender or other issues)?
- What are examples of some of the barriers that impeded them from working
- How might you have worked together more successfully or what would you do
differently now? In other words, what have you learned from your experiences
To review the practices so far, then:
- Shared, consistent philosophy, and strategy
- Primary concern for victim safety and recovery
- Prevention of future victimization
- Sex offenders held accountable for their actions
- Some offenders can be managed safely and some cannot
- A collaborative effort
An understanding that traditional methods of assessment and supervision
may not be appropriate for sex offenders and that specialized approaches are
warranted. Because of the high stakes involved for the victim and because
sex offenders present challenges that may not be present with other criminal
populations, specialized approaches to community supervision are being developed
and implemented in jurisdictions around the country that include: specialized
caseloads, relapse prevention as an organizing principle for supervision,
the imposition and management of specialized conditions, and the use of a
collaborative team approach with team membership extending beyond the criminal
- Informed and consistent public policy wherever and whenever possible.
To develop, maintain, and improve approaches to their community supervision
of sex offenders, local criminal justice practitioners must be actively involved
in creating new and improved public policy at all levels of government. These
practitioners should work with policymakers, the judiciary, and state corrections
departments to develop informed policies that reflect the most recent research
regarding sex offender supervision, and support a public safety philosophy
that emphasizes the safety of past and potential victims and the community.
In addition to shaping broad jurisdictional policies regarding sex offender
management, supervision representatives must also work to ensure that there
are clear, written guidelines in their own agencies to guarantee that sex
offense cases are managed and processed consistently. Such guidelines may
include the following:
- Timelines for victim reporting;
- The acceptance or rejection of plea agreements in cases of sexual assault;
- The use of polygraph information;
- Treatment requirements for sex offenders;
- Guidelines for treatment providers;
- Guidelines for polygraph examiners;
- Special conditions for the supervision of sex offenders;
- Confidentiality waivers;
- Requirements and standards for evaluation;27 and
- Guidelines agreed to by treatment providers on any family or victim recontact
Written policies and procedures also provide a mechanism for jurisdictions to examine critically and monitor the processes through which sex offenders are managed. Many jurisdictions around the country that have written policies and procedures constantly scrutinize them and ask questions such as: Are there ways that the policies and procedures can be improved? Are they clear? What might we be able to learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions who are grappling with the complex issues associated with sex offender supervision? In addition, written policies and procedures assist jurisdictions to institutionalize the approaches that they have found to be most effective and helpful. Promotions, resignations, retirements, and staff transfers are common in most agencies and jurisdictions. Clear policies and procedures help to ensure congruity in practice as the composition of agency and jurisdiction-wide staffs change and evolve.
And the final element of this emerging approach to sex offender supervision is:
- An understanding that on-going evaluation and monitoring are vital components in any sex offender supervision and management program. The information obtained through monitoring and evaluation assists in developing and improving the program. Evaluation and monitoring also allow the interagency team to examine, in a collaborative fashion, whether their policies and procedures are meeting the team's goals.
||Learning Activity: Reviewing Implications
This section has offered opportunities to discuss participants’ experiences,
current roles, and agency practices in sex offender management. This section
of the training concludes with a discussion of how the material covered will
affect participants’ own work. Please refer to the Section 1, Exercise 1:
Implications of the Materials for Participants’ Work in your handouts for
the discussion questions.
Refer to Handout: Section 1, Exercise
1: Implications of the Materials for Participants'
Note: Depending upon the size and
composition of the group, and the amount
of time available, the trainer can use the
exercise in a number of ways. It may be
given as an assignment for participants
to take away with them and discuss with
other people who work in the same agency.
It may be used as a guide for small-group
discussion or, if there are fewer than 25
participants, for group brainstorming.