A transition program for post-release sex offenders: A design proposal

Elena Balduzzi (2003)

This dissertation offers a model for a residential transition program for post-release sexual offenders. The proposed program contains treatment and vocational dimensions aimed at achieving therapeutic gains deemed essential to the successful reintegration of sexual offenders into society. Sexual abuse is one of the nation's largest public health problems. The societal costs are immeasurable when considering the myriad psychological and physical effects on victims as well as the cost of prosecution and incarceration of sexual abusers. Sex Offender Registry laws, Public Notification laws, and mandates to serve maximum sentences are among the legislative solutions gaining in public support, despite minimal evidence that these measures are effective in reducing recidivism. Regardless of these laws, most sex offenders are released back to the community without adequate resources. Research suggests that lack of supervision and absence of treatment are correlated with increased risk to recidivate, whereas, involvement in treatment is correlated with a reduced risk to recidivate. Community-based services are needed to provide sex offender treatment, skills training, and assistance for successful reentry into society. The proposed model is offered as a primary and tertiary prevention strategy aimed at addressing this important public health issue. It combines clinical approaches shown to be effective with sexual offenders (e.g., relapse prevention, behavioral treatment) in the context of a therapeutic community and work program. Four treatment dimensions are central to its conceptual foundation: treatment of sexually deviant behavior, the individual offender, the process of recovery, and achievement of goals associated with "healthy living." In preparation for program implementation, consideration is given to the need to engage community stakeholders in meaningful dialogue to assuage concerns arising from the introduction of residential treatment into their community. The formation of a citizen advisory board is proposed as a key component in securing support for locating this facility within a community. Outcome assessment and program evaluation will determine to what extent the intended outcome (i.e., decreased recidivism) derives from the program's interventions. Finally, the need to address program failures as well as possible barriers to implementation will be discussed.