Rehab vs. punishment

The common reaction to the criminal acts committed by convicted offenders includes disgust, anger, and a feeling of increased vulnerability. Not surprisingly, many people feel that convicted offenders should be locked up indefinitely, castrated, or put to death. In reality, however, nearly 60 percent of convicted offenders live in our communities under conditional supervision. ( Lawrence, 1997) The inherent problem with releasing convicted offenders into the community is the likelihood that they will repeat their crimes.

To address this problem, intensive treatment programs for convicted offenders have been developed to be used in combination with traditional measures such as incarceration, probation, and parole. These programs are continually evolving and require re-evaluation to assure offenders are not as dangerous when they are released into communities as they were at the time of their arrest. Research on the success of offender intervention has proven problematic for many reasons. The label "convicted offender" represents a heterogeneous mix of individuals.

Convicted offenders can vary from the 19-year-old statutory rapist of a 16-year-old victim, to the sexual predator who carefully plans his offense, stalking and grooming his young victims in public playgrounds and parks. In classifying these various types of sex offenders into a single group, differing elements that relate to recidivism will be masked, potentially creating inconsistent results across studies. Similarly, there are a variety of operational definitions of recidivism, ranging from re-arrest to conviction for a subsequent violent crimes.

This can be problematic because it assumes that the offender will be caught and reported after committing a subsequent offense. In reality, violent offenses are not reported to the authorities in 85 percent to 90 percent of cases. ( Kimberly, 2003) Further, in the United States, the lack of a national reporting requirement for convicted offenders has made it difficult to track offender recidivism, particularly if an offender moves from one state to another.

Despite these limitations in convicted offender research, several studies have attempted to determine and compare the recidivism rates of convicted offenders who have undergone treatment to those who have not. In one study, Janus and Meehl estimated that a "20 percent base rate for those who have been incarcerated seems reasonable as a low-end estimate" for a group of convicted offenders set to be released from prison. This study reported that 45 percent was an accurate upper estimate of untreated sex offender recidivism.

In a randomized controlled study, Marques and colleagues reported data from convicted offenders who volunteered for "treatment" and "no treatment:" finding higher recidivism rates for untreated convicted offenders. ( J. K. Marques, 1994) A survey of this and other studies supported the finding that treatment decreases recidivism among Convicted offenders, indicating that in one study, nearly three-fourths of untreated convicted offenders re-offend, compared to one-eighth of offenders receiving treatment.

( Lucy, 1998) In more recent research, Lowden and colleagues found that convicted offenders who did not participate in treatment were 8. 5 times more likely to be arrested for a violent crime in the first twelve months after release from prison or discharge from parole. This study also found a correlation between severity of criminal history and eventual recidivism, and reported that offenders who were re-arrested tended to be younger on average, more likely never to have been married, and more often non-Anglo. ( Kerry, 2003)

This paper will describe one model program specially designed to provide intensive supervision of conditionally released convicted offenders in the US, and will discuss how theories of rehabilitation are concurrently enacted into treatment and balanced with public safety concerns. As early as the 1930s, American criminal laws began to acknowledge that certain sex offenders needed specialized treatment. In 1938, the Illinois legislature enacted a civil commitment statute for offenders known as the Criminal Sexual.

l As an alternative to traditional imprisonment, this law and similar statutes in other states allowed indefinite hospitalization for convicted offenders, as well as allowing for detention and supervision. By 1960, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia had some form of psychopath statute allowing for the treatment of convicted offenders in lieu of punishment. ( The Illinois Sexually Dangerous Persons Act, 1988) In the decades to follow, however, treatment of sex offenders was found to be largely ineffective, and growing numbers of persons convicted of reincorporated into the general prison system.

In 1977, the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry publicly called for the repeal of sex offender treatment statutes due to their reliance on questionable predictions of dangerousness, and the lack of effective treatment. ( Mental Health Materials Ctr, 1997) As a result of these concerns, as well as civil rights issues, half of the states that had psychopath laws in 1960 had repealed them by 1990. ( Gary, 1991) In the early 1990s, the attention of the nation was drawn to the risks of harm posed by individuals convicted of offenses once again.

All 50 states enacted registration acts requiring convicted offenders to register with the state, and to provide certain personal information to law enforcement officials and ultimately, to other members of the community in which they live and work. ( Small, 1995) Recently, a Connecticut convicted offender registration statute was challenged as violating the right to procedural due process for convicted offenders. On appeal, the United States Supreme Court upheld the convicted offender registry law. ( S. Ct.

, 2003) In his concurring opinion, Justice Scalia asserted that even if registration requirements infringe on a convicted offender's liberty interest, "the categorical abrogation of the liberty interest by a validly enacted statute suffices to provide all the process that is due–just as a state law providing that no one under the age of 16 may operate a motor vehicle suffices to abrogate that liberty interest. "( Id at 1165) Based on this reasoning, a convicted offender has no right to establish that "he is not dangerous [any more than…

a 15-year-old boy has a right to process enabling him to establish that he is a safe driver. "( Id. Scalia) Overall, the publicity surrounding Megan's Law and related legislation triggered American society's newly found sensitivity to and awareness of individuals who violate the law by committing sex offenses. Currently, there is greater concern for public safety interests. Recognizing that incarceration by itself does not guarantee that convicted offenders will not re-offend once released, state legislatures have shown a renewed interest in enacting treatment statutes for convicted offenders over the past decade.