August 31, 2007

The ongoing debate: Does sex offender treatment work?

In the wake of the attempted rape arrest of a man who had spent eight years in sex offender treatment, Vanessa Ho of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a thoughtful article about the controversies surrounding the efficacy of sex offender treatment:

… While the overall climate for sex offenders has radically changed - with longer sentences and more restrictions - treatment has largely remained static, relying on the same cognitive-behavioral methods introduced in the 1980s.

"It's an ongoing question, there's no two ways about it," said Roxanne Lieb, director of the Washington State Institute of Public Policy, on the effectiveness of treatment. "Certainly, it's not a cure-all," she said.

Last year, Lieb's office released a study that found that Washington's prison treatment program for male sex offenders - one of the largest in the nation - had virtually no effect on reducing recidivism rates.

The study echoed a landmark 2005 study, in which researchers found that a California hospital program for confined sex offenders had no significant impact on curbing repeat crimes.

Both studies, however, have detractors who point to other studies showing that treatment works....
The full story, along with some nice graphs, is available online.