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Section 5: Lecture Content and Teaching Notes
Practical Supervision Strategies

4 hours, 30 minutes

TOPIC: DEALING WITH LAPSES
(15 minutes)

New Topic IconEXPECTING LAPSES AND RESPONDING EFFECTIVELY

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #19: Dealing with Lapses
[Click to Enlarge]

Ideally, sex offenders are expected to avoid high-risk situations and adopt coping strategies to deal with lapses. In reality, this rarely happens, especially early on in the supervision process. Lapses should be anticipated throughout the period of supervision and officers are encouraged to respond as soon as possible. The response will depend upon the seriousness of the lapse, the danger posed by the offender, how the offender responded, and how the lapse came to the attention of the officer. An exhibitionist, for example, is a likely recidivist, but much less dangerous to victims than a rapist. Also, self-disclosure of a lapse, if done with a genuine desire to seek feedback and not to manipulate the officer into believing the offender is more "with the program" than he is, should be rewarded and encouraged. At the same time, care should be taken to ensure that the lapse behavior is not allowed to continue.

Refer to Handout Symbol Refer to handout: Slides 33-41 in Section 3 refer to red flags, situations requiring immediate removal, and responses to limit risk.
Section 3 covered situations that require the immediate removal of the offender from the current environment. These included—

  • The offender's possession of a weapon;
  • The discovery of an offender with a history of child molestation in the presence of children where he's initiated the contact and hasn't reported it to a member of the supervision team;
  • The discovery of any substance use that's part of the offender's cycle; and
  • Any circumstance in which an offender has physically harmed someone else.

Violations that fall short of these, including SUDs that result in high-risk situations or red flag behaviors, also need to be addressed as quickly as possible and as often as possible when they come to the attention of the officer. If left unchecked, the offender's risk of re-offending will increase. But revocation and incarceration are not the only tools available to deal with an offender who's violated his conditions.

While violation protocols may limit officers responses in some ways, most officers have the authority to impose intermediate sanctions and/or modify the case plan to account for the specific behaviors. For example, an offender who's been known to expose himself to adolescents in fast-food restaurants reveals that while on a carpentry job recently, he had a quick lunch at the nearest restaurant, a McDonalds, in violation of his conditions. Considering many factors, the officer may choose to demonstrate an attitude of appreciation for the offender's honesty and for the opportunity to discuss coping strategies rather than being severe. At the same time, he or she might want to reevaluate the employment situation of the offender and require that he get clearance for future jobs to prevent encounters with high-risk situations.

In short, officers should evaluate every lapse in terms of the basic risk level of the offender, the severity of the lapse, the change in risk evidenced by the lapse, and the stakes of a further lapse. Responses should be proportional to the severity of the lapse and address the specific risk created.

Whenever possible, officers should try to get independent corroboration for reports of lapse behavior if they come from someone other than the offender. Officers should protect the identity of those in close proximity to the offender who might be vulnerable to retaliation. At the same time, they need to corroborate anonymous reports of lapses from the public; in high-profile cases, there have been instances in which such reports were inaccurate.