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

3 hours

TOPIC: EFFECTIVENESS OF SEX OFFENDER TREATMENT
(5 minutes)

New Topic IconREVIEW OF THE RESEARCH

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #35: Review of the Research
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David D'Amora, in reviewing literature, cites a 1991 U.S. Department of Justice study that found the recidivism rate of untreated sex offenders to be about 60 percent within 3 years of release from prison. Recidivism rates of those sex offenders who have completed a specialized treatment program are between 15 and 20 percent. In other words, untreated sex offenders appear three to four times more likely to recidivate than treated offenders.32

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #36: Review of the Research
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Recent reviews of the research support these basic findings. Grossman et al. (1999) found "a reduction in recidivism of 30 percent over seven years, with comparable effectiveness for hormonal and cognitive-behavioral treatments."33 Gallagher et al. "quantitatively synthesized the results of 25 studies evaluating the effectiveness of different types of treatment for sex offenders. Cognitive-behavioral approaches appear particularly promising while less support is found for behavioral, chemical, and general psychosocial treatment."34 Polizzi et al. (1999) evaluated 13 studies that met criteria for scientific merit and were based on research completed over 10 years. "Non-prison-based sex offender treatment programs were deemed to be effective in curtailing future criminal activity. Prison-based treatment programs were judged to be promising." Cognitive-behavioral programs appear to be the most effective.35

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #37: Review of the Research
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A 1995 meta-analysis of sex offender treatment outcome studies found a small, yet significant, treatment effect (Hall, 1995). This meta-analysis included 12 studies with some form of a control group. Despite the small number of subjects (1,313), the results indicated an 8 percent reduction in the recidivism rate for sex offenders in the treatment group.36

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slides #38-39: Summary of Research on Treatment Effectiveness
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In summary—

  • A large number of studies of treatment effectiveness have been conducted, many of them so poorly designed that it is difficult to draw any conclusions from them;

  • Studies that are well designed demonstrate clear evidence that treatment interventions are associated with lower—sometimes significantly lower—rates of recidivism;

  • Treatment outcomes may differ by type of sex offender;

  • Some evidence indicates that greater reductions in recidivism are found in more recent studies, perhaps associated with increasingly effective treatment and/or evaluation techniques;

  • Analytic or insight-oriented therapies are not effective37;

  • Cognitive-behavioral approaches appear most promising and a combination of educational, cognitive-behavioral, and family system interventions can be effective;38 and

  • When all studies are reviewed, we can conclude generally that sex offender treatment reduces sexual recidivism about 10 percent. The generally accepted recidivism rate is about 30 percent for all untreated sex offenders and about 20 percent for treated sex offenders.39

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #40: Effectiveness of Treatment Plus Supervision
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A few studies support the effectiveness of a combination of specialized supervision and sex offender-specific treatment (with or without the polygraph).40 Agencies who have moved to a Containment Approach are hopeful that the combination of these three resources will prove significantly effective in reducing re-offense rates. An evaluation currently underway of the program in Maricopa County, Arizona, which incorporates all three elements of the Containment Approach, is showing promising results with single-digit rates of re-offense (although this does not include some offenders who were returned to prison as a result of technical violations).41