Section 5: Lecture Content and Teaching Notes
Practical Supervision Strategies
4 hours, 30 minutes
TOPIC: INITIAL INTERVIEWING
|TECHNIQUES AND STRATEGIES|
The issues mentioned abovedesensitization and maintaining control of interactionsare clearly relevant in the interview setting. However, more specific strategies can be very useful during the pre-sentence investigation phase or at an early stage in the term of community supervision. These suggestions presuppose that the interviewer has obtained and reviewed collateral documents that describe the offender's offending patterns. Collateral reports should include victim statements, affidavits, police reports, and criminal record checks.2
- Take control of the interaction. All the techniques described earlier apply here.
- Stress honesty. The officer should inform the offender that he or she has conducted a detailed review of the offender's case. The offender should be informed that if he lies about anything, it will be difficult for the officer to trust the offender, and he should be informed about the consequences of being dishonest. For example, in many jurisdictions, if an offender does not admit to the sexual offense for which he was convicted, it is very unlikely that he will be eligible for community supervision and treatment. The same standard for honesty should apply to the officer. The offender should not be told anything that is not true or promised anything that cannot be delivered.
- Take a general history. The officer should start by asking general history questions that are not difficult or threatening for the offender to answer. It is often a good idea for an officer to tell an offender that initially he or she is not going to ask about and does not want the offender to talk about his sexual offense. If the officer asks about the offending behavior too soon and he denies the offense for which he was convicted, the officer has allowed him to lie about his offending behavior and it will be more difficult for him to tell the truth in the future. Nonthreatening questions can address such things as the offender's current living situation, employment, and other demographic information. This may make it easier for him to talk, and for the officer to develop some rapport with him.
- Dispel sex offender myths. Sex offenders often possess the same or similar beliefs about sex offenders and offending as the general public does. During the course of an initial interview, it is important to dispel myths the offender may hold. The officer should communicate an understanding about the offender's sex offending behavior in a way that makes the offender feel that he is understood (see McGrath 1990). The officer should remain aware of how difficult it may be for an offender to talk about his offending behaviors. The officer should communicate in actions and words that he or she does not condone sexual aggression and sees it as a serious problem, yet recognizes it as a problem for which the offender can obtain help.
Refer to handout: Trainers may want to remind participants that lists of sexual history and offense history questions were provided during the discussion of pre-sentence investigations in Section 3, slides 14-15. Copies of these slides are included among the participant materials for Section 5 of the Long Version of this curriculum.
- Take a sex and sex offense history. The majority of time spent during initial interviews with the offender will usually focus on gathering information about the offender's sexual and offending history. This should be done in a straightforward and matter-of-fact manner. Topics to be addressed include sex education, sexual traumas, masturbatory fantasies, use of pornography, sexual outlets and frequency, sexual dysfunctions, paraphilias, victim characteristics, offense precursors, grooming or attack behavior, details of the present offense, empathy, and acceptance of responsibility.
- Allow face saving. It is extraordinarily unlikely that a sex offender will be completely honest about his sexual history during an initial interview. It is important to set the stage for the offender to be able to save face in order for him to bring up new information about his deviant sexual patterns in future meetings. For example, the officer can tell the offender that it is normal to begin remembering things about one's sexual behavior after being interviewed about one's sexual history for the first time. In addition, the interviewer can tell the offender that he or she understands that the offender will probably be unable to tell his whole story in the first few meetings and that more of the story will come out as they have more time to talk.
- Plan for the future. The interview should conclude by providing a sense of hope for the offender. It can be both comforting and motivating for the offender to know that someone is interested in him and that help is available. The officer should provide information about the next step in the evaluation, supervision, or treatment process.