User’s Guide

Jurisdictions across the country recognize clearly that the effective management of sex offenders requires more than supervision and treatment. Indeed, the effective management of sex offenders demands the thoughtful integration of these and other management components and, perhaps as importantly, ongoing collaboration among those who are responsible for carrying out these activities.

The Center for Sex Offender Management (CSOM) developed the Comprehensive Assessment Protocol: A Systemwide Review of Adult and Juvenile Sex Offender Management Strategies (CAP) to assist jurisdictions in the enhancement of their management approaches with this offender population. The CAP is a tool that, when used as designed, will guide its users through a deliberate and highly collaborative information–gathering and analysis process. It will identify with a high degree of specificity the strengths of a jurisdiction’s sex offender management approach and the steps that can be taken to further enhance and strengthen its system.


The CAP: What it Is

The CAP is a tool designed to assist jurisdictions of all types and sizes—urban or rural, state, regional, county or tribal—to examine and improve their existing approaches to adult and juvenile sex offender management. The CAP is grounded in the theory that the complex nature of sex offending behavior and its management requires an informed, integrated, and comprehensive justice system response. The CAP is designed to assist jurisdictions who are committed to analyzing their sex offender management policies and practices thoroughly and using the data and information they collect through this analysis to identify and evaluate the strengths and gaps in their work with sex offender management across their criminal and juvenile justice systems, prioritize their identified need areas, and develop specific strategies to address those needs.

Populations Addressed by the CAP

The CAP addresses the effective management of adjudicated adult and juvenile male sex offenders. It is beyond the scope of this document to address adequately issues and challenges associated with female sex offenders, children with sexual behavior problems, and other special populations.1

It should be noted that the term “juvenile sex offender” is used throughout this document for readability and economy of presentation to refer to youth who have been adjudicated for committing a sex offense. However, because data suggests that juvenile sex offenders are more amenable to changing their behavior, or desisting from criminal activity before becoming adults, it is important to be wary of the effects of labeling these youth as sex offenders.

The CAP as One Component of a Systemwide Assessment

The CAP is only one step in a much larger results–driven policy planning and implementation process outlined in the CAP’s companion document, Enhancing the Management of Adult and Juvenile Sex Offenders: A Handbook for Policymakers and Practitioners2. Users should be sure to address each of the following steps, as outlined in the Handbook, to take full advantage of the CAP:

The Handbook provides information, guidance, and working tools to carry out each of these important steps, with one exception: the Handbook refers its users to this document, the CAP, for a summary of the most up–to–date literature and emerging practice in the field, and to conduct a jurisdiction–specific policy and practice analysis.

Prior to conducting the CAP, multi–disciplinary, collaborative teams are strongly urged to carry out the system analysis steps described in the Handbook. These pieces of work will lay a critical foundation for the work that the team will undertake in the CAP process and will result in:

The CAP: What it is Not

The CAP provides teams with a method to assess the strengths of their policies and practices against the most contemporary research and emerging practice in the field. In this way it is a working tool for self–assessment purposes. It has not been developed for use as an audit, or a method to find fault with the approach a particular jurisdiction is using. The CAP was not developed to provide protection from legal challenges. Neither was the CAP conceived of as a quick and easy assessment of one particular aspect of sex offender management. Rather, it is one part of a long–term strategic planning process that will help jurisdictions make the most informed and data–driven decisions about how to enhance public safety and prevent further victimization by improving their sex offender management strategies.

The Organization of the CAP

The CAP describes five fundamental principles that represent the underpinnings of a “Comprehensive Approach” to adult and juvenile sex offender management. These principles are:

The Comprehensive Approach also highlights six key substantive areas of practice—or core components of a comprehensive sex offender management system. The CAP is organized around these core components:

In each section that pertains to these components, users will find:

Conducting the CAP

Using the CAP as a Tool for Statewide, Regional, or Local Teams

The CAP was designed to meet the needs of teams of stakeholders examining sex offender management policy and practice at the state, regional, and/or local levels. The literature and policy and practice summaries—as well as the questions that follow these summaries—are germane to all sex offender management teams, regardless of size and scope. What may differ, however, is the composition of the teams, the approach teams will take in answering the questions, and the intended targets for change.

The Handbook provides guidance both on establishing teams to undertake this policy and practice work, as well as case studies reflecting the approaches three state, regional, and local jurisdictions have taken to this work.3

Preparatory Work

The CAP will guide teams through the assessment of current sex offender management practices, one of the most challenging steps in a thoughtful planning and implementation process.

Establishing a Team

If a jurisdiction does not already have one in place, establishing a multidisciplinary team of professionals to conduct the CAP should be its first order of business. Team composition and early work activities of the team are described in depth in the Handbook. Teams should include individuals who will be responsible for leading and facilitating the group, coordinating the collection of data, and maintaining an accurate record of the group’s work.

Ensuring Adequate Leadership, Staff Support, and Team Commitment

As described above, the CAP will guide teams through the assessment of current sex offender management practices, one of the most challenging steps in a thoughtful planning and implementation process. In addition to establishing a team and completing the steps described in the Handbook, jurisdictions will also need to ensure that teams have:

Teams should understand from the outset that this process is both time consuming and labor intensive. Even with sufficient staff support, participants should be prepared for periods of intense involvement in data collection and analysis, and frequent committee and team meetings. The sharing of information and examination of gaps across agencies may demand significant meeting time, but will produce a wealth of information to which team members would likely otherwise not have had access.

Getting Started

Assuming that a team is in place and ready to engage in the policy and practice analysis process, these steps should be initiated to begin the work:

Subcommittee Work

When each individual subcommittee (or the entire team, if that is the method chosen) is ready to begin work on their sections of the CAP, consider the following suggestions:

Subcommittees should continue to meet through the information collection and analysis process to ensure that the work is being carried out as planned, data is recorded in a useful manner, and difficulties with the information collection and analysis process are addressed early.

At the conclusion of the subcommittee’s work, the committee should be prepared to present its findings and recommendations to the entire team.

If a team chooses to work together on all of the component sections rather than working in subcommittees, a workplan and timeline for each section should be developed. Dividing the work among individual group members and encouraging them to answer the questions independently—without at least processing them with the team—is not recommended. Doing so will provide only one person’s perspective, and is unlikely to give an accurate or comprehensive picture of policy and practice across the jurisdiction.

Guidance for Team Members about Answering the CAP Questions

It is important to consider each question as an opportunity to better understand the jurisdiction’s current sex offender management system.

It is important to consider each question as an opportunity to better understand the jurisdiction’s current sex offender management system, not as a task to accomplish quickly. After all, an ill–informed action plan is unlikely to change policies and practices in a way that will enhance public safety. The quality of the information collected will have tremendous bearing on the final work product of the team.
The information gathering process should be used as an opportunity to talk to others outside of the team structure, to educate them on the vision, mission, and goals of the policy team, and to learn their perspectives on the strengths and gaps in the current management approach. Doing so is likely to elicit valuable information that will facilitate the team’s analysis process, and to engender long–term support for the team’s work.
The following additional guidance is offered:

The score ascribed to any particular item is much less important than the process the team uses to determine the score.

As noted previously, team members should work closely together to answer the questions posed in the CAP. Scores should be derived as a result of a collaborative decisionmaking process among team members. The score ascribed to any particular item is much less important than the process the team uses to determine the score. Making a distinction between ‘typically’ and ‘generally not’ for any given question, for example, is not as important as the resulting conversation about critical system gaps and needs.

Processing the Findings of the CAP

The team’s assessment of current sex offender management policy and practice will result in a large body of data and information about their system. During the process, teams will have examined their current policies and practices, case flow process, and offender population and resources. After having carefully considered this data and information, subcommittees (or the team as a whole) should document and share with one another their learnings. At this stage in the process, teams often schedule a “retreat” in order to allow sufficient time to synthesize all that they have learned together as a group, discuss strengths, identify priority gaps, and establish implementation priorities. If subcommittees have been working on the CAP components, they should present their findings to the full team in a structured and organized fashion.

The team will need to consider how these factors may influence their work on their needs and challenges, and determine the most appropriate order in which to address their needs and challenges.

In addition, the subcommittees work worked on the various sections of the CAP will have iden–tified a variety of noteworthy strengths and assets related to how the jurisdiction manages sex offenders. Therefore, another important task for the larger team will be to examine how these strengths can be further enhanced, and how they may be utilized to address the identified needs and challenges. For example, if a jurisdiction identifies the presence of well–trained, specialized treatment providers as a strength, and a lack of specialized training among probation and parole staff as a high priority gap, it is possible that the clinicians may be very helpful training resources for supervision officers.

Implementation and Monitoring

A critical activity that must occur prior to implementation is the translation of the team’s processing of the CAP findings into a comprehensive strategic plan. This plan should include the specific activities that will be undertaken to address the team’s high priority needs and challenges, and the ways in which team members will capitalize on the strengths that have been identified. Many teams have found it to be very helpful to assign members to specific tasks and to establish deadlines for their completion. This promotes shared ownership over the implementation process and ensures that policy and practice changes will be made in a timely manner. Please see the Handbook for additional guidance and information regarding the development of a strategic plan.

Implementation and Monitoring

In addition to creating and implementing a thorough, time–specific plan of action with specific team member assignments, it is necessary for the team to forge strategies to assess over time the impact of the changes that are made.

Ideally, both process and outcome evaluations are conducted so that the team is able to demonstrate the positive effects of their efforts and, in so doing, secure additional support and funding for management strategies that have been demonstrated to "work." For more information about developing a monitoring plan, please refer to the Handbook.


The timeline for completing this policy and practice analysis process varies between jurisdictions, depending upon the team’s readiness, access to staff support and data, and other factors. The diagram on the previous page reflects an example of a timeline for completing a comprehensive assessment of a jurisdiction’s sex offender management system, including conducting the CAP. Obviously, this timeline will be adjusted based on the particular jurisdiction’s limitations (e.g., a statewide system assessment is likely to take longer than an assessment of a local system, or jurisdictions with automated data collection systems across all agencies are likely to be able to collect information more quickly).


Virtually all of the jurisdictions that undertook this process as part of the CAP pilot found that they learned more about their system than they ever expected possible. As a result, they each implemented strategies that promised to achieve their ultimate outcome: reducing victimization in their communities. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of these teams remain in place today. Where they once came together as an assemblage of individuals involved in some way in the management of sex offenders, or united for a short time to take on a specific task, they became, over time, the local experts on the research in this field, and on the practices within their jurisdictions. Almost universally, these teams have come to envision a much larger role for themselves than simply conducting an assessment and implementing a few changes. Instead, they have adopted a much broader mission: to oversee the system that manages this offender population, and to do what they can to assure no more victims.

Contact Us

Please contact with any questions about how to use the CAP to effect change in your jurisdiction.

  1. See the Additional Resources section of this document for a reference list that addresses these offender populations.
  2. See the Handbook for specific questions and tasks related to each step; this document can be downloaded from
  3. Appendix 4 of the Handbook includes three case studies of jurisdictions who participated in the pilot test version of the CAP from 2003–2005. The case studies describe the work of these local, regional, and statewide teams in conducting the CAP.