A Project of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice

Long Version
Section 2: An Overview of Sex Offender Treatment for a Non–Clinical Audience
Sex Offender–Specific Treatment Outcome Research
30 minutes

Lecture Topic TOPIC: SUMMARY

Use SlideUse Slide #39: Summary

Early evaluations and reviews of sex offender programs found no evidence that treatment works.3 These reviews highlighted methodological problems with how studies were conducted and other issues about how difficult it is to measure treatment effectiveness. Many of these problems have been addressed in the most recent, largest scale, and best designed treatment outcome study to date (Hanson et al., 2002). This study found that, overall, there is strong evidence that treatment works.

When all studies are reviewed, we can conclude that sex offender treatment reduces sexual recidivism in adult males about 5 to 10%.4 The generally accepted recidivism rate for all untreated sex offenders is about 30%, compared to a recidivism rate of about 20% for treated sex offenders.

Using these and other figures, it is clear that reducing reoffense rates through treatment can result in significant cost savings to the criminal justice system and reduction of further victimization—a significant benefit for everyone.5

It is very difficult to reduce the recidivism rate of low–risk offenders because their rates are low even without treatment. Therefore, the largest treatment effect—the greatest increase in protecting the community from future sex offending—comes from treating higher risk offenders.