Sunday, May 13, 2007

Effectiveness of Sexual Offender Treatment Programs

Public Safety Canada has just released a research summary entitled Sexual Offender Treatment Outcome Research: CODC Guidelines for Evaluation, Part 1, Introduction and Overview. User Report 2007-02.

A committee of international experts in research evaluation was formed with a mandate to critically review the literature about the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs for offenders who have committed serious crimes, particularly sexual offenders.

On average, sexual offenders who attend treatment have lower recidivism rates than offenders who do not. These findings have not been persuasive to skeptics, however, who attribute the observed differences to bias in the way the research was conducted. Reviewers agree that most of the current studies have significant limitations, but they disagree about which studies are the most informative.

The experts did manage to define what should be the characteristics of a high quality study on the effectiveness of treatment programs. The committee identified 20 key features that should be considered when making these ratings.
"This document focuses on sexual offenders, but much of the discussion is also relevant to the evaluation of other extended, complex behavioural interventions where failure results in harm to others, where failure is not observed in treatment, and where failure may not even be noticed until years afterwards (e.g., domestic violence, impaired driving)".

(...)

"Since 1980, there have been more than 20 reviews of the effectiveness of treatment for sexual offenders. Although the treatment groups, on average, show lower recidivism rates than the comparison groups, all reviews have noted problems with the available studies, thereby limiting any strong conclusions. If the Committee’s aspirations are fulfilled, future researchers will be able to present conclusions with increasing confidence and precision, and future reviewers will be better able to evaluate treatment outcome research.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:45 pm

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