Due to the nature of their crimes, sex offenders are often the most loathed criminals. Even within the prison population, sex offenders children, families, and the general public are impacted when a sex offendeer is released. The affect of sex offenders in the community varies depending on an individual’s line of thinking, but overall both sides can acknowledged that their crime has had serious consequences. Some believe that the crime was detrimental to the child, family and all parts of society because they violated and harmed a child taking away their innocence, peace of mind, self-esteem and ability to function in a healthy, productive manner in society. Often times, without treatment, victims of sexual offenses do not recover and live healthy lives. The possible outcomes of being a victim of a sex offense may be to develop a mental health condition(s), abuse legal/illegal substances, become a perpetrator, become aggressive, isolate, or just live a life with difficulties; thusly, sex offenders should not be allowed to integrate back into society, or must be kept under a watchful eye as a means of preventing future crimes (Briere, 1992). Others believe that sex offenders, with proper treatment, services and medications can be rehabilitated and allowed back into the community.
Laws have been created in order to notify and monitor their whereabouts in order to prevent any further crimes and alert communities to be vigilant in protecting their children and themselves. Sex offenders are individuals which are known to have committed crimes of a sexual nature, of which, there are three varying degrees. Qualifying offender levels are done by breaking them down into three categories: level 1, 2 and 3. A Level 1 offender should be non-violent, having a low risk of causing harm to society. Level 2 is a moderate risk of becoming a reoffender. They have multiple victims. They also might have been in a position of authority, such as a teacher, priest, etc. Level 3 offenders are to be considered the most dangerous. It is not uncommon for level 3 offenders to have committed violent crimes. That is why there is a greater potential to reoffend. These offenders will often have multiple sex crime convictions. In addition, level 3 offenders often display predatory behavior. The legal system, has for the time, been on the fence about what course of action to take regarding these unique offenders. This system of labeling was created out of the need to protect society by providing monitoring of released sex offenders to prevent recidivism, it is called the Sex Offender Registry which aims at community notification.
There are generally two camps of leading beliefs, one of which favors a path toward rehabilitation, while the opposing espouses an approach centralized on life imprisonment. Which should be the prevalent approach? Which offers a greater benefit to society? Should prisons spend time, money and resources in attempting to rehabilitate sex offenders, some would say no.
While incarcerated, sex offenders are placed in an isolative setting, fellow inmates consider them the worst offenders and prison staff despise them as well (van den Berg et al., 2018). Proponents of strictly punitive measures for sex offenders believe that they must be punished due to the devasting effects that community members will feel if they were released from incarceration. In an article written by Lynn-nore Chittom, she presents the Minnesota Supreme Court’s ruling in 1994, in which it upholds a 1939 case where the ruling was that one’s unmanageable impulse to commit sexual assault supercedes the right for someone to have freedom; therefore punishment, or indefinite incarceration, would be fitting for the crime of sexual assault. Chittom’s article additionally discusses the debate of rehabilitation over treatments of a more punitive nature for sex offenders. There are some that believe that they should be allowed to receive treatment, therapies and medications in order to be transitioned back to society, but there is not enough extensive research to indicate that these interventions work to prevent recidivism. In an article written by James Waldren (2016), he explains how offenders are often time coerced or forced to attend therapy, thus making it a form of punishment, not treatment, which in turn lessens its effectiveness in preventing recidivism. Without the necessary collaborative process from offender to counselor needed in talk therapy, there is no way that the offender will acquire the skills to change their thoughts and behaviors (Waldren, 2016). Another reason why punishment is preferable to rehabilitation is that in some cases age plays a role in one’s ability to be rehabilitated. Older sex offenders, or sex offenders that have committed several crimes will not be as receptive or successful to treatments in comparison to juvenile offenders that are still developing.
If someone commits a crime, there should be punishment and rehabilitation to restore the offenders humanity. So why would that exclude sex offenders. In order for them to be able to prevent recidivism they are provided talk therapy and sometimes hormonal therapy while incarcerated. This therapy assists in their being able to accept responsibility for their crimes and actions in order for them to move on and transition back into the community. Talk therapy is the first, most common method and the most successful form of treatment that sex offenders receive. CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is the psycho-social intervention utilized to focus on maladaptive behavior and thought process in order to improve regulation, emotions and change an offender’s attitude toward their actions. CBT not only provides assistance in assessing risk factors for reoffending, it can help offenders develop new behaviors/ideas that will avoid deviant behaviors, in addition to aiding in the reduction of the offender committing further offenses (Farkas & Miller, 2008). A study conducted by Craig, Browne, and Stringer found that CBT had an 8% recidivism rate in comparison to other forms of therapy (Mpofu et al., 2018). Additionally, it has shown promise in being the most effective treatment for juvenile sex offenders.
The downfall to this particular treatment is that it is not effective if the offender refuses to admit guilt or that they committed a crime in the first place. In order for CBT to work, the offender must willingly attend, be open to changing their thoughts, actions, and want to problem solve in a different manner. In Farkas & Miller’s journal article, Sex Offender Treatment: Reconciling Criminal Justice Priorities and Therapeutic Goals, they informed that studies have been conducted in order to determine whether or not forcing offenders to attend treatment was an effective deterent to future crimes (2008). One study’s findings explained that due to therapy being mandated that some sex offenders were able to benefit from treatment by reducing distorted views and behaviors (Farkas & Miller, 2008).
Due to the nature of the crime and varying levels of classification, it is important that the most appropriate form of treatment is identified for the offender. When therapy is just not the right fit, other more intensive treatments are options for rehabilitation of sex offenders. One form of treatment adopted by some states is chemical castration for violent sex offenders. The offender is provided with a hormone suppressant that reduces a male’s libido (Chittom, 2018). The treatment is only effective when the offender receives the treatment routinely. Discontinuation of the treatment reverses its effect. In other states, they have adopted surgical castration. This is the treatment of last resort. Men would have to had received therapy, chemical castration and various other therapies in order to be a candidate for surgical castration. The process is as simple as removal of the male testes to eliminate their sex drive, therefore nearly eliminating the probability that a sex offender will reoffend.
Upon successful completion of treatment and their prison term, sex offenders are still within the criminal justice systems perview due to some states requiring them to receive gps ankle monitors, other states impose restrictive measures such as not being able to live within a pre-determned distance from schools, daycares, parks or other areas that children frequent; along with the aforementioned Sex Offender Resigstry.
My opinion on the sex offender treatment rehabilitation debate is a mix of both punishment and rehabilitation. We should spend more on rehabilitation of youth sex offenders than to spend on adult offenders, especially those with multiple offenses. The focus for offenders with multiple offenses should be punishment and for them to not be able to rejoin society because of the danger they pose to society. I believe in prevention. Juvenile offenders lack the insight and knowledge that adult offenders have due to their not having the same developmental capacity as an adult. Should one terrible act define the rest of their young life?
With youth sex offenders there is a high probability that they committed the crime due to it being learned behavior. When behaviors are learned by the offender being a victim or witnessing these acts, no matter how maladaptive or deviant, they become normalized behaviors without therapy and treatment to process the trauma. In a journal article by Bitna Kim, et al., CBT has become one of the most effective forms of treatment for juvenile sex offenders. This treatment is beneficial for juveniles because developmentally they are still learning and growing, thus CBT restructures their thought processes and emotions to bring about change in their behaviors (Kim et al, 2015). For adult offenders it is a much different story.
The negative impact of sex offenders to the victims are endless. Sex crimes take away the victim’s dignity, autonomy, emotional and social growth. They not only take away their sense of safety, but the trauma has a long lasting effect on every area of their life. In serious cases, left without treatment, victims have low self-esteem, develop mental illness, abuse substances, engage in risky behaviors, commit crimes, become perpetrators or commit suicide (Hall & Hall, 2011). I believe in indefinite incarceration or civil commitment for adult sex offenders which are classified as Level 2 and 3 offenders due to the potential deterimental consequences on the victims and society if they were to reoffend. With lifelong incarceration the probability of recidivism will cease to exist. While being incarcerated for life, they will be mandated to attend therapy and other treatments.
Regardless of society or court’s preferred method of dealing with sexual offenders, one must weigh any offense with it’s impact on society and measure it against the history of the offender. It would behoove a society not to simply marginalize offenders. Extreme sentencing, which can be found in many areas of the criminal justice system, not just in the areas of sexual offenses, may provide a sense of closure to victims or supporters of victims, but fail to acknowledge the humanity of the offender.
Often zero tolerance approaches, or judgements based on dogma may be the easiest to apply. Yet, a measured approach is often what is necessary. What one should fear is overly punishing edge cases. Since the law is meant to be impartial, or blind, it is imperative of those drafting policies, to consider all possible offenses and plan for their accompanying method of punishment and rehabilitation. Moreover, a focus on data and quantifiable evidence of one method’s success over its counter, may lead to the greatest net gain in positive outcomes as a whole.