Treatment/Rehabilitation for Sex Offenders

Treatment/Rehabilitation for Sex Offenders


Sex crimes are though to instill feelings of anger and fear among the members of the public. Once a sex criminal is released from custody, the community fears that the criminal has not been fully rehabilitated and may resume to the crimes. This causes fear and anger and has resulted in many of these criminals being considered as outcasts (Hanson & Harris, 2000). It is more unfortunate that sec crimes and criminals are popularized by the media stories which serve to enflame emotions and hardly tell stories concerning treatment and rehabilitation of these offenders. In Canada, correctional system has formulated policies on how sex offenders are rehabilitated and treated (Hanson & Thornton, 2000). It should be noted that when a sex criminal is imprisoned, psychologists and criminologists who are specialists in sex crimes evaluate the offender in order to determine the proper and best treatment program. This is aimed at ensuring that these offenders are able to lead a good life once they are released from the jail. Additionally, life experiences of an offender and his or her psychological make up are taken into account in the assessment these offenders (Harris & Hanson, 2003). This study aims at outlining and discussing these processes and their effectiveness in integrating a criminal into the society.

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Background Information

In order to ensure that the rate of recidivism among sex criminals is reduced in Canada, evaluation of these convicts continues throughout the imprisonment period and upon release into the community (Lösel & Schmucker, 2005). In order to ensure that the community is not endangered by the release of a sex offender, it is the role of correctional services staff to supervise an offender and look for signs that are potential for putting a community at risk (Marshall & Yates, 2005). All these processes are carried out because community members feel that when a sex criminal is released they are not at peace as the criminal may return to his or her behaviors. However, there are treatment or rehabilitation procedures that are taken into account in making sure that community is not put at risk (Bradford, 2000).

Treatment/Rehabilitation for Sex Offenders

Treatment for sexual offenders has been received by many people with mixed arguments but as indicated by Bradford (2000), it is aimed at preventing these offenders from recidivating in future. However, until recently there have been very little evidences that treatment reduces recidivism. In the year 1995, Correctional Service in Canada conducted an examination of its sex offender population and it was found that 99.7% of all the federally sentenced criminals were male and majority were Caucasian (74.8%) (Hanson & Bussière, 1998). Additionally, the examination indicated that the average age for these criminals was 38 years with the oldest one aged 83 years while the youngest 15 years.

However, it was found that the population of sex criminals was growing very rapidly at that time and hence it was indicated that there was a need for a program that could be used in reducing the population. According to Hanson and Bussière (1998), between 1990 and 1995, the population of sex offenders in Canada grew almost by 40%. This is a very huge increase and it was resolved that correctional services had a lot of work to ensure that the rate is reduced. It was interesting that despite the number of sex offenders were growing rapidly during this period of time, the rate f reported sexual crimes was declining since the year 1993 (Hanson & Harris, 2000).

Treatment/Rehabilitation for Sex Offenders

Hanson and Thornton (2000) have reported that, in the last three decades debate has emerged over the effectiveness of sex offender programs in reducing sexual recidivism. It has been termed as a difficult task to resolve this debate since evaluations are often hindered by use of small sample sizes of treated criminals (Harris & Hanson, 2003). It should be noted that society has failed in understanding the problems or challenges leading sex offenders to recidivate. It has in most cases found it easier to ignore the crime, imprison the offender for life than making attempts of addressing the issue appropriately (Lösel & Schmucker, 2005). This approach and attitude towards sex offenders has created a myth that sex offenders cannot be treated and hence should never be allowed to return to the community.

Treatment/Rehabilitation for Sex Offenders

This has been brought about by the fear that when a sex offender commits a crime, he or she is posing a threat not to an individual victim but to the whole society (Marshall & Yates, 2005). However, there are other appropriate ways of handling this matter as treating them would ensure that they are made responsible individuals in society who would not recidivate to their crimes. The increasing number of sex offenders in criminal justice systems is because of lack of adequate and effective treating of these criminals as a way of giving them a go ahead in their lives in their societies (Bradford, 2000). A point worth noting is that it would be very difficult for a criminal to resume to the crime when he or she is well rehabilitated during his sentence period.

Sex Offender Treatment

According to Hanson and Bussière (1998), it is a belief of many people that sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated. However, a number of studies have been conducted on the topic and it has been found that among a large number of sex offenders who have been undergone treatment, most of them have been successfully integrated into community (Hanson & Harris, 2000). As a result of this, the Correctional Service of Canada has continued to implement more sex criminal treatment programs from the time it was started in the year 1973. Additionally, the services offered by this correctional branch have been increased in order to increasingly benefit offenders and enable them to be accepted by community members (Hanson & Thornton, 2000). One of the most important goals of this program is to ensure that sex offenders are accepted in community and the rate of recidivism has reduced drastically. In dong this, the Correctional Service of Canada has increasingly funded a number of institutions in order to enhance their services (Harris & Hanson, 2003).

Treatment/Rehabilitation for Sex Offenders

Ideally, the massive implementation of sex offender treatment in Canada has encouraged many researchers and policy makers to study the effectiveness of these programs and this has been aimed at improving the services offered. It should be noted that Canada is among the numerous countries that have implemented treatment for sex offenders and has been highly recognized (Lösel & Schmucker, 2005). Criminals undergoing these treatments are able to change their attitudes and minds and accept that they are required both by the law and society norms to lead a good life. The successes of these programs are evident especially when the rates of recidivism are compared among the treated and untreated criminals (Marshall & Yates, 2005).  

Treatment/Rehabilitation for Sex Offenders

Treating individuals with disordered conducts considered as morally defective and requiring changes in moral communities is essentially good in society. This is because the main reason for imprisoning sex offenders is not to remove them from society completely but to rehabilitate them and make them understand that they have a role to play in society by leading a crime free life (Bradford, 2000). This helps in reducing crime rates and recidivism rates as these people rather than turning back to their crimes are able to change and become good citizens. One part of the treatment they receive is being treated psychologically. In this case, it has been found by studies that sex some sex offenders do not commit crimes because they want to but because they are psychologically ill (Hanson & Bussière, 1998). In this case, if they are treated psychologically by specialists they will be able to see and visualize their problems and make processes of overcoming them.

In addressing how treatment of sex offenders operates in Canada it is imperative to look at the following: incest child molesters, rapists, and non-incest child molesters as they are the most commonly reported and imprisoned sex criminals.

  1. Incest Child Molesters

As reported by Hanson and Bussière (1998), of the three indicated crimes, incest child molesters have low rates if recidivism in the Canadian criminal systems. Because of this low rate of recidivism, it has traditionally thought that the best treatment for this group of sex criminals is a minimally intrusive form of therapy that helps in reducing sexual recidivism. This is applied by one program currently offered by the Correctional Service of Canada. It should be noted that the Violence Interdite Sur Autrui (VISA) program is aimed at treating incestuous fathers who are considered as being at low risk of recidivating to sexual crimes (Hanson & Harris, 2000).

Treatment/Rehabilitation for Sex Offenders

In his program, development of empathy is emphasized for the victim and recidivism is prevented by encouraging offenders to complete six initiatives that have been proved by researchers and criminologists to reduce sexual offence recidivism. In this case therefore, offenders are required to work hard in order to overcome shame and fear so that they can be able to acknowledge their mistakes (Hanson & Thornton, 2000).

It should be noted that criminals recidivate to their crimes because of the lack of acknowledging the fact that they have committed a crime. Additionally, through this program, criminals are required to take full responsibility for the abuse both in front of the therapy group which the criminal is treated and the people involved in the offence (Harris & Hanson, 2003). In doing this, the offender is helped to come into terms with the damage done by the crime to the victims, themselves, and their families and they take steps in amending them and in the process establish healthy relationships with their victims. In doing this they are made to see the sense of living a crime free life with the rest members of the society (Lösel & Schmucker, 2005).

Treatment/Rehabilitation for Sex Offenders

In addition to this, the offender is made to learn about the incestuous sexual crimes in order to help them look critically into their sexual behaviors and eventually lead a sexually responsible life. Ideally, in order to make sure that a criminal does not resume to the crime, it is important to make him or her understand and recognize the factors that contributed to him committing the crime (Marshall & Yates, 2005). After understanding them, he or she should be helped to take steps in reducing the influences of these factors in their lives.  

  1. Rapists

As indicated by Lösel and Schmucker (2005), rapists are the second group sex offenders that as reported to be secondly likely to resume to their crimes. Studies conducted in this area have indicated that rapists are the well distinguished from child molesters. In this case, rapists are younger than child molesters with average ages of 32 to 38 years. Researches in this field have indicated that rapists have a higher rate of recidivating to no-sexual behaviors as compared to child molesters (Marshall & Yates, 2005). This is because rapists are noted to share most of the common characteristics with the general criminals and hence their rate of returning to either their criminal behaviors or unrelated criminal behaviors is relatively high. This therefore indicates that the treatment programs used in treating rapists should be more developed and extensive than those used for child molesters (Bradford, 2000).

Treatment/Rehabilitation for Sex Offenders

It should be noted that despite that these criminals may be very hard to rehabilitate, studies have indicated that treated rapists lead a more crime free life as compared to untreated rapists. Basically, rapists are supposed to be counseled by psychological experts in order to determine and note where the problem is. When the problem is clearly noted, it becomes very easy for the therapists to provide solutions (Hanson & Bussière, 1998). Rapists should be educated that they have to abide by the law and social norms in order to lead a crime free life and hence they have to change their behaviors. Studies have indicated that treatment for rapists are mainly focused on changing the deviant sexual behavior and integrate cognitive skills training in treatment programs (Hanson & Harris, 2000). Notably, only the factors that should be changed are the ones focused on the treatment programs in order to ensue that rapists are well integrated into the community.

  • Non-incest Child Molesters

Non-incest child molesters are reported to have the highest rate of recidivism of about 19.5%. In this case, the criminals are at very high risk of re-offending in the whole of their lives (Hanson & Thornton, 2000). According to the studies conducted in this area, it has been found that criminals who are treated with cognitive skills training and are being made to understand the magnitude of the effects of the crime to the victims is very high and hence they are supposed to lead a life that will not cause harm to others. Relapse prevention is among the most important aspects that are included in the treatment program (Harris & Hanson, 2003). As it has been noted that non-incest child molesters have very high rate of recidivating, their treatment program should be inclusive of different ways through which they could be prevented from committing the crime again. Basically, offenders are enabled to recognize risky situations where they are more likely to re-offend (Lösel & Schmucker, 2005). 


In summation, correctional services offered by the Correctional Services of Canada are very imperative in making sure that criminals and sex offenders are prevented from returning to their crimes. It should be noted that when criminals are not treated or rehabilitated, the system is not doing them any good as they will be having feelings of recidivating. It may be the wish of the community that all sex criminals to be imprisoned for lengthy periods of time or to be completely disintegrated into the community but this is not the main aim of correctional services.

Treatment/Rehabilitation for Sex Offenders

There are some criminals who commit crimes out of their unconscious minds or ignorantly and hence if they are not treated effectively through rehabilitation, they do not find any need of living together with community members who are always against them. It is therefore a high time that community members should embrace procedures and norms that help in reintegrating criminals. Sex offenders are feared because they are thought to pose a big problem and risk to community members hence when released they should be trained on how to lead a crime free life that is accepted and liked by all people.


Bradford, J. M. W. (2000). The treatment of sexual deviation using a pharmacological approach. Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 3, pp. 248-257

Hanson, R. K., & Bussière, M. T. (1998). Predicting relapse: A meta-analysis of sexual offender recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 66, pp. 348-362.

Hanson, R. K., & Harris, A. J. R. (2000). Where should we intervene? Dynamic predictors of sex offender recidivism. Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 27, pp. 6-35…/hansonandharris1998.pdf

Hanson, R. K., & Thornton, D. (2000). Improving risk assessments for sex offenders: A comparison of three actuarial scales. Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 24, pp. 119-136

Harris, A. J. R., & Hanson, R. K. (2003). The Dynamic Supervision Project: Improving the community supervision of sex offenders. Corrections Today, Vol. 65, pp. 60-62


Lösel, F., & Schmucker, M. (2005). The effectiveness of treatment for sexual offenders: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Journal of Experimental Criminology, Vol. 1, pp. 1-29.

Marshall, W. L., & Yates, P. M. (2005). Comment on Mailloux et al.’s (2003) study: “Dosage of treatment of sexual offenders: Are we overprescribing?” International Journal of Offender Treatment and Comparative Criminology, Vol. 49, pp. 221-224