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General News

Can Bad Men Change? What It’s Like Inside Sex Offender Therapy

The men file in, a few wearing pressed button-down shirts, others jeans caked in mud from work on a construction site. They meet in the living room of an old taupe bungalow on a leafy street in a small Southern city.

Someone has shoved a workout bike into the corner to make room for a circle of overstuffed chairs dug up at the local Goodwill. The men jockey for a coveted recliner and settle in. They are complaining about co-workers and debating the relative merits of various trucks when a faint beeping interrupts the conversation. One man picks up a throw pillow and tries to muffle the sound of the battery running low on his ankle bracelet, a reminder of why they are all there. Full Article (Time Magazine)

Join the discussion

  1. kat

    Unfortunately, and as always, the article assumes that all offenders are contact offenders.

    • George Geysen, Psy.D.

      Well, Kat, I am inclined to agree with you. I think the author did a fair job, thankfully, at representing recent research of recidivism and newer models of treatment, but I wish she had done a bit more to draw a clear distinction between contact and non-contact offenses. It was a three page article in a national magazine, so I guess she was restricted somewhat. I was happy to learn about Gundy v. U.S. and hope to learn more about that case in the fall. I was also happy to read that others note the negative effects of punishment on recidivism and that “hurt people hurt people”. Learning more about ACSOL and, as a expert in my State in both assessment and treatment, I hope to stay informed.

  2. Chicago Contact

    An extremely important and well written article. And in a very prominent journal. I anticipate this will receive attention and move our cause forward.

    Very balanced, but slightly skewed toward a more realistic and reasonable view of our situation.

    I think most of us can relate — brought back painful memories of group.

    Which case is this? “In October, the Supreme Court will consider a complicated case challenging the federal laws that govern some sex offenders. The decision could allow hundreds of thousands of convicted offenders to move more easily across state lines and eventually remove their names from the sex-offender registry.”

    • CR

      I believe the case the article is referring to is Gundy v US.

      http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/gundy-v-united-states/

      However, I don’t think it can have the impact that the article claims. The only question that SCOTUS is considering is whether the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act’s delegation of authority to the attorney general to issue regulations under 42 U.S.C. § 16913 violates the nondelegation doctrine.

      If SCOTUS decides that the delegation of authority was improper, then certain aspects of SORNA may be invalidated, such as, most notably, the retroactive application of it.

      That would be a huge win for many of us, but I would expect it to be short-lived. Congress will simply amend SORNA to make it retroactive, rather than allow that to be adopted by delegation to the AG.

      • Chris F (confused)

        I’m confused.

        What affect does any win or loss against federal SORNA have on anyone?

        All registration laws are created by the individual State’s, and though based on federal SORNA they are in no way affected by it. Unless an individual State delegated authority to it’s own AG improperly then their legislature defined their implementation of SORNA and it will stand as is in each state.

        • AJ

          @Chris F:
          In a word: momentum. I’ll take any and every win against any and every SORNA/SORA there is. The more it changes, the more it changes.

        • Chris F (@AJ)

          I’ll agree that any wins can help change at least some public opinion and hopefully the opinions of judges.

          I just know that historically state’s don’t budge on much unless it comes from their own Supreme Court or national laws get passed to counter it. Texas didn’t budge for 10 years on desegregating schools after SCOTUS ruled it unconstitutional after all. It’s a shame they have no real enforcement power or if they do, refuse to use it.

    • George Geysen, Psy.D.

      Gundy v. U.S.

  3. CR

    No time to read the article right now. So can someone tell me… what was the author’s answer to the question?

  4. John G

    ” The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case challenging the limits of the registry in its October term. ”

    Pardon my ignorance, but which case are they talking about ?

    Then the article says this:
    ” Even if that suit fails, civil rights proponents and victim advocates will likely confront each other again in the nation’s highest court. A Colorado federal judge recently ruled that the state’s sex-offender registry is unconstitutional. ”

    So then the Colorado case which ruled their registry unconstitutional is ” likely ” to go to the Supreme Court ?

    • CR

      The Colorado case has been appealed already to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The expectation is that whichever side loses in the 10th Circuit will appeal to SCOTUS.

    • SCOTUS SAVE US NOW

      Gundy v. United States is the case I believe…

    • AJ

      Time for me to pull out my time-worn mantra: Every RC case will always be appealed as far and as high as possible because 1) the State is absolutely positive it’s needed for public safety and 2) the RC is absolutely positive his/her rights and liberties are being trampled.

  5. Anonymous

    The entire premise is flawed from the start. The question “Can bad men change” makes too many assumptions to be viable for a conversation of any merit.

    They and others dealing with the registry should ask the easier to answer question: “Can people who have made bad choices make better choices moving forward?” That’d be a start. The answer is an obvious yes.

    Another important question would be “Should we be targeting a single group of people and mandating therapy when they have already served their prison time?” Again, an obvious no for an answer.

    An even better question would be “Given the mountain of evidence showing registries do not increase public safety, can we justify the financial and human cost of keeping them operational?” Everyone should have realized a long time ago the answer to this is no.

    Those are the questions I would prefer to see on the cover of Time. Considering the extreme resurgence of sensational journalism in the age of clickbait however, I’m not holding my breath.

    • Janice Bellucci

      You have identified great questions to ask. Questions that could help ACSOL and others to focus our efforts and to communicate more effectively with others. Thank you.

  6. Gralphr

    Either way, I find much of the article a joke. Yes, therapy can help people, but real therapy where people can feel comfortable and let it all out with a psychologist. Not an environmental designed to embarrass and demean said people. From a psychological standpoint, and the article, some of these “professionals” seem to enjoy speaking down on said offenders and that in itself is a problem. I was never ordered to take a treatment class, but did go to a few to see what it was like and the lady told me to admit I’m capable of a sexual crime, which I agreed. After all, I’m human and am capable of any crime INCLUDING HER! She didn’t care for the answer much and I didnt care. She then started threatening to have some of the guys parole revoked since she felt they didnt open up enough, even though each guy had vastly different crimes and some should have been completely separate from the group (one guy also had sex with animals) which caused some of the men to snicker and look at the man with disgust which only caused him to close up even more. The second time I went the lady said I owed money but I was told I wouldn’t have to pay a dime and I told her that, which she then stated sending guys back to prison for not paying and threw hints at me which I told her I wasn’t under probation or parole and wasn’t court ordered to attend the meetings and from then on it was like she hated my guts even though I fully participated. After four meetings I stopped going and feel the right psychologist could really help people, but some SHOULDN’T be teaching said classes. That happened many years ago and I’ve always lived my life crime free with my wife and children, but hey, I’m dangerous and could hurt someone any second and dont deserve a second chance at life…………..

    • John

      Excellent comments. I was required to attend “treatment” for two and a half years (at $90 a session). It was nothing like actual treatment I had voluntarily participated in because the court-ordered program looked at us as criminals with a high risk of reoffending, not as humans capable of change. The head of the program repeatedly spouted “facts” about sex offenders I found highly dubious and have never seen reported anywhere else. For instance, she said that those who viewed/collected child pornography were likely to now go out and physically assault a child because their access to the Internet was limited!

  7. Tim Moore

    By this article’s logic, I was a good man, before I committed my offense. That was because I had not yet committed a sex offense to make me bad. It has been 18 years since I committed a sex offense. During those years I actually did some good things, too. Often. Am I a good man or a bad man now therapist, mam. Is it saying things the right way, or not committing the crime that matters?

  8. Harry

    Yes and yes!

  9. wonderin

    Perhaps a better question would be: What does it take to allow any offender an unfettered lifestyle?

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