Treatment Programmes For Sex Offenders - Cambridge Regional College Criminology - Essay

1473 words - 6 pages

Describe and evaluate treatment
programmes for offending behaviour
The response to crime was always punishment up until the introduction of treatment
programmes for offenders. Researchers working in the criminal justice field introduced
rehabilitation in the 1970s as a way to reduce offender recidivism, and since then, many
treatment programmes have been formulated and some of them have proven very useful
over the years. One of the larger crimes is sex offending, it is deviant sexual behaviour
e.g rape, incest or molestation. Due to the rise in concern over sexual violence the
criminal justice system came up with several ways to help reduce recidivism and
implemented laws and punishments to prevent future any sexual deviance which include
cognitive programmes which deals with the offenders’ mental health (thoughts) have been
applied to try and treat it as well as biological treatments like surgical and chemical
castration, have proven to be effective to some extent despite some of them having
ethical issues.
Sex offenders usually find it difficult to accept that their actions have caused harm and
that their behaviour is a problem therefore most of them will unwillingly engage in
treatment programmes just to avoid harsh punishment (prison). Groth (1993) suggests
that rewards should be offered to those wiling to participate in the therapies. This
suggestion might be able to lure a lot of participants but their motive is not certain,
however Perkins(1987) believers that informed consent is important and plays a major
part in the success of the treatment programmes as the assumption is if an offender
willingly engages in therapy they admit to guilt and are willing to change. Cognitive based
programmes are more likely to be effective in treating sexual offending behaviour, they
work on the assumption that behaviour and emotions reflect one’s thoughts therefore
changing thought patterns will change behaviour and attitude towards situations or one’s
view of the world. Cognitive behavioural therapy has been adapted to treat sexual
deviance, it has a combination of both behavioural therapies which works on the
assumption that deviancy is a learned behaviour therefore can be unlearned and cognitive
which deals with the mind (though patterns). This therapy teaches helps offenders outline
the cause of deviancy and suggests ways to change their sexual arousal patterns and
create new more appropriate/ acceptable arousal patterns. The solely cognitive part of
the therapy challenges the offence-supporting belief that aids in committing sexual
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offenses . The first and probably most important step of the therapy getting the offender
to understand that their actions (sex deviant behaviour) were wrong and getting them to
take full responsibility and admitting to guilt. This can be done through assumptive
questioning whereby the therapist assumes offender’s guilt and asks questions that
assume the offender is guilty e.g asking where he/ she committed the crime rather than if
they did ( Towl and Crighton, 1996). The assessment then determines which if the
treatment program is suitable for that individual which will help develop skills to avoid re-
offending. <>( Beckett, R et al 2002 pg86-96)
Another step of the treatment is showing remorse for the victims, most sex offenders
blame their victims for being provocative thus influencing their sexual advances, they do
not recognise the damage they cause so the therapists engages them in activities like
watching videos of victims describing the feelings they had after experiencing sexual
violence then asks the offenders to try and imagine themselves I similar situations, this
might be through role playing and role reverse whereby they play the role of the victim
thus triggering an empathetic emotional response. Pithers (1993) believes that empathy is
important in the treatment of sex offenders, according to Knopp et al (1992) empathy is a
treatment goal in 94% of the sex offender treatment programmes in North America
proving how vital it is in the treatment. Salter (1988) also believes that educating offenders
on the negative impacts of sexual abuse will motivate individuals not to offend or re-
offend.<>( Beckett, R et al 2002 pg86-96)
Most sex offenders try to justify their actions by creating irrational beliefs that allow them
to initiate or maintain sexual offending behaviour or minimise their ill-considered actions
as well as impacts on the victims as to reduce guilty feelings. With the use of cognitive
restructuring technique the therapist challenges the irrational ideas by having the offender
examine the truth of the case, this is done by providing accurate details of the incident
and its consequences, making the offender aware of their irrational/ distorted thinking
patterns and are encouraged to recognise and challenge them.
Sex offences are in most cases linked to deviant sexual arousal or fantasy, in this case he
therapists identifies the sexual deviant arousal pattern through the use of photographs or
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videos, then tries to reduce arousal through aversion therapy by operant conditioning i.e
pairing an unpleasant stimuli e.g electric shocks with visual stimuli that promotes deviant
arousal e.g children such that an individual associates that particular deviant arousal
pattern with pain and in cases of conditioning the offender to more appropriate arousal
patterns orgasmic reconditioning can be carried out. This is when the offender is required
to masturbate to preferred deviant fantasy but is also required to change the fantasy to a
non-deviant one at the point of orgasm.
In terms of relapse, Marlatt and Gordon conducted a research and found that the
treatment’s main aim is to change cognitive processes e.g for offenders to be able to
recognise thought patterns that put them at risk of re-offending and Ito help implement
coping strategies, so if they can effectively use those skills recidivism is unlikely to
happen. When considering relapse it is important to know the common traits for sex
offenders which include low self esteem, impulsiveness, social isolation etc in the case of
impulsiveness it is important to identify the events and emotions leading to sex assault
and to try help the offender develop coping skills or strategies to avoid high-risk
situations. Pithers et al discovered that 59% of child molesters and 50% of rapist lacked
social skills and were the fore runners in the sexual deviance chats. Teaching offenders
sex education is also another way of helping, it helps them understand emotional aspects
of sex as well as helping the function more appropriately in relationships.
Cognitive behavioural therapy has been very effective in treating sexual deviance,
illustrated by the low recidivism rate in the following researches. Baker (2012), Brandes
and Cheung (2009), Worling and Langton ( 2012 ) and McGrath et al carried out aa sure of
1379 programmes in the United States of America and concluded that this therapy was
rated the 3rd best choice in adult and adolescents relapse prevention (86%) and was
second best for 50% of the programmes. Marshall and McGuire (2003 ) found supporting
evidence that treatment of sexual deviance is highly effective. Mann et al (2010) found
that contrary to common beliefs recidivism in sex offenders is much lower than recidivism
in other crimes (2012)
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Suppression of sexual drive has proven very effective in treating crime, chemical
castration is one way of doing that. Pharmacological drugs include anti-androgens and
hormonal agents reduce sex drive, arousal and fantasies by altering testosterone levels
which has been shown to relate to low recidivism rates. A study shows that MPA users
were shown to have had 15% recidivism rates as compared to the 68% of non-users
(Fedoroff et al 1992). In addition uptake of serotonin inhibitors can also be considered in
the treatment of sexual deviance, generally it is used to treat obsessive compulsive
tendencies butt it can also be used to reduce obsessive deviant sexual thoughts. A rarely
used but effective treatment for sex offending is surgical castration, this is the surgical
removal of the testes, which reduces the levels of testosterone thus eliminating sex
Despite being very effective surgical castration is unethical in that it completely wipes off
one’s sex drive. The chemical castration faces several problems in that it can only work if
the offender agrees to take it and it might not work in some cases as some of the
motivations to sexual deviants are not driven by purely sexual satisfaction.< http://>,< https://
In conclusion both cognitive behavioural treatments and biological treatment have been
effective in treating crime. The two can work together in some cases to have a high
effective treatment as evidence has suggested the main effective way of treating sexual
deviance is suppressing sex drive, so with these two combined the effectiveness would
be excellent as so it is safe to assume that the recidivism rates will rise as well.
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