July 15, 2010

"Consumed With Sex": Sex offender treatment in risk society

Tuesday's post on sex offender treatment has been reposted on several discussion boards and listservs and is getting some hits from Alltop, a kind of cool online psychology news service. In doing research for an article I am writing about sex offense prevention, I just came across another one that may interest many of you. It's based on ethnographic research by Dany Lacombe, a professor of sociology and anthropology at Simon Fraser University, at a sex offender treatment program up in Canada.

Dr. Lacombe ended up dubbing the program Sex Offender School because of the way that it indoctrinated sex offenders into internalizing a high-risk identity as "a species entirely consumed by sex." Her observational analysis, "Consumed With Sex: The Treatment of Sex Offenders In Risk Society," published in the British Journal of Criminology, is fascinating. Here is the abstract:
This ethnography of a prison treatment programme for sex offenders examines the meaning of rehabilitation in the context of the 'new penology.' As it explores how cognitive-behaviourism structures treatment, it uncovers a therapeutics grounded in risk that actively constructs the identity of the sex offender. It shows how the management of risk relies on techniques of introspection and self-discipline—a patient's internalization of his crime cycle and relapse prevention plan—that target primarily sexual fantasies. These self-policing techniques radically transform the sex offender into a species entirely consumed by sex.
I recommend the entire article, which can be requested directly by emailing Dr. Lacombe.

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