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Section 3: Lecture Content and Teaching Notes
Components of Supervision: Specialized Approaches to Managing Sex Offenders

6 hours, 50 minutes

(50 minutes, including Learning Activity)


Many probation/parole agencies have found that the management of sex offenders in the community requires the development of sex offender-specific conditions. Some agencies have developed an inclusive set of conditions relating to sex offenders that are routinely recommended for all sex offenders. They should be supplemented by specific conditions of supervision based upon the information and analysis reflected in the PSI. Several examples of such conditions from jurisdictions are included in the training materials that we will discuss.

Although many traditional methods of supervision (field visits, collateral contacts, surveillance, electronic monitoring) are appropriate when supervising sex offenders, probation/parole conditions for sex offenders should also address directly their sex offense histories and individual cycles of offending. More intensive community supervision practices ensure that external controls are imposed on sex offenders and can, in some instances, interrupt an offender's sex offense cycle. A number of supervision conditions are generally accepted and widely used by the field. These specialized conditions include 37

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #32: Conditions of Supervision for Sex Offenders
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  • Treatment: Participation and progress in and payment for a sex offender-specific evaluation and approved treatment covered by a signed contract. This should include any supplementary treatments (anger management, alcohol/drug).

  • Victim contact: No contact of any kind with the victim(s) and payment for their counseling.

  • Driving and travel: No unapproved driving after dark or when children are going to and from school except for employment; no connection with hitchhiking; travel to another jurisdiction only with authorization and a letter signed by local authorities.

  • Daily living: Residence only in the supervising jurisdiction; no unapproved visits with family; must be in residence during all established curfew hours; not residing with minors or dating anyone with minor children.

  • Social/sexual behavior: No sexual contact or unsupervised contact with any people under the age of 18; full appropriate dress when public view is possible; may not spend time in locations where individuals under the age of 18 are likely to be; all dating relationships to be reported; no nontherapeutic contact with convicted sex offenders; no view, purchase, or possession of adult materials.

  • Work (paid or volunteer): No such activity where contact with people under the age of 18 is likely; no supervisory responsibility over women or teenagers; required employment and payment of child support as necessary.

  • Alcohol/drugs: No purchase, possession, or consumption; testing as requested.

  • Disclosure: Signature on waiver allowing shared communication among treatment, probation, district attorney's office, and the court; disclosure to others (schools, employer) as deemed appropriate.

  • Polygraph, plethysmograph, and other tests: Offender must agree to submit to polygraph38, plethysmograph, and other physiological tests as directed by the supervising officer.


Although these special conditions provide a foundation for the development of a comprehensive case management plan, probation/parole officers should tailor the specific supervision conditions in each sex offender's case plan to address his individual risk factors. For example, the sex offender who rapes a woman he has befriended in a bar may require the imposition of a curfew, restricted access to motor vehicles, and a prohibition against entering bars. Such individualized conditions may help to prevent the offender from engaging in the behavior that can lead to the commission of a sexual assault.

Developing a supervision strategy to protect potential victims may involve random home checks after curfew; review of the offender's driving log; restriction of the offender's access to vehicles; frequent contact with the offender's family members, roommates, friends, and employer; and the administration of polygraph examinations on relatively short notice (information from which can be used to amend conditions of supervision or identify problematic issues or risky behavior that should be addressed in treatment).

In the case of a sex offender who molests nonfamilial children, it is imperative that special conditions of probation be imposed that prevent association with children and prohibit movement in areas where children routinely congregate (such as parks and schools). Strategies to monitor a child molester's compliance effectively may include unannounced home visits, random polygraph testing, and verification of compliance through third parties (e.g., the client's partner, landlord, neighbors, or employers).

In the case of a rapist, special conditions should consider the ways the offender makes contact with women and the kinds of hobbies and interests that can potentially reinforce dangerous power dynamics (martial arts, hunting, other "masculine" pursuits), and should prohibit the offender from positions of authority over women, such as supervisory positions in employment.

(10 minutes)

Reconsider the case study and answer question 11:

Refer to Handout Symbol Refer to handout: Section 3, Exercise 1 Case Study Questions In lieu of small group discussion, the trainer may wish to go back through the list of condition areas, item by item, and solicit suggestions and debate about the appropriateness of these conditions in the scenario outlined in the case study.

  1. What special conditions do you think would have been particularly important for Mike to ensure successful completion of probation and victim safety?


Special supervision conditions, when ordered by the court or the supervision agent, are perhaps the most effective method of imposing external controls over sex offenders. In order to reduce the likelihood of a sexual re-offense, these restrictions must be designed to address all of the offender's known and perceived risk factors, and supervision agents must monitor consistently the offender's adherence to all of the conditions of his probation.

Many probation agencies now advocate the imposition of standard conditions on all sex offenders regardless of their offense. They take the position that it is not the responsibility of the probation/parole officer to demonstrate that all are appropriate to the offender. Rather, the onus is on the offender to prove that they are not appropriate for him. Any condition among the standard conditions that does not appear to be necessary for a particular offender should not be changed, at the very least, until the offender has a full sex offender-specific evaluation and passes a disclosure polygraph examination or, in the absence of these resources, is subject to a staff review. The rationale for this approach is that the research calls into question an earlier assumption that sex offenders tend to specialize with respect to victims. As we discussed earlier, it is now becoming clear that despite any preferences for types of victims, many sex offenders do engage in "cross-over" offense behavior. For instance, simply because an offender has offended against an adult victim does not mean that children are not at risk. Therefore, many jurisdictions are including a prohibition against access to minor children for all sex offenders until some sort of clear understanding can be documented through treatment and polygraph regarding them as likely victims.

Refer to Handout Symbol Refer to handout: The trainer should reference the handouts in the participant materials for this section that illustrate how "contact" is defined by two probation agencies. (Maricopa County, AZ and Jackson County, OR) See "Oregon Department of Community Corrections: What Does 'No Contact' Mean?" and "Definition of Terms Regarding Contact with Minors-Maricopa County Adult Probation Department."
All special sex-offender conditions should be implemented in very specific ways, using clear and understandable language. For instance, a condition pertaining to contact with children might be implemented with explicit instructions about not having contact with an individual child or being present in the vicinity of schools, parks, or churches where children are known to congregate.

Probation/parole departments usually develop a case file to document and prove that the special terms of supervision have been described to the offender and that he understands them. The document outlining the special conditions is signed by the probation/parole officer and by the offender (and the judge), and it can be used in court if the offender violates the conditions.


Refer to Handout Symbol Refer to handout: Refer to "Colorado Sex Offender Management Board: Standards and Guidelines for the Assessment, Evaluation, Treatment, and Behavioral Monitoring of Adult Sex Offenders," especially Standards 5.600 and 5.700 as examples of what is expected of probation/parole officers in at least one state. Discuss the practicality of these guidelines. The guidelines are included in their entirety in the participant materials for Section 3 of the Long Version of this curriculum.
Supervision agents must continually assess whether the conditions assigned to sex offenders appropriately address their current patterns of behavior (including social interactions) and living conditions. For example, a supervision agent may discover during a conversation with a family member that a sex offender is routinely riding a bus to and from work that is full of children. The agent should then propose an additional condition to be imposed by the court or parole board that forbids the offender from riding any bus that is likely to have children upon it (e.g., during the mornings and in the afternoons and evenings before 9:00 p.m.). Likewise, for a rapist, an agent will want to interview and continue to monitor any females that the offender is dating, as well as monitor the various ways he accesses women, such as bars, dating services, church activities, etc. This ongoing evaluation of an offender's behavior will also reinforce to the offender that his actions are being constantly scrutinized.

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #33: Indications for Increased Monitoring
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Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #34: Red Flags
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Tools for monitoring compliance with conditions (and general progress under supervision) include information garnered from polygraphs and reports from third parties (offenders' employers, family, neighbors, law enforcement officers, etc.). Monitoring should be increased during times of increased risk including when the offender is experiencing stress or crisis (loss of a job, divorce, death, or illness in the family), when the offender is engaged in (even court-approved) visits with victims or potential victims, and when the offender demonstrates an increased level of denial.39 There are also specific red flags that supervising officers can be watching for that may relate to these stress events; these red flags include disengagement, "no-showing," and manipulation.

In 1997, Hanson et al. studied probation officers' files on sex offenders under supervision at two points in time 6 months apart. For those offenders who went on to commit new offenses under supervision, certain clues existed in the officers' notes, falling into the three named areas: disengagement, no-showing, and manipulation. An examination of these "clues" can alert supervising officers when offenders are becoming more dangerous and, therefore, in need of more external controls.40

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slides #35-36: Disengagement
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Disengagement refers to the sense that the offender is just going through the motions. He's not open to talking about treatment, is not invested in treatment, and is generally not cooperating with treatment. He can seem silent and nondisclosing, and keep secrets. Supervisors might get a sense that the offender is being "phony," that they don't know what's going on with the offender in general, or that the offender is working against them.

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #37: "No-Showing"
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A no-showing offender is frequently late, misses appointments, frequently wants to reschedule, and tries to limit meeting time. Again, there's a sense of the client working against the supervisor. The offender may also be violating his supervision conditions.

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slides #38-39: Manipulation
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The offender using manipulation makes inappropriate requests, like inviting you to dinner or offering you gifts. You pick up on inconsistencies between what the offender is telling you and what you hear from the treatment team. You may catch the offender in lies or contradictions. The offender may be curt, rude, or threatening with you. You may get the sense that the offender is being "phony" or is trying to "play the system," acting like he's a leader in treatment, trying to get attention for being top in the class. Manipulation can be trying to take control of an interview, including trying to focus on irrelevant issues, trying to be "buddy-buddy" with the supervisor, or taking an inordinate amount of the supervisor's time.

Although some of these behaviors, especially the manipulation, are typical of a lot of sex offenders, they should be taken seriously. Some of these behaviors also require a good deal of interaction with the offender to pick up. Interacting with an offender is one effective method of monitoring sex offenders more intensively in the community.


Responding to violations of conditions is a key component in assuring victim and community safety. While every violation may not warrant immediate revocation, it is very important that community safety remain as the paramount consideration when considering the application of intermediate sanctions in sex offender cases.

A few general principles seem to have emerged, and one of the most important is that an appropriate response to any violation is informing all members of the case management team about the violation. This will allow the team to assess together the severity and risk implied by the violation and to develop an appropriate response. Clearly, however, there are instances in which a violation or inappropriate behavior must be addressed immediately, such as when there is contact with prohibited individuals, which must be resolved before the probation/parole officer leaves the scene.

Another important principle is that responses to violations and risky behavior must be, as one supervision officer put it, "swift and sure."41 If the results of a polygraph examination, information from collateral sources, or direct observation reveals that a sex offender has violated his treatment contract or supervision conditions and you do not respond quickly and appropriately, the message the offender receives is that he can violate his supervision conditions and/or treatment contract without consequences. This puts the community and past and potential victims at risk, and subverts the primary goal of sex offender management: the prevention of future sexual victimization.

Dangerous situations that require immediate action and the removal of the offender from his current environment include—

  • Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #40: Situations Requiring Immediate Removal of the Offender
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    Possession of a dangerous weapon;
  • Discovery of the offender in the presence of children when he initiates the contact and does not report it to a member of the supervision team;
  • Any substance use that is part of the offender's offense cycle; and
  • Any circumstance in which the offender has physically harmed another individual while on probation.

Responses that tend to limit the risks posed by offenders and are particularly appropriate for less serious infractions may include—

  • Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #41: Responses to Limit Risk
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    Any condition that effectively limits access to victims (restrictions on residence with family, in neighborhoods where children live or play, going to bars);
  • Electronic monitoring or the imposition of curfews;
  • No contact orders;
  • Restrictions on movement (locations that the offender can no longer be in or near);
  • Increased monitoring and contact and/or intensity of treatment;
  • Prerevocation contracts ("I understand that if I do not stop this behavior, my probation will be revoked"); and
  • Admissions to violations (for documentation).

Probation/parole officers should be very clear about the expectations of their own jurisdiction regarding responses. If the agency has developed specific sanctions or conditions that are not tailored to fit the unique needs of sex offenders, probation/parole officers must explore how sanctions and conditions can be developed to respond more appropriately to the issues and concerns of sex offenders.


Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #42: Amending Conditions of Supervision
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Amending conditions of supervision when new information becomes available to give you more control or to reward positive compliance around conditions by increasing privileges is another effective case management tool. Indeed, it is one of the most flexible and personalized ways in which to manage risk in the community. Access to victims, movement through a known offense cycle, information from other members of the team-all give the probation agency clues to which it can respond by shifting conditions of supervision to better manage the offender.