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Group 10, Sex offenders
Transcript of Group 10, Sex offenders
In recent years, examination has emerged over whether or not programs for rehabilitating sex offenders are effective. There is the general fallacy that ‘nothing works’ in the treatment of sex offenders. However, current research suggests that the treatment of offenders both within correctional facilities and in the community effectively decreases subsequent sexual offense recidivism. (Wnuk, Chapman & Jeglic, 2006). There has been an analysis that has collated the results from multiple evaluations to determine program effectiveness. Sexual recidivism is typically measured by examining the reconviction rates of sex offenders. A prison-based program for adult sex offenders operates in every state and territory of Australia. (Macgregor, 2008). In Australia, most treatment programs for sex offenders are based on overseas models that use Cognitive Based Therapy and social learning theory methods that target the criminogenic needs of the offenders.
Rehabilitation, to teach a criminal to live a normal and productive life, is a measure that is being used to treat sex offenders so they can come back into the community without the dangers of them committing another crime. Sex offenses or sex crimes are sexual behaviors that are crimes. Although sex offenses covers a much broader list of crimes, we chose to look at the effects of rehabilitation and incarceration on specifically pedophiles and rapists.The act of rape is defined as sexual intercourse without the consent of one individual. Pedophilia is the act of using a child, someone under the age of consent, for sexual stimulation, this can range from sexual activities to indecent exposure.
We looked at the current treatments being used in Australia, across the different states, as well as overseas. We looked at how the different treatments compare with each other, which treatments have the highest success rates and what each treatment consists of. The Sex Offenders Register has a negative effect on those offenders who have been successfully rehabilitated. The overall restrictions they have on housing, job prospects and the pressures of the community have a negative effect on the transition back into a normal life. We explored the effects of Labelling Theory, Strain Theory and Megan’s Law on those being put back into the community.
The negative effects that incarceration has on prisoners will not help or support the re-entry into the community once their sentence is up. We looked at the effects of Prisonization and how treatments are only effective if the prisoner is willing to engage in the program. The overall effects of how they are treated in prison and the lifestyles they develop in order to not be isolated during their sentence. The effects of the media on sex offenders has stigmatised the ability to be rehabilitated. The media coverage on the Jill Meagher case drove the public opinion on sex offenders into panic and even if an offender was successfully rehabilitated, they would not be accepted into the community due to the negative association they have with offenders. We explore the effects of positive and negative framing the media causes on the population.
In New South Wales, the Custody Based Intensive Treatment (CUBIT) program operates for moderate-high risk sex offenders; CUBIT outreach (CORE) programs operate for low-risk sex offenders. Both these programs run out of the prison system the target the known risk factors for sexual offending, such as lack of empathy and cognitive distortions. (Macgregor, 2008). The CUBIT program should that 8.5% of sex offenders who where treated committed further sexual offences. That is compared to the predicted 26% sexual recidivism rate. Past research has found that the CUBIT program significantly reduces the risk factors associated with sexual offending. (Macgregor, 2008).
The New Street Adolescent Service in NSW is offered to youth between the ages of 10 and 17 years with sexual offending behaviour. This program treats young people on the basis that their parent/caregiver can be involved in the treatment process, mainly because it is seen to be inappropriate for adolescents to be treated without this element. (Laing, Mikulsky & Kennaugh, 2006). It was found that only 1 out of 34 offenders who completed treatment reoffended sexually. (Macgregor, 2008).
The Sex Offender Programs (SOP) unit in our state, Victoria, offers similar treatment methods to those in CUBIT, and also includes a program for special needs sex offenders. It was found that only 4% of SOP treatment reoffended sexually, which is irrefutably low. The COSA (The Circles of Support and Accountability) program aims to provide high-risk sex offenders with structured and intensive community support as they transition into the community, through the use of trained community volunteers, who become the offender’s family/peer network. (Seidler, 2010).
New Zealand has a number of long-running prison based treatment programs for adults and adolescents who sexually offend, and many of these have been evaluated. (Macgregor, 2008). Programs in New Zealand tend to focus predominantly on child sex offenders and include strong cultural components in the treatment. The Kia Marama Treatment Program in New Zealand is for adult sex offenders against children. It is delivered on a group-based setting, which allows group members to be challenged by other members. This program incorporates Cognitive Based Therapy and social learning theory elements, which includes:
-Understanding offending behaviour
-Arousal conditioning, which is designed to identify and decrease deviant sexual arousal
-Victim impact and empathy
-Relapse planning and aftercare
Results indicated that treatment at Kia Marama more than halved the rate of sexual recidivism.
These results are supportive of the argument that programs are more effective in reducing sexual recidivism when the design and implementation are accustomed to the cultural background of offenders, and more personalized to the offenders. (Macgregor, 2008).
A study reviewed eight treatment programs for adults and five treatment programs for adolescents who sexually offend in Australia and New Zealand. Findings suggest that twelve out of the thirteen programs were effective in reducing recidivism. New Zealand treatment programs were found to have positive outcomes, and found that the incorporation of traditional and holistic forms of treatment is more effective for reducing sexual recidivism amongst offenders. The number of community-based programs in Australia has increased in recent years, and with a few more incorporations of monitoring and evaluation, Australia can be in a position to develop the best practice guidelines for statewide services. (Macgregor, 2008). Treatment programs designed for young people who sexually offend in Australia and New Zealand were found to have positive outcomes in reducing sexual recidivism.
Use Of a
Inaccuracies & Public Panic
Heuristics in Judgments
Jill Meagher Case
Our final argument will be addressing how the media plays an extensive role in hindering sex offender rehabilitation. The media unnessarily stimulates public panic about these offenders through the constant reinforcement of their danger to society. Policy makers as well as the media, showcase that sex offences are rising and portray them as compulsive and repetitive recidivists whose behaviour often escalates to lethal crime. However, law enforcement data indicates this is actually quite the opposite; sex offences remain stable and sex offenders have lower recidivism rates compared to other criminals such as thieves (Sample, 2001). Due to over-exaggeration of this sensitive issue, the public grossly overestimate recidivism rates of sex offenders by more than 50% and hold a distorted view that sex crimes are increasing and sex offenders recidivism rates are higher than other criminals (Levenson, Brannon, Fortney, & Baker, 2007). For a sex offender to achieve successful rehabilitation, they need to be reintegrated back into society free from prejudice. How can this be a possibility if the community is so unaccepting due to intense fear fuelled by the media? Most parents teach their children about ‘stranger danger’ as means to keep them protected from sex offenders. However, most child sex offenders are committed by someone who is known to the child, with 30% being a male relative (Richards, 2011). This statistic conflicts with the widely held belief that child sex offenders are strangers. Ensuring the public are well-informed and common myths surrounding sex offenders are dispelled, researchers should provide abstracts of their findings to media outlets. This would make their reintegration process smoother, less daunting and more successful (Schiavone & Jeglic, 2008) as this process can be long and arduous and finding a house can take over 1,100 property applications with no success (Theroux, 2009).
Rolf Harris Case
Coverage on Rehabilitation
The media has the tendency to only report serious, horrible events such as rape, leading the public to believe such events are more possible than something like theft. This cognitive shortcut is referred to as the availability heuristic. This is the inclination for a person to overestimate the likelihood of events occurring in future due to a judgement based on frequent media information that initially comes to mind (Cherry, 2012). The public have developed a negative view on sex offenders because it’s the only information being provided to them. They are regularly informed in the media of the heinous crimes committed but never of the ineffectiveness of prisons, successful rehabilitation rates and how difficult it is for sex offenders to be reintegrated into society as a result of this prejudice.
The Jill Meagher and Rolf Harris’ case are examples of major media coverage of sexual assaults where these misconceptions held by the public are reinforced, known as confirmation bias. Levenson et al. (2007) also discussed the media as a probable influence in participants incorrect opinion regarding sex offenders. Across the news reports that covered the Jill Meagher case are demonstrations of adjectives designed to cast the offender in a negative light. The offence was described as ‘the worst kind’ that the ‘grotesque and soulless’ Adrian Bayley gained ‘sadistic pleasure’ from (ABC, 2013; Akerman, 2013; Merhab & Cresswell, 2013). This is a clear example of media construction of a schema resulting in a negative stereotype the public will apply to all judgments involving sex offenders in future encounters. This stereotype is further ingrained by juxtaposing the offender against the positive framing around the victim, Jill Meagher, who is described as having a ‘soft lilting...voice’, and a ‘brilliant mind and a beautiful soul’(Legge, 2013; Merhab & Cresswell, 2013).
Less than 12 months after the Jill Meagher case, another high profile case provided further evidence of the media feeding these existing stereotypes around sex offenders with the Rolf Harris case. He was portrayed as a ‘predatory sexual pervert’ with a ‘dark side’ who had little remorse for the 50 years of deeply entrenched sexually deviant behaviour he engaged in (ABC, 2014; Guilliatt & Magnay, 2014; Pettifor & Myers, 2014). Similarly in the Jill Meagher case, it was publicised that Adrian Bayley first rape charge was at 19 years of age. This referencing to time in both cases in relation to their sexual offences reinforced the misguided public opinion that sexual offenders have the highest rates of recidivism (Levenson et al., 2007).
Thus, we can see media framing of sex offenders creates negative schemas that play on cognitive shortcuts we use when making judgements. The Jill Meagher and the Rolf Harris case provide two high profile examples of this. With the final stage of treatment for sex offenders being successful rehabilitated back into the community, for them to have this chance a well educated community is needed to accept them free of prejudice and willing to provide a supportive environment for a fresh start. For this crime issue to be resolved, sex offenders need to be successfully rehabilitated into functional members of their community. It is vital for the media to present the public with accurate and unbiased information, to allowing them to reach their own, untainted judgements on sex offenders.
The overall benefits of rehabilitation of offenders shows how those who were successful in their treatment should not have to be isolated from the community and how it is more successful in reducing crime, rather than remaining in the prison system. The negative effects of incarceration contradicts the notion of rehabilitation and decreases their chance of becoming rehabilitated. Although there is a push for tougher restrictions on offenders from the public and there is a demand for access to a sex registry, there is no evidence that this would have positive consequences on rehabilitation and rehabilitated offenders. Releasing the registry would cause more issues with those who were convicted for sex offences they did not commit. The rehabilitation on willing offenders should not be stigmatized and those who are successful should not have to deal with the burdens of their former self despite how the media pushes the negative stereotype onto the public.
This video explains why stereotypes about juvenile sex offenders has the potential to create more victims and clarifies some of the current stereotypes of juvenile sex offenders and sex offenders in general.
Myths of Juvenile
Under the Crimes (Serious Sex Offenders) Amendment Bill 2013, criminals who are classified as “serious sex offenders” are to be held in prison or supervised in the community beyond their initial given sentence. However, it is advocated that this may not be an effective method of punishment, as engagement in rehabilitation programs are perceived to be more successful in reducing crime, rather than offenders remaining in the prison system.
When offenders are incarcerated, they are subjected to a certain prison socialisation whereby the effects of rehabilitation are undermined. The environment of prisons can be hostile and anti-social, exposing younger and inexperienced offenders to prisoners with a more extensive criminal record (Clear, 1996). “The acceleration of criminal careers caused by imprisonment would wash out at least some of the crime prevention effects of prison” (Golub, 1990, as cited by Clear, 1996, p. 4), indicating that as long as criminals are sharing their knowledge of the criminal world, prison will remain to be ineffective.
In the context of incarceration and how the environment of a prison affects the offender, a study on sex offenders, conducted by McGrath, Cumming, Livingston and Hoke (2003), supports the idea that incarceration does not deter individuals from re-offending. In fact it may produce increases in recidivism; especially in low risk offenders who are more negatively affected by incarceration. They found that there was a 30% recidivism rate for offenders who were not willing to engage in treatment programs, compared to the 5.4% rate of those who completed a program.
One reason for this is the social isolation the sex offenders experience in prison by being removed from the general prison population and explicitly disliked by the other inmates (Ward & Mann 2004). According to a study conducted by Ashkar & Kenny (2008), sexual offenders were the most disliked and targeted group for bullying and thus experienced significant psychological trauma. Hence, although it is acknowledged that this isolation is implemented for the sex offender’s safety, it likewise lowers the self worth and self esteem of the sexual offenders. This consequentially raises issues in regards to rehabilitation as it is endorsed that increasing sexual offenders’ self-esteem by working collaboratively with offenders in developing treatment goals is amongst the most effective methods which facilitates the process of positive changes specifically in sex offenders (Ward & Mann 2004).
Additionally, another issue within the prison systems which degrades the offender and ensures a negative prison experience is the rates of Sexual Coercion within the prisons themselves. A study conducted by Struckman‐Johnson, Rucke, Bumby,, & Donaldson (1996) showcases that a great percentage of the inmates that were targeted by sexual behaviour were in fact convicted for sexual offences themselves. Thus, this additionally is said to degrade and lower the self esteem of the sexual offender.
Therefore, for a sexual offender to remain in the prison system, it contradicts the notion of rehabilitation, as it demonstrates that these offenders, who remain in prisons, are essentially decreasing their likelihood of becoming rehabilitated individuals.
McLaughlin and Muncie (2009) explain that in order to understand the behaviour of a person, one needs to understand the relationship that person has with a particular environment. In relation to imprisonment, if offenders are continuously interacting and sharing knowledge with other inmates they will begin to model and imitate their criminal behaviour; contradicting the purpose of imprisonment.
Social Learning Theory
Individuals and groups classify and categorize behaviours of others, stereotyping them into acting a certain way (McLaughlin & Muncie, 2009), these stereotypes are then responded to as a result. In the context of sex offenders and incarceration, this label creates a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby they continue to commit sex offences, as incarceration does not address the label, only reinforces it.
The debate around housing restrictions and a public sex offender registry has been that of great media coverage and community concern in Australia. Although there has been much support from the community for tougher housing restrictions and public access to a sex offender registry, there has been a failure to recognise the effects that these changes would have on criminal rehabilitation. Evidence has shown that these conditions for released sex offenders present little to no positive consequences in regards to rehabilitation and may in fact pose a greater threat to the community.
Released sex offenders become public targets. In June this year a sex offender was shot out of hatred from another man in his community (Vigilantism of Sex Offenders, June 2012). Having a public database in Australia could prove quite problematic in that young offenders, people incarcerated of crimes that they did not commit and also offenders involved in very minor crimes could all be publicly viewed as sex offenders for the remainder of their lives and, as consequence, difficult to find employment or enjoy any socially beneficial activity (The Australian, November 2011).
Australia Vs USA
In Australia, people who are convicted of sexual offences against children are placed on the Australian National Child Offenders Register. (ANCHOR) In Victoria, this is managed by the Victorian Police who monitor convicted persons after they have completed their sentence. This registry entails the details of all convicted persons and is not currently available to the public. It is however, passed on to child protection agencies when an alleged act of abuse has occurred in the area.
In 2012, the legislative assembly in Western Australia passed a bill which allowed for change to Western Australia’s Sex Offender Registry. WA has separated their registry into 3 tiers. The first is for offenders who are considered ‘seriously dangerous to the community.’ If their whereabouts are unknown to police, they risk having their details publicised online. The second tier allows the commissioner of police to release photos of an individual and their general locality. This tier is for offenders who could pose a risk to public safety. The third and final tier of the sex offender registry allows parents or guardians to obtain information if certain individuals have committed a sexual offence.( Berson,2012)
Unlike Australia where information and details about sex offenders are limited, particularly as demonstrated in Victoria, The united States of America have an open registry which is available at anyone’s request online. The United States has a law, known as Megan’s Law, which requires police to release information about registered sex offenders to the public, including their name, picture, current address, imprisonment date and crime.
In Australia, Offenders on the register must tell police about their aliases, address and employment details, car registration details and affiliations with clubs with child membership or child participation (Berson,2012). Under the Sex Offender Registration Act (2004), it has been outlined that a sex offender cannot undertake employment that involves children.
In the USA, Sex offenders can only reside at a location if it has been approved by the parole and probation officer assigned to them. They must not; use aliases or fictitious names, have a post office box, have contact with a person under 18 in a secluded environment, be in or near a playground, park, school or anywhere that is primarily where children attend, accept or undertake volunteer work and lastly they must not possess any sexually explicit material that is deemed inappropriate.
In the year 2000, an 8 year old girl named Sarah Payne was sexually abused and murdered. Following this, a campaign was set up in Britain called Sarah’s law. This campaign argued that all sex offenders should be made aware to the public including their names and addresses in hope to prevent this from happening again. Following this, many ‘name and shame’ campaigns were formed, particularly one website ‘the news of the world’ published photos names and the addresses of 49 convicted male and female paedophiles. After this event happened, persons named in this name and shame campaign were subjected to vigilante style attacks against them from outraged members of the community. The worst incident recorded was when a convicted paedophile was forced to leave his home in Portsmouth after an angry mob threw stones, overturned and torched a car and damaged his house.
Examples of Negative Impacts
Both videos show the strong negative consequences that can arrive from having a sex offender registry. Consequences can range from murder to limited life expansion.
“if released sex offenders are provided with the resources to access stable housing, establish pro-social support networks, create intimate relationships, and are presented with opportunities for employment, they are less likely to sexually reoffend” (Willis, Levenson & Ward, 2010.)
If a sex offender is publicised and labelled as a criminal to those around them, the chances that they will re-offend are heightened. If they can hide their past and appear to live a seemingly normal life to those around them, labelling theory explains that they will conform to fit in and obtain from deviant behaviours. However if registers are made public, the offender will be an outcast from society. “Social research indicates that those who have negative labels usually have lower self-images, are more likely to reject themselves, and may even act more deviantly as a result of the label” (Crossman, 2014).
Seidler, K. (2012). Community Management of Sex Offenders: Stigma versus Support. Sexual Abuse in Australia and New Zealand. Vol. 2(2). 66-76
Struckman‐Johnson, C., Struckman‐Johnson, D., Rucker, L., Bumby, K., & Donaldson, S. (1996). Sexual coercion reported by men and women in prison. Journal of Sex Research, 33(1), 67-76.
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A presentation from:
Sex Offender Stigmatization