February 22, 2008

Do sex offenders have right to confidential therapy?

Normally, conversations between an individual and his or her therapist are confidential. But do convicted sex offenders lose that legal right to confidentiality?

That was the issue decided by a California appellate court this week.

Reynaldo Corona was mandated into sex offender treatment after being convicted of molesting his teenage stepdaughters. He complied with required group treatment through the Parole Outpatient Clinic (POC). But in addition, he voluntarily sought his own private therapy, for which he paid out of his own pocket.

When his parole agent found out, Corona was threatened with a return to prison unless he signed a waiver of privilege allowing his private therapist to communicate with parole officials.

On Wednesday, a Second District appellate court upheld the trial court's opinion that the parole requirement is unreasonable. As the court pointed out, such oppressive restrictions would discourage parolees from obtaining treatment that might reduce their risk to society.

Corona's decision to seek private therapy "would seem to be something for which he should be credited, rather than penalized," the court commented. "The People have not identified a nefarious reason for Corona's decision to engage in additional therapy."

The opinion is here. Hat tip to Adam Alban, who has further commentary at his Clinical Lawyer blog.

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