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What Programs and Strategies are Used to Treat Sexual Offenders and Prevent Sexual Offenses?

Treatment Programs for Sexual Offenders

As explained by the The Bureau of Justice Assistance, there are three main types of therapy used to treat sexual offenders:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which aims to change thinking patterns relating to sexual offenses and also change deviant sexual behavior.

Psycho-educational therapy, which aims to increase offenders’ empathy for victims while also encouraging them to take responsibility for their sexual offenses.

Pharmacology, which reduces sexual responses through medication.  According to the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA), pharmacology should not be used alone but should be used in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Testosterone-lowering hormonal treatments for adult male offenders, when used in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy, have shown greater reductions in repeat offenses than psycho-social therapy alone.  ATSA also notes that, for offenders who suffer from other psychiatric problems, non-hormonal medications, such as medications for mood disorders, ADHD, and impulsivity may also be useful in reducing sexual offenses.

State prisons and criminal justice agencies offer sexual offender treatment programs, and private agencies and therapists may also offer sexual offender treatment programs.

For example,the Texas Department of Criminal Justice offers two rehabilitation programs specifically for sexual offenders.   The Sexual Offender Education Program is designed for those offenders who are considered to be low offense risks or who may have lengthy terms of supervision.  This four-month program appears to use both psycho-educational therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, as the curriculum focuses on educating the offenders about topics such as Healthy Sexuality, Anger and Stress Management, Interpersonal Relationships, and Cognitive Restructuring.

Texas also has a Sexual Offender Treatment Program.  This Program employs a cognitive-behavioral model in two formats. One is intensive treatment in a therapeutic community with immediate feedback about behavior and treatment programs for eighteen months.  The other is a nine month moderate intensity program.

Laws to Deter Sexual Offenses

The federal and state governments have also enacted sexual offenders laws aimed to deter sexual offenders from offending again, including:

Community Notification.  These laws require governments to notify people in the community where a sexual offender lives of his personal information, including the location of the residence and the offense.  Police may inform community members by posting fliers, placing notices in local newspapers, sharing information at community meetings, and even going door-to-door with the information.

Sex Offender Registration.  These laws require that, once released from prison, sex offenders must provide police with personal information such as their residence and employment so that the police can track and monitor them.  This information is also typically used for community notification, as sex offender registration and community notification often work in tandem.  The United States Department of Justice maintains The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website,
which enables people to search for offenders by name, address, zip code, county, and city, if information is provided by the jurisdiction.

Sentencing Enhancements.  These laws provide for longer prison terms for sex offenders.

Sexual Predator Laws.  These laws require certain classes of sexual offenders get special treatment, such as additional prison time or special notification practices.