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Serving People from Arrest to Reintegration

Responding to Sexual Offenses: Research, Reason, and Public Safety

  • Organization: Center for Community Alternatives
  • Document Type: Report
  • Date Created: Tuesday, June 13, 2006
  • Submitted: Tuesday, June 13, 2006
  • Attachment(s): PDF

There is likely no criminal behavior that breeds as much condemnation and fear as sex offending. There are tragic examples of young victims of sex offenders in New York State and across the country that have raised our concerns, and prompted calls for increased surveillance, control and incapacitation. It is responsible public policy to address these concerns in ways that will increase public protection that are based on research and evidence. An evidence-based approach ensures that we will sequester only those who are likely to reoffend by committing serious, violent sexual offenses and affording treatment and effective supervision for those who do not fall into this category.

People who commit sex offenses are now at the forefront of the interchange between mental health and the law. Sexual offense arrests and convictions are high profile events, attracting the public's attention, and demands for swift justice. While the question of punishment or application of justice should by no means be cast aside, legislators, mental health professionals and the community are responsible for developing evidence-based assessment practices that identify the risk an offender poses to the community, as well as what type of evidence-based treatment is available to reduce the likelihood of recidivism. The absence of an informed risk assessment leading to an accurate diagnosis and treatment leaves the community and offender at risk. Contrary to popular beliefs and common misperceptions, not all people who commit sexual offenses are the same, and there are valid and reliable risk assessment methods that can inform which treatments may be most effective in reducing risk. Assessment, classification and treatment are the keys to public safety.

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