Kat’s Blog: Does Law Enforcement Belong In Your Group Setting?

Therapeutic treatment groups, no matter what kind, are usually carefully monitored settings where one can feel safe enough to talk about very personal and intimate issues.

“Sex offender” treatment groups should be no exception. The therapeutic groups that many registrants are mandated to attend are also supposed to be safe havens, settings where registrants can open up in a group of their peers, about difficult issues they are dealing with.
So why are parole officers sitting in on “sex offender” therapy treatment sessions?

It doesn’t seem right and it doesn’t seem ethical.

According to the US Justice Dept., registrant treatment involves information sharing and strategies between law enforcement and treatment professionals. OK, so far I kind of agree with this. If you are involved in court mandated treatment and have a parole officer, then according to what I’ve read, these two entities will be sharing information about you, establishing goals for your treatment and collaborating to supposedly help you succeed. (Well, in theory it sounds good.)

But why should parole officers be sitting in on therapy sessions at all? Therapy sessions that are supposedly so private that according to the government, the groups must abide by all HIPPA rules. In therapy sessions, group or private, you are a patient and what’s discussed between you and the mental health professional facilitating the group should be on a “need to know” basis for your P.O.

I can almost guarantee that if you are in a financial position where you can afford to pay for “private” one on one “sex offender” treatment, a private therapist is not going to allow a P.O. to sit in on your therapy session. Therapy is a confidential matter and unless a therapist specifically receives your permission to invite someone into a session because they feel it might somehow be beneficial or offer insight into your treatment issues, uninvited “guests” just don’t happen.

While sex offender guidelines may vary from state to state it would seem that not everything discussed in these settings is or should be fodder for the ears of any and all law enforcement. There’s a great difference between a therapist sharing pertinent information about a client with that particular client’s P.O. and having a P.O. sit in on a group and listen to information about folks that aren’t even on their caseload.

Few people want to be in mandated treatment. A lot of folks aren’t delighted with the idea of having to spill their guts every week in a group setting with a lot of strangers. Now add the fact that you are having to pay for these “therapy” sessions with your hard earned money and there are strangers, P.O.’s that have nothing to do with you, listening to your every word. Do you feel “safe & secure” in opening up in treatment? Are you getting your money’s worth out of these group sessions ?

It just doesn’t seem right, does it? It certainly doesn’t seem ethical. And, I wonder if it’s at all legal.

The odd thing is that there isn’t anywhere in any sex offender treatment rules that I’ve read where it says P.O.’s are or aren’t allowed to sit in on group therapy sessions. What they are entitled to is to have information “shared” if the therapist feels that something discussed in group would be important for the P.O. to know about, new offenses committed, suicidal or homicidal thoughts someone may have discussed, those sorts of things. Just sitting in group, like “a fly on the wall”, listening to details of everyone’s lives, I really don’t think that’s what’s supposed to be happening in group sessions. Other than for intimidation purposes, why would any P.O. need to be there?

Law enforcement doesn’t belong in a therapeutic setting where registrants are having to pay for the right to speak freely about their issues. Maybe this is a non-issue in some group settings, perhaps P.O.’s in some places “know their place” and don’t try to ingratiate themselves into a group treatment setting that they have no business being in.

But the fact remains, this is happening in places and it’s disturbing to think that registrants are not receiving the same “therapeutic privacy consideration” as clients in similar treatment settings. “Sex offender” group therapy can hardly be considered HIPPA compliant when law enforcement can randomly decide to sit in on therapy sessions for no particular reason.

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I go to group. in the 2 years i been going the PO has come ONCE. we were told he would be there so conversation was muted.

I thought it was a bad idea and said so the previous group. The reason group works is we are honest and hold each other accountable for our actions. IF someone is not being truthfull we call them on it. Though MOST eventually just be as honest as they can.

With the PO in we didn’t talk much.

You keep calling it therapy. It’s mostly not. Mostly its “containment” and when viewed through that lense it makes a lot more sense the PO’s dictate the polygraph questions and sit in on session. Their goals are to make money, reduce the perception of liability and contain. Beyond that there are individual therapists that can be good, but compared to real group therapy it’s nothing like it. Over and over again I was told the group wasn’t for support and that if I wanted that, I would have to find it elsewhere. Last point, if given the choice they will always retain people in treatment. Only in areas forced to complete clients do they let them go, a few dsy before their completion of parole….

PO’S in “therapy” enhance polygraphs. Polygraphs are obviously fear based interrogation devices. Without them who would implicate themselves. A true symbiotic relationship. Sex offender “therapy” is inherently not treatment. It is a condition of parole or probation. A very good way to dig out any rule infractions, or attempt to seek out old or new charges. I began my probation in sex addiction therapy. A very different feel from sex offender therapy. I’ve stayed in this general program for many years. The program has evolved to include many probation and parole “offenders”. Currently the therapist is a liason in the eyes of DOC and a liason in the eyes of clients on paper (due to the polygraphs ). If there is trust both ways it almost works. The therapist has some input on reducing the B…sh.. that is the polygraph. The true fail is the existence of the polygraph and the DOC’S blind reliance on it. Get on the bad side of a PO and the polygraph can become a tool to inflict much misery. The sex offender treatment system as it exists is as broken as the registry is. Being able to have group therapy where the DOC is not in attendance is essential to successful treatment. Having polygraphs is not beneficial to treatment. Having therapists who tell all to a PO is not treatment. Certainly this is a big $ business. Poligraphers would be s… out of luck with out $ex offenders. But $ex addiction therapy would still be booming.

It’s “containment” in NY. I openly call it probation #2. There is no individualized “treatment plan.” There is no individualized goals whatsoever. None.

6 years of probation is 6 years of this crap. Every Week. 10 years of probation is 10 years of this crap. Every week. $$$ NY sex offender probation loves the polygraph. $$$

I was in treatment for a number of years. There were group sessions and individual sessions.

In not one was a PO present.

But I was required to sign away my rights to privacy and advised that reports were sent to my PO.

Because we did have individuals who were NOT mandated in the group, I doubt transcripts were sent. That would have opened a whole squirmier kettle of fish.

Today, in the more general surveillance state (both government and commercial), my only comment is “welcome to my world”.

The only reason PO’s attend is to gather intel to use against YOU in the future. It’s NOT to see that you’re “taking ownership.”

Be careful not to overshare or volunteer info on your case specifics or thought patterns.

This conversation makes me feel all the better about the therapy I was mandated to go through. Though I was free to choose whomever I wanted, the PO strongly encouraged I use a particular one. With more than a little caution, I took him up on it and am glad I did. It was pretty laid back, individual sessions. Though the therapist could have given my polygraphs if he felt it necessary, it was wholly up to him and/or my PO. (Thankfully my PO offloaded all those decisions to the therapist!) I had already done some therapy on my own ahead of time, so I was able to provide those records to the mandated guy.

I started out on weekly sessions, but it quickly faded to semi-monthly, then monthly, then every 6 weeks. After about 10 months he was ready to sign me off, but decided it would look better (for both of us) to run a bit longer. After 14 months, he sent a letter stating I had completed the required treatments using a “holistic method.” I never took a single poly, never had my wiener wrapped, never had to admit to anything else I’d done, never had to go through group, never had a PO sit in. And it was all covered by my health insurance.

Your horror stories make me realize how blessed I was and am.

Ten years of probation, 10 years of weekly group therapy for me. No POs were ever present. No one ever got out before completing their term of supervision. I felt like my therapist was genuinely trying to help me. I didn’t always agree with his point of view, but I didn’t argue points that I knew I wouldn’t win. I was as honest as I felt I could be without putting myself in jeopardy of further prosecution.

I found much of what we discussed in group to be helpful at the time, and to this day. I focused on those parts, and dismissed the rest. But monthly progress reports were made to our probation officers, so it was important to actively participate, share, complete all assignments, and avoid expressing any opinions contrary to the accepted and approved ones.

We were required (by Probation, not by our therapist) to submit to periodic polygraph tests. I only had to do a few over the years. I dreaded those, knowing that they have no scientific validity, but I passed them all.

Court-ordered “treatment” has absolutely nothing to do with mental health. It’s strictly an additional means of supervision. Poor judgment, not mental illness, was the cause of nearly all crimes that resulted in the registrant’s conviction and sentence.

For the handful of registrants with actual, competently diagnosed mental health concerns, they are certainly not getting the treatment they genuinely require from the court ordered programs.

There are exceptions, I’m sure. But in general the whole point of “treatment” programs and polygraphs is to circumvent a parolee’s/probationer’s Fifth Amendment rights regarding other crimes.

I’m always shocked at the discussion on therapy.

I know i’m very lucky with who i go to. I have heard horror stories from others about “treatment” from having to sniff rotten meat to getting beat down emotionally every week.

The guy i go to every week (NOT mandated since i “graduated”) is effing amazing. He has helped with more then the issue that got me on the SOL. He has helped me with the trauma of being behind bars. He has helped me with the emotional impact of hurting my family and being on the list. WE don’t just talk about what brought us to the group but anything that is effecting our lives.

I have seen him help a few others. Granted most just go through the motions on what he wants to hear (he knows this too).

I know he has to give updates to my PO. it’s obvious when you talk about something in group then the next week the PO brings it up. I knew that from the start.

I also feel as if my PO is trying his damndenst to help me. He has helped me find a place to live. he has helped me with a issue on a car i got for my daughter. He seems to be taking a interest in my hobbies and things i like to talk about (lol model’s and my family).

I may be the one of the few that seems to actually have people that WANT us to succeed and not trying to set us up for failure.

In 6 years, someone’s PO only came to group twice. Both times we knew the week before and just stuck to basic stuff during those sessions. Of course, one guy accidentally made a comment about another group member and that comment made it back to that person’s PO through the visiting PO. That mistake wasnt made again.

The benefit or uselessness of therapy is across the board and obviously depends on the probationer, therapist, and PO and unless all 3 are good you wont get much out of it.

I could have been free of group after 3 years, but stayed in and went every other week instead of weekly for another 3 years in “aftercare” because the PO was much more likely to sign off on special travel and event requests if a therapist signed off first. Made my life much easier that way as I really did anything I wanted with my kids. The PO knows as long as a therapist signs off, his liability drops substantially so he is much more likely to approve stuff.

I remember getting some benefit from group the first 6 months. After that, it was more about helping others or just doing my time in “treatment” to appease the PO.