Supervision and Treatment of Sex Offenders-DC Public Safety Television

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2013/03/supervision-and-treatment-of-sex-offenders-dc-public-safety-television/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: Hi, and welcome to DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s show is on the supervision and treatment of sex offenders and there are few topics that gather more media and criminological interest than sex offenders. It’s our contention at my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, that we employ state-of-the-art strategies for the supervision of sex offenders. To discuss national standards on sex offenders, we are proud to have Scott Matson, Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, and also we have Thomas Williams, the Associate Director of Community Supervision Services. Again from my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and to Scott and Tom, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Scott Matson: Well, thanks for having me.

Tom Williams: Thank you.

Len Sipes: It’s an important topic and a complicated topic, and people really are interested in this whole concept of sex offenders. Scott, the first question goes to you. Who are sex offenders?

Scott Matson: Well thanks, Len. That’s a good question. It’s a tough one too because what we know is that there isn’t a typical offender. They can come from any walk of life, all walks of life. They can be focused just on children. They can be focused on adults only. They can be focused on women. They can be focused on little girls, little boys. They could cross over as well. So to say that there’s one type of sex offender just isn’t quite accurate.

Len Sipes: But when you talk to somebody in the public, when you say “sex offender,” they immediately have a stereotype in their minds as to who that person is, and one of the ideas and one of the reasons for doing the show today is to get across the complexity of what we’re calling the sex offender and the difficulty in terms of supervising that person and treating that person.

Scott Matson: That’s right, and most people think of the sex offender as a stranger, somebody who might jump out of a bush to steal a child or rape a woman. We know that that’s just not what most sex offenders are. Most sex offenders are known to their victims. Most sex offenders commit their offenses within the context of a relationship, which again, makes it very easy for the sex offender to manipulate the victim in those contexts because they know their victims.

Len Sipes: That’s a key issue; they know their victims in the majority of cases. The majority of child sex offenders know their victim, the majority of victims know their offender, the majority of people say in say rape settings, sexual assault settings, it happens in their home or the home of the offender. So it’s not the stereotype of the woman cutting through the alley and getting raped, although that does happen. The bulk of it per data that just came out happens within a residential setting amongst somebody who they know.

Scott Matson: That’s right, and that makes supervision strategies and treatment strategies very important to tailor them to the type of offender that you know you have in your midst, the offender that’s on your caseload. Once they’re caught and convicted, then you know a little bit more about them but until they’re caught and convicted, you really don’t know who they are.

Len Sipes: And Tom, that’s one of the reasons why, when you do – you’re in charge of Supervision Services at Court Services and Offender Supervision, and we have 16,000 offenders on any given day, 25,000 offenders in any given year – on any given day there’s about 700, round it off, sex offenders that you’re in charge of supervising, and you start off with what, some sort of an analysis as to who that person is to get to the complexity issue that Scott just raised.

Tom Williams: Well, that’s very true, and this dovetailing with what Scott was mentioning, the sex offenders can come from any walk of life, so there isn’t one particular individual that somebody should be concerned about or one particular profile that someone could be concerned about. What the public really needs to understand is that they just have to have high-level vigilance with regards to who they have in their midst, whether it’s a child if you’re going to drop them off at the daycare or with the little league, and so that there’s certain standards that these organizations have to have with regards to checking on the backgrounds of folks in boy scouts and things like that, leaders. But the other things that really can help the public with regards to staying vigilant is there’s a sex offender registry that’s open to the public, that anyone can go online if they have access to a computer. They actually go and see, is this person that I’m involved in, is he really on the rolls of criminal justice, is he known to criminal justice. And in some of our outreach to public school systems, for an example, we also really encourage them to make sure that they do check the sex offender registry, certainly as a higher requirement in terms of checking the background of an individual, but that’s something that’s very quick that they can do, just go to the registry, run an application, and then check and see if the person’s listed.

Len Sipes: And we’re going to have you on the second half with Dr. Celena Gates to talk about the treatment, and again, the supervision and treatment of sex offenders. But Scott, we talked about the fact that we have 700. Here we’re talking about somewhere in the ballpark of people under parole and probation supervision throughout the country currently, not the past but currently, and we’re about 200,000?

Scott Matson: That’s correct according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, and there’s about over 700,000 people on sex offender registries?

Scott Matson: Somewhere around 720,000 that are registered in the U.S.

Len Sipes: So that’s an immense number of people.

Scott Matson: Yes.

Len Sipes: And we in the criminal justice system, we’re responsible for public safety number one, but that’s an immense task for both of us, so let me talk a little bit about that because Tom brought it up and I think the public wants to understand, what do we tell parents, what do we tell individuals, principally women? The vast majority of people who are victimized, sexually victimized, are women although men are sexually victimized as well but it’s 80% I think and higher women who are sexually abused, children who are sexually abused, so let’s start off with parents. What do we tell the parents about age-appropriate conversations, letting them know that they can always come to them and have a conversation about what happened to them?

Scott Matson: That’s right, and the thing you have to stress the most is for the parents to be involved in the children’s lives so they know who they’re talking to, so they know who they’re around all the time, they know who’s paying a lot of attention to them, and as you mentioned, age-appropriate conversations. I think it’s important to start early. I think a lot of advocates in this area, in the sexual assault prevention realm, will talk about starting as young as 4 or 5, and getting them to talk about this is part of a safety kinds of planning, and continuing that conversation as they get older and into their teens, and eventually into adulthood. – Ways of protecting themselves, families, it’s always a good idea to come up with a safety plan and what to do if something might happen to a child or youth in the house. There’s some really good resources out there too for this, and I’m not speaking of anything of the work I’ve done necessarily but there are lots of good advocacy organizations out there that have done really good work.

Len Sipes: And we’re going to put up the website.

Scott Matson: Yeah. I think you’re going to put up our website, which is smart.gov, and I would like to make a plug also for the National Sex Offender Public Website. Tom mentioned DC’s public website. There’s a National Sex Offender Public Website where you can search from one place all the registries throughout the entire country.

Len Sipes: Exactly, and we’ll put that website on the program throughout the program so people can have access to that. – But it’s principally age-appropriate conversations. The child must know that he or she can say anything to their parents because in some cases, a sex offender will commit the act and say that your parents will never love you again if you tell your parents this.

Scott Matson: That’s right. That’s a common theme in grooming behaviors with sex offenders, especially child molesters.

Tom Williams: I think the message should go a little bit further than just parents because a lot of times the child may not be in a position to actually talk to the parents so an adult, someone that they have trust with.

Len Sipes: Okay. Good point.

Tom Williams: It might be a minister in a church or a deacon in a church, or it could be a school teacher, or someone that they really feel close to that they can then relay that information to, a police officer for an example. A lot of police officers do a lot of outreach in school systems right now, so I think instead of saying parents, because certainly you want the child to go to the parent if possible but sometimes the child may not be in a position to feel comfortable about that and so any adult, any responsible adult, I should say, would qualify that, that they should be speaking.

Len Sipes: Good point, good point. And any adult that the child trusts.

Tom Williams: Right.

Len Sipes: In terms of older individuals, again, it’s whose home you go into. It’s who you let into your home. The vast majority of these per research just the other day were committed within residential settings, not necessarily the stereotype, although it does happen, like I said, the stereotype of walking through the back of the alley. It’s happening in homes so it is a matter of who you trust, is it not?

Scott Matson: Right. It’s again, who’s in your life, and most of those crimes are committed in the context of a relationship.

Len Sipes: So a person has to know who they’re willing to trust, and understanding that if you don’t trust that person, don’t let them into your house, don’t go into their home.

Scott Matson: Right.

Tom Williams: That’s a very good point, and that gives my message about vigilance. The parents or significant others really have to be vigilant with regards to who’s involved with that child or in a relationship they’d like to establish as well. I mean, the vigilance is the key thing that we have to be ensured, that we want the public to be understanding.

Len Sipes: Okay. The other part of the program that I wanted to set up beyond the complexity of what we call the sex offender is the sense of national standards. Now Scott, you and I were talking before the program that there are no national standards. The American Probation and Parole Association, National Institute of Corrections, other organizations have come out with recommendations, and in terms of what it is that we in Parole and Probations should be doing in terms of supervising sex offenders, can you give me a sense as to what some of those are?

Scott Matson: Sure. Yeah, as you mentioned, there aren’t any national standards but there are recommendations and there are some things that research does show to be a little more effective.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Scott Matson: I think it really starts with the idea of what we call risk needs and responsivity that is assessing the risk of the offender, the risk that they pose to reoffend and the harm they might pose, then assessing what the needs are of the offender, both what they need to help them stop the behavior and what we need to do to make sure that they don’t continue to commit it.

Len Sipes: So we have to assess and figure out who they are —

Scott Matson: — and then finally develop intervention strategies, supervision plans, treatment plans that address their needs and the risk.

Len Sipes: Based upon that analysis as to who they are.

Scott Matson: Who they are, exactly, so who, what, and who, what, and how I think is a good way to think of it.

Len Sipes: But there has to be treatment involved to some degree for those people who are amenable to treatment?

Scott Matson: That’s right. I think that what most of the research says is that treatment is effective overall with sex offenders. There are some kinds of offenders that might be “lower risk,” quote-unquote, that might not benefit as much from treatment as the higher-risk or moderate-risk offenders but treatment is an integral part of any supervision strategy, any reentry strategy for sex offenders.

Len Sipes: But I would imagine some of those recommendations are going to be a small caseload. I mean, some parole and probation agencies carry 150, 200 people per one parole and probation agent. In the District of Columbia we call them Community Supervision Officers, so the caseload’s got to be appropriate.

Scott Matson: Right, and a lot of the jurisdictions that use more specialized kinds of supervision tactics for sex offenders will have much lower caseload sizes so we’re talking 25-to-1 or 20-to-1, sometimes with a surveillance officer as well to check in on the offender off-hours, and usually this is all involved with the treatment provider closely at hand so they are understanding what those supervision strategies are so they’re in constant communication with the supervision officers.

Len Sipes: It has to be done as a team. Where it’s appropriate, there’s no separation between supervision and treatment. It has to run hand-in-hand.

Scott Matson: It really does. They have talk to each other, they have to really collaborate, and in some jurisdictions, a polygraph examiner is also involved.

Len Sipes: A polygraph examiner. Tom, now the question goes to you, we do all that. That’s one of the things that I want to make clear is that the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, every national standard that’s ever been promulgated, your unit already does that. And how do you think it applies to sex offenders?

Tom Williams: That’s true, and what we’ve done is actually looked at the research and then, as the series of meetings within the organization, determine what’s the best way that we can actually manage this group when they come out. But one other point that I would like to say is certainly it’s a responsibility of the Supervision Agency to help manage and control this population when they come out but also it begins within the correctional setting as well. If you look at the 1.5 million folks who are incarcerated, about 10% or maybe 150,000 of them have been diagnosed or classified as sex offenders within the institution.

Len Sipes: Wow.

Tom Williams: Well, when you look at the lack of resources, that many of the state and maybe the federal systems don’t have because of budget cuts, we know that what gets cut first is naturally treatment but I think the institutions try to do a very good job in trying to identify folks who actually need services and then try to start that process right there. So when a person really comes into the institution from intake or reception, that’s when the identification has to happen and that’s when the plan really should start there to help that person before he actually gets distributed.

Len Sipes: So it has to be holistic across the board from the correctional institution to parole and probation but oftentimes that doesn’t happen.

Scott Matson: No. In an ideal world, that’s what would happen.

Len Sipes: That’s what would happen but that, I mean, that’s the unique part about our agency, and I’m sorry to use this as a forum to boast about our agency, but we do all that stuff now. Our offenders go to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and they’re a bit more resource advantaged than most correctional settings.

Tom Williams: That’s true, and then when those folks are actually identified within the institutional setting, prior to being released, then we work basically on a release plan or reentry plan for those individuals, and certainly there are halfway houses within the district where a person can transition from the maintaining institution to the community, you know, where they can go and then we kind of collaborate on those services. We get that information and send it to the institution, and then we follow-up on our cases when they come out.

Len Sipes: We only have a couple of minutes left. Let’s talk about how difficult this is. I can’t think of a more difficult caseload. I mean, I looked at a Google search this morning on the last couple days, these are national articles on sex offenders, there’s 50. I mean, this is just 50 in the last couple days. They’re a difficult population to supervise, correct, any one of you?

Tom Williams: Well, absolutely. This population is difficult but as Scott mentioned, the key thing for us is assessment. I mean, you have to determine the assessment right out front in terms of who you have. That’s where your information from the institutional side is actually transferred to the community supervision side so that we don’t be duplicating work that’s already been initiated and started; but once we actually do the identification through the assessment process, then as Scott mentioned, then we have to develop that plan of action and that’s where collaboration is key between supervision staff as well as the treatment staff with regards to what are the plans that we need to mitigate that risk for that individual, and it can’t be a one-size-fits all, it has to be specific to that individual and specific to that offense.

Len Sipes: And we have the resources here at Washington, D.C., to do that. Scott, a final sense as to the difficulty of offenders, the type of offender to supervise?

Scott Matson: Sure. I think that they can be quite difficult, and when you talk to a lot of probation officers who might be new to this or who didn’t receive any specialized training, they might say something along the lines, “Well, sex offenders are my easiest probation.”

Len Sipes: They’re compliant, aren’t they?

Scott Matson: Because they’ll oftentimes follow the rules, they don’t want to get in trouble; they don’t want to rock the boat.

Len Sipes: They could be grooming the officer; they could be grooming the psychologist.

Scott Matson: Exactly, just like they groom parents, they groom children, they could be grooming the treatment provider, they could be grooming the supervision officer. So again, it’s really crucial to do that assessment, to get involved in the offenders’ lives, and make sure you know what they’re doing.

Len Sipes: Scott, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, look for us on the second half as we continue this extraordinarily interesting issue of the supervision and the treatment of sex offenders. Stay right there. We’ll be right back.

[Music Playing]

Second Half: Hi, and welcome back to DC Public Safety. I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes, and we continue to discuss sex offender supervision, and our guests for the second half are Thomas Williams, the Associate Director of Community Supervision Services, my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and Dr. Celena Gates, CSOSA’s Director of Treatment for our Sex Offender Program, and Dr. Gates and Tom, welcome to DC Public Safety, and Tom, welcome back from the first half.  I can’t think, again, of a more difficult topic than this whole concept of sex offender management, sex offender treatment. We talked with Scott Matson on the first half from the Department of Justice to gain a sense of the enormity of this whole concept. You know, there are hundreds of thousands of people out there that we consider sex offenders that we and the criminal justice system have to deal with. There are 700 in the District of Columbia. Treatment is an extraordinarily important part of the process. Treatment and supervision seem to go hand-in-hand. Dr. Gates, you came from a maximum-security prison, did you not, in terms of your background?

Dr. Celena Gates: I did. My first job was at a juvenile facility called Culpepper in Virginia, yeah.

Len Sipes: Wow, and so you came from that process to CSOSA?

Dr. Celena Gates: Not directly but I work in a private practice setting at this point that works with sex offenders so it was through that practice that we developed a relationship with CSOSA and provide the sex offender treatment services for that agency.

Len Sipes: So you’ve got a lot of experience as well as the academic training in terms of dealing with sex offenders.

Dr. Celena Gates: Oh absolutely, sure.

Len Sipes: Is this group of people as complex as we made it out on the first half because when I discuss sex offenders to friends, family, again, they have this image in their mind that’s pretty simplistic. It’s not simplistic at all, is it?

Dr. Celena Gates: Not at all, and this is the way that it should be discussed. It should be discussed as a complex group of people who are not homogenous, who have a lot of differences between them, and who are best handled when that’s well understood. It’s when the idea is that they are the same that people make mistakes and misjudgments, and don’t do what’s in the community’s best interest or for that matter the offender’s best interest.

Len Sipes: Right, and we talked about, Tom and I and Scott in the first half, about the assessment process and the crucial sense of getting to know who this person is because there’s such a huge difference between some who lays in wait – we call it in the criminal justice system “malice aforethought.” It’s planned. Their sexual assault is planned versus somebody who’s grooming a child over the course of months versus somebody who does the wrong thing, it’s clearly illegal, but we don’t have a history of sex or criminal offense for that person. That’s the level of complexity we’re dealing with, right?

Dr. Celena Gates: It is, and that level of complexity is a part of who they are. It’s also a part of how we treat them. It’s a part of their management. It’s a part of their future. Keeping those differences and those distinctions in mind is what contributes to the success of dealing with this population.

Len Sipes: Tom, our problem is that the public, all they want is safety. They want to be protected, they’re afraid of the sex offender, and when they hear – I mean again, when I talked about it in the first half, 50 articles from around the country on sex offenders basically doing something wrong over the course of the last couple – 50. They get a lot of publicity. When it happens to us, the media comes to me, comes to you, and says, “Why?” – And the people don’t seem to have a full grasp as to how difficult this is, how complex it is, and the resources you give to it.

Tom Williams: Well, that’s exactly right. In the public’s mind, if you put these folks away and throw away their key, they’d be just as happy but we recognize that you can’t really imprison folks for a long period of time.

Len Sipes: You can’t put everybody in prison. That’s impossible.

Tom Williams: No, you can’t, and punishment is not going to be sufficient to – well, punishment is sufficient to I guess suppress deviate behavior but eventually the person needs to get treatment. So our studies are indicating, in terms of the length of stay that folks have been in prison before they come out, you know, we have a much older population on the CSOSA with regards to sex offenses. Only 6% of our population are under 25 but a large majority of our population are between the age of 40 and 60 so you know they’ve spent significant periods of time incarcerated.  But when they come to us, the important thing that we attempt to do is we have our own assessment with regards to the risk to reoffend but when we also have collaborations with Dr. Gates and her group, there’s an additional assessment that’s done as well, so that establishment is looking at what’s that risk to that individual with regards to his future sex offending.

Len Sipes: And we have smaller caseloads, we use polygraph, we have specially-trained community supervision officers. What most people know as parole and probation agents, we call them community supervision officers in Washington, D.C. So the case load is fairly small, they’re well-trained, they use GPS surveillance in some cases, they use polygraph in some cases, correct, so we do it right is the point.

Tom Williams: Well, we do do it right but we are extremely fortunate with regard to the caliber of CSOs, of men and women that work in this particular program. First of all they have a passion for their work, which is really key, and they are well-educated with regards to their advanced degrees, and also they are well-educated with regards to additional training in this discipline. So they come to the agency with a wealth of knowledge, and we too increase that knowledge base while they’re with us. But the important thing that really helps us a lot in terms of managing this population well is the relationship that the CSO has with the treatment provider and the polygraph.

Len Sipes: Right, and that gets back to Dr. Gates. I mean, that’s one of the unique things. You’re not on your own. This is an entire organization surrounding you and supporting you, and supporting what you and the staff does in terms of getting at what’s causing this issue with people for their own good and for public safety.

Dr. Celena Gates: Um-hum. That collaboration is key, and that word was mentioned a couple of times in the first segment. It’s relevant this population in a way that perhaps isn’t the same for other types of offenders or other types of mental health issues. The collaboration and working together, and having a complete, accurate understanding of the who the offender is, what his risk issues are, when he’s likely to be more or less at risk, what can be done about those situations, who can intervene – all of those are very, very complicated questions but they can be answered, they can be effectively addressed if everyone is working together, communicating consistently and effectively, there’s cross-training. There are a number of different ways that we can make that effective.

Len Sipes: Some of these offenders are obviously in denial in terms of their own acts and how culpable they are in terms of their own acts, correct?

Dr. Celena Gates: Yes, they are. They can start off that way.

Len Sipes: They can start off that way.

Dr. Celena Gates: This is not the easiest subject to talk about, you can imagine, and the stigma associated with being a sex offender is incredibly difficult. So they’ve often had to go through the judicial process of that, whatever that entailed, and now they’re being asked to hold themselves accountable to it again, and a lot of them feel like, “I’ve done my penance,” so to speak.

Len Sipes: Yeah, they’ve served time in prison and they’re coming out, and suddenly they’re in a small caseload and they’re —

Dr. Celena Gates: There’s an awful lot of attention being paid to them.

Len Sipes: We at Court Services, we really do have a high level of contact with the people under our supervision, we really do, so they’re having that high level of contact and then they have you to deal with.

Dr. Celena Gates: Coming in saying, “Let’s talk about this more.”

Len Sipes: Yeah, let’s talk about this more.

Dr. Celena Gates: And so that can be incredibly difficult on a lot of levels – emotionally in terms of their relationships with family, what it’s going to mean for their lives, and that sort of thing. But part of what we try to do is give them a sense that, although we’re talking about the past, we’re talking about behaviors that perhaps they’re embarrassed about – and rightfully so, should be – but we’re doing so for the purpose of moving forward. We want them to understand their risk factors. We want them to understand their behaviors. We want them to have the tools that they need to avoid engaging in future problematic behaviors. As was mentioned earlier, most offenders are not the jump-out-of-the-bushes kind of guy. They’re guys who have gotten themselves into situations that they themselves may not fully understand, and that’s part of the task is to help them understand how this benefits them, how it benefits the people in their lives, and obviously then ultimately that translates to having safer communities.

Len Sipes: When I talk to community supervision officers, oftentimes I get the sense of manipulation on the part of sex offenders, that they are by trade a pretty manipulative bunch. True?

Dr. Celena Gates: I think that’s a generalization, and I think we’ve already established that it’s hard to make generalizations about the population, but there are certainly certain kinds of offenders for whom you want to pay extra attention to what they say, for whom you want to collaborate and corroborate even more than you would, but that’s the key to the assessment, really. It really is about being able to identify what a person’s particular traits and tendencies and proclivities are, and educating the people who work with them about how to operate against those, so to speak. And on the other hand, if someone isn’t manipulative, because there are offenders who don’t have that trait, then we don’t over-supervise them or over-treat them or over-analyze everything that they say.

Len Sipes: The key is the uniqueness of that individual offender. Nothing is done in a cookie-cutter approach. We design a program and a supervision strategy around that person’s uniqueness and that, Tom Williams, seems to be the key to all of this.

Tom Williams: Well it is, and the kind of behavioral treatment seems to be the one that work best with this population, and that’s the program or the theory basically that Dr. Gates and her group are integrally involved with, and all the staff are actually trained in that discipline as well. So with the combination of the treatment, the supervision, as well as the polygraph, just to look at potential deceptions that may be coming through, because we can talk to the person and they can tell us one thing but the polygraph itself will help us to determine if there’s any kind of deception that’s going on that may increase that person’s risk to reoffend in the community, and then that’s when we kind of get together with the treatment provider and say, “What is it that we’re looking at here that actually resulted in that polygraph?”

Len Sipes: Only three minutes left, very quickly, we do employ GPS so if we’re concerned through the polygraph test or any other evidence that we have with our law enforcement partners or working with the family or working with the community, we put them on GPS and we can follow them that way. We can overlay maps. We can overlay Google earth to see if there’s a playground there and that’s why he’s hanging out, correct?

Tom Williams: Well, that’s part of it. That’s one of several strategies that we use. We don’t want to say that’s something that we do for every person but it’s just one of several.

Len Sipes: I understand, but the larger issue is through treatment and through these supervision strategies and through the small case loads, but particularly treatment, we can in many cases stabilize that individual and minimize that individual’s risk to public safety. That is true, is it not?

Tom Williams: That’s exactly right, and that’s the whole key that we’re working with.

Dr. Celena Gates: That’s the goal.

Tom Williams: That’s the goal, the main goal, but also with regards to that is there comes a point in time when a person’s going to complete the services. The important thing is what’s that relapse prevention plan and how can we exercise that plan, and what are your triggers, as Dr .Gates mentioned before, that I need to be attentive to, situations that I need to not be involved in or put myself in where the potential could be for me to reoffend.

Len Sipes: And that’s an extraordinarily important point, Dr. Gates, and in the final minute or so of the program, you give them tools because they’re going to be off supervision at a certain point.

Dr. Celena Gates: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: You give them tools to carry into the future, and that may be possibly the most critical part of treatment.

Dr. Celena Gates: Indeed, I think it is. I think that often we begin the process by thinking about what the end of it will be. Once we have an understanding of who the offender is and what their risk factors are, we’re thinking about what do they need in order to stay out of situations where they talk to people like me or have to meet people like at Mr. Williams’ agency. We want them to be in the community safely, to have developed enough skills and knowledge of what their risk factors are so that they don’t reoffend.

Len Sipes: And once again, it’s all based upon the individual assessment. That’s the key here, and the individual assessment, the individual treatment, the individual supervision strategies, and those individual treatment strategies to carry that person not just a year beyond supervision but 20, 30 years beyond the supervision without reoffending.

Dr. Celena Gates: That’s the goal.

Len Sipes: And protecting public safety. That’s the bottom line, correct?

Dr. Celena Gates: That’s the goal.

Tom Williams: That’s how we can do our part to ensure that this person is healthy, maintaining good relationships, and not come back within the criminal justice system. We just can’t continue to incarcerate them and expect that’s going to have an effect versus to treatment.

Len Sipes: All right, Tom, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us for this what I consider to be extraordinary discussion on the supervision and treatment of sex offenders. Please have that age-appropriate conversation with your children. Please use good judgment in terms of whose home you go into or who you let in your home. Watch for us next time as we look at another very important issue in today’s criminal justice system. Have yourself a pleasant day.

[Commercial Break]

Len Sipes: Hi, and welcome to DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s show is on the supervision and treatment of sex offenders and there are few topics that gather more media and criminological interest than sex offenders. It’s our contention at my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, that we employ state-of-the-art strategies for the supervision of sex offenders. To discuss national standards on sex offenders, we are proud to have Scott Matson, Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, and also we have Thomas Williams, the Associate Director of Community Supervision Services. Again from my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and to Scott and Tom, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Scott Matson: Well, thanks for having me.

Tom Williams: Thank you.

Len Sipes: It’s an important topic and a complicated topic, and people really are interested in this whole concept of sex offenders. Scott, the first question goes to you. Who are sex offenders?

Scott Matson: Well thanks, Len. That’s a good question. It’s a tough one too because what we know is that there isn’t a typical offender. They can come from any walk of life, all walks of life. They can be focused just on children. They can be focused on adults only. They can be focused on women. They can be focused on little girls, little boys. They could cross over as well. So to say that there’s one type of sex offender just isn’t quite accurate.

Len Sipes: But when you talk to somebody in the public, when you say “sex offender,” they immediately have a stereotype in their minds as to who that person is, and one of the ideas and one of the reasons for doing the show today is to get across the complexity of what we’re calling the sex offender and the difficulty in terms of supervising that person and treating that person.

Scott Matson: That’s right, and most people think of the sex offender as a stranger, somebody who might jump out of a bush to steal a child or rape a woman. We know that that’s just not what most sex offenders are. Most sex offenders are known to their victims. Most sex offenders commit their offenses within the context of a relationship, which again, makes it very easy for the sex offender to manipulate the victim in those contexts because they know their victims.

Len Sipes: That’s a key issue; they know their victims in the majority of cases. The majority of child sex offenders know their victim, the majority of victims know their offender, the majority of people say in say rape settings, sexual assault settings, it happens in their home or the home of the offender. So it’s not the stereotype of the woman cutting through the alley and getting raped, although that does happen. The bulk of it per data that just came out happens within a residential setting amongst somebody who they know.

Scott Matson: That’s right, and that makes supervision strategies and treatment strategies very important to tailor them to the type of offender that you know you have in your midst, the offender that’s on your caseload. Once they’re caught and convicted, then you know a little bit more about them but until they’re caught and convicted, you really don’t know who they are.

Len Sipes: And Tom, that’s one of the reasons why, when you do – you’re in charge of Supervision Services at Court Services and Offender Supervision, and we have 16,000 offenders on any given day, 25,000 offenders in any given year – on any given day there’s about 700, round it off, sex offenders that you’re in charge of supervising, and you start off with what, some sort of an analysis as to who that person is to get to the complexity issue that Scott just raised.

Tom Williams: Well, that’s very true, and this dovetailing with what Scott was mentioning, the sex offenders can come from any walk of life, so there isn’t one particular individual that somebody should be concerned about or one particular profile that someone could be concerned about. What the public really needs to understand is that they just have to have high-level vigilance with regards to who they have in their midst, whether it’s a child if you’re going to drop them off at the daycare or with the little league, and so that there’s certain standards that these organizations have to have with regards to checking on the backgrounds of folks in boy scouts and things like that, leaders. But the other things that really can help the public with regards to staying vigilant is there’s a sex offender registry that’s open to the public, that anyone can go online if they have access to a computer. They actually go and see, is this person that I’m involved in, is he really on the rolls of criminal justice, is he known to criminal justice. And in some of our outreach to public school systems, for an example, we also really encourage them to make sure that they do check the sex offender registry, certainly as a higher requirement in terms of checking the background of an individual, but that’s something that’s very quick that they can do, just go to the registry, run an application, and then check and see if the person’s listed.

Len Sipes: And we’re going to have you on the second half with Dr. Celena Gates to talk about the treatment, and again, the supervision and treatment of sex offenders. But Scott, we talked about the fact that we have 700. Here we’re talking about somewhere in the ballpark of people under parole and probation supervision throughout the country currently, not the past but currently, and we’re about 200,000?

Scott Matson: That’s correct according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, and there’s about over 700,000 people on sex offender registries?

Scott Matson: Somewhere around 720,000 that are registered in the U.S.

Len Sipes: So that’s an immense number of people.

Scott Matson: Yes.

Len Sipes: And we in the criminal justice system, we’re responsible for public safety number one, but that’s an immense task for both of us, so let me talk a little bit about that because Tom brought it up and I think the public wants to understand, what do we tell parents, what do we tell individuals, principally women? The vast majority of people who are victimized, sexually victimized, are women although men are sexually victimized as well but it’s 80% I think and higher women who are sexually abused, children who are sexually abused, so let’s start off with parents. What do we tell the parents about age-appropriate conversations, letting them know that they can always come to them and have a conversation about what happened to them?

Scott Matson: That’s right, and the thing you have to stress the most is for the parents to be involved in the children’s lives so they know who they’re talking to, so they know who they’re around all the time, they know who’s paying a lot of attention to them, and as you mentioned, age-appropriate conversations. I think it’s important to start early. I think a lot of advocates in this area, in the sexual assault prevention realm, will talk about starting as young as 4 or 5, and getting them to talk about this is part of a safety kinds of planning, and continuing that conversation as they get older and into their teens, and eventually into adulthood. – Ways of protecting themselves, families, it’s always a good idea to come up with a safety plan and what to do if something might happen to a child or youth in the house. There’s some really good resources out there too for this, and I’m not speaking of anything of the work I’ve done necessarily but there are lots of good advocacy organizations out there that have done really good work.

Len Sipes: And we’re going to put up the website.

Scott Matson: Yeah. I think you’re going to put up our website, which is smart.gov, and I would like to make a plug also for the National Sex Offender Public Website. Tom mentioned DC’s public website. There’s a National Sex Offender Public Website where you can search from one place all the registries throughout the entire country.

Len Sipes: Exactly, and we’ll put that website on the program throughout the program so people can have access to that. – But it’s principally age-appropriate conversations. The child must know that he or she can say anything to their parents because in some cases, a sex offender will commit the act and say that your parents will never love you again if you tell your parents this.

Scott Matson: That’s right. That’s a common theme in grooming behaviors with sex offenders, especially child molesters.

Tom Williams: I think the message should go a little bit further than just parents because a lot of times the child may not be in a position to actually talk to the parents so an adult, someone that they have trust with.

Len Sipes: Okay. Good point.

Tom Williams: It might be a minister in a church or a deacon in a church, or it could be a school teacher, or someone that they really feel close to that they can then relay that information to, a police officer for an example. A lot of police officers do a lot of outreach in school systems right now, so I think instead of saying parents, because certainly you want the child to go to the parent if possible but sometimes the child may not be in a position to feel comfortable about that and so any adult, any responsible adult, I should say, would qualify that, that they should be speaking.

Len Sipes: Good point, good point. And any adult that the child trusts.

Tom Williams: Right.

Len Sipes: In terms of older individuals, again, it’s whose home you go into. It’s who you let into your home. The vast majority of these per research just the other day were committed within residential settings, not necessarily the stereotype, although it does happen, like I said, the stereotype of walking through the back of the alley. It’s happening in homes so it is a matter of who you trust, is it not?

Scott Matson: Right. It’s again, who’s in your life, and most of those crimes are committed in the context of a relationship.

Len Sipes: So a person has to know who they’re willing to trust, and understanding that if you don’t trust that person, don’t let them into your house, don’t go into their home.

Scott Matson: Right.

Tom Williams: That’s a very good point, and that gives my message about vigilance. The parents or significant others really have to be vigilant with regards to who’s involved with that child or in a relationship they’d like to establish as well. I mean, the vigilance is the key thing that we have to be ensured, that we want the public to be understanding.

Len Sipes: Okay. The other part of the program that I wanted to set up beyond the complexity of what we call the sex offender is the sense of national standards. Now Scott, you and I were talking before the program that there are no national standards. The American Probation and Parole Association, National Institute of Corrections, other organizations have come out with recommendations, and in terms of what it is that we in Parole and Probations should be doing in terms of supervising sex offenders, can you give me a sense as to what some of those are?

Scott Matson: Sure. Yeah, as you mentioned, there aren’t any national standards but there are recommendations and there are some things that research does show to be a little more effective.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Scott Matson: I think it really starts with the idea of what we call risk needs and responsivity that is assessing the risk of the offender, the risk that they pose to reoffend and the harm they might pose, then assessing what the needs are of the offender, both what they need to help them stop the behavior and what we need to do to make sure that they don’t continue to commit it.

Len Sipes: So we have to assess and figure out who they are —

Scott Matson: — and then finally develop intervention strategies, supervision plans, treatment plans that address their needs and the risk.

Len Sipes: Based upon that analysis as to who they are.

Scott Matson: Who they are, exactly, so who, what, and who, what, and how I think is a good way to think of it.

Len Sipes: But there has to be treatment involved to some degree for those people who are amenable to treatment?

Scott Matson: That’s right. I think that what most of the research says is that treatment is effective overall with sex offenders. There are some kinds of offenders that might be “lower risk,” quote-unquote, that might not benefit as much from treatment as the higher-risk or moderate-risk offenders but treatment is an integral part of any supervision strategy, any reentry strategy for sex offenders.

Len Sipes: But I would imagine some of those recommendations are going to be a small caseload. I mean, some parole and probation agencies carry 150, 200 people per one parole and probation agent. In the District of Columbia we call them Community Supervision Officers, so the caseload’s got to be appropriate.

Scott Matson: Right, and a lot of the jurisdictions that use more specialized kinds of supervision tactics for sex offenders will have much lower caseload sizes so we’re talking 25-to-1 or 20-to-1, sometimes with a surveillance officer as well to check in on the offender off-hours, and usually this is all involved with the treatment provider closely at hand so they are understanding what those supervision strategies are so they’re in constant communication with the supervision officers.

Len Sipes: It has to be done as a team. Where it’s appropriate, there’s no separation between supervision and treatment. It has to run hand-in-hand.

Scott Matson: It really does. They have talk to each other, they have to really collaborate, and in some jurisdictions, a polygraph examiner is also involved.

Len Sipes: A polygraph examiner. Tom, now the question goes to you, we do all that. That’s one of the things that I want to make clear is that the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, every national standard that’s ever been promulgated, your unit already does that. And how do you think it applies to sex offenders?

Tom Williams: That’s true, and what we’ve done is actually looked at the research and then, as the series of meetings within the organization, determine what’s the best way that we can actually manage this group when they come out. But one other point that I would like to say is certainly it’s a responsibility of the Supervision Agency to help manage and control this population when they come out but also it begins within the correctional setting as well. If you look at the 1.5 million folks who are incarcerated, about 10% or maybe 150,000 of them have been diagnosed or classified as sex offenders within the institution.

Len Sipes: Wow.

Tom Williams: Well, when you look at the lack of resources, that many of the state and maybe the federal systems don’t have because of budget cuts, we know that what gets cut first is naturally treatment but I think the institutions try to do a very good job in trying to identify folks who actually need services and then try to start that process right there. So when a person really comes into the institution from intake or reception, that’s when the identification has to happen and that’s when the plan really should start there to help that person before he actually gets distributed.

Len Sipes: So it has to be holistic across the board from the correctional institution to parole and probation but oftentimes that doesn’t happen.

Scott Matson: No. In an ideal world, that’s what would happen.

Len Sipes: That’s what would happen but that, I mean, that’s the unique part about our agency, and I’m sorry to use this as a forum to boast about our agency, but we do all that stuff now. Our offenders go to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and they’re a bit more resource advantaged than most correctional settings.

Tom Williams: That’s true, and then when those folks are actually identified within the institutional setting, prior to being released, then we work basically on a release plan or reentry plan for those individuals, and certainly there are halfway houses within the district where a person can transition from the maintaining institution to the community, you know, where they can go and then we kind of collaborate on those services. We get that information and send it to the institution, and then we follow-up on our cases when they come out.

Len Sipes: We only have a couple of minutes left. Let’s talk about how difficult this is. I can’t think of a more difficult caseload. I mean, I looked at a Google search this morning on the last couple days, these are national articles on sex offenders, there’s 50. I mean, this is just 50 in the last couple days. They’re a difficult population to supervise, correct, any one of you?

Tom Williams: Well, absolutely. This population is difficult but as Scott mentioned, the key thing for us is assessment. I mean, you have to determine the assessment right out front in terms of who you have. That’s where your information from the institutional side is actually transferred to the community supervision side so that we don’t be duplicating work that’s already been initiated and started; but once we actually do the identification through the assessment process, then as Scott mentioned, then we have to develop that plan of action and that’s where collaboration is key between supervision staff as well as the treatment staff with regards to what are the plans that we need to mitigate that risk for that individual, and it can’t be a one-size-fits all, it has to be specific to that individual and specific to that offense.

Len Sipes: And we have the resources here at Washington, D.C., to do that. Scott, a final sense as to the difficulty of offenders, the type of offender to supervise?

Scott Matson: Sure. I think that they can be quite difficult, and when you talk to a lot of probation officers who might be new to this or who didn’t receive any specialized training, they might say something along the lines, “Well, sex offenders are my easiest probation.”

Len Sipes: They’re compliant, aren’t they?

Scott Matson: Because they’ll oftentimes follow the rules, they don’t want to get in trouble; they don’t want to rock the boat.

Len Sipes: They could be grooming the officer; they could be grooming the psychologist.

Scott Matson: Exactly, just like they groom parents, they groom children, they could be grooming the treatment provider, they could be grooming the supervision officer. So again, it’s really crucial to do that assessment, to get involved in the offenders’ lives, and make sure you know what they’re doing.

Len Sipes: Scott, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, look for us on the second half as we continue this extraordinarily interesting issue of the supervision and the treatment of sex offenders. Stay right there. We’ll be right back.

[Music Playing]

Second Half: Hi, and welcome back to DC Public Safety. I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes, and we continue to discuss sex offender supervision, and our guests for the second half are Thomas Williams, the Associate Director of Community Supervision Services, my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and Dr. Celena Gates, CSOSA’s Director of Treatment for our Sex Offender Program, and Dr. Gates and Tom, welcome to DC Public Safety, and Tom, welcome back from the first half.  I can’t think, again, of a more difficult topic than this whole concept of sex offender management, sex offender treatment. We talked with Scott Matson on the first half from the Department of Justice to gain a sense of the enormity of this whole concept. You know, there are hundreds of thousands of people out there that we consider sex offenders that we and the criminal justice system have to deal with. There are 700 in the District of Columbia. Treatment is an extraordinarily important part of the process. Treatment and supervision seem to go hand-in-hand. Dr. Gates, you came from a maximum-security prison, did you not, in terms of your background?

Dr. Celena Gates: I did. My first job was at a juvenile facility called Culpepper in Virginia, yeah.

Len Sipes: Wow, and so you came from that process to CSOSA?

Dr. Celena Gates: Not directly but I work in a private practice setting at this point that works with sex offenders so it was through that practice that we developed a relationship with CSOSA and provide the sex offender treatment services for that agency.

Len Sipes: So you’ve got a lot of experience as well as the academic training in terms of dealing with sex offenders.

Dr. Celena Gates: Oh absolutely, sure.

Len Sipes: Is this group of people as complex as we made it out on the first half because when I discuss sex offenders to friends, family, again, they have this image in their mind that’s pretty simplistic. It’s not simplistic at all, is it?

Dr. Celena Gates: Not at all, and this is the way that it should be discussed. It should be discussed as a complex group of people who are not homogenous, who have a lot of differences between them, and who are best handled when that’s well understood. It’s when the idea is that they are the same that people make mistakes and misjudgments, and don’t do what’s in the community’s best interest or for that matter the offender’s best interest.

Len Sipes: Right, and we talked about, Tom and I and Scott in the first half, about the assessment process and the crucial sense of getting to know who this person is because there’s such a huge difference between some who lays in wait – we call it in the criminal justice system “malice aforethought.” It’s planned. Their sexual assault is planned versus somebody who’s grooming a child over the course of months versus somebody who does the wrong thing, it’s clearly illegal, but we don’t have a history of sex or criminal offense for that person. That’s the level of complexity we’re dealing with, right?

Dr. Celena Gates: It is, and that level of complexity is a part of who they are. It’s also a part of how we treat them. It’s a part of their management. It’s a part of their future. Keeping those differences and those distinctions in mind is what contributes to the success of dealing with this population.

Len Sipes: Tom, our problem is that the public, all they want is safety. They want to be protected, they’re afraid of the sex offender, and when they hear – I mean again, when I talked about it in the first half, 50 articles from around the country on sex offenders basically doing something wrong over the course of the last couple – 50. They get a lot of publicity. When it happens to us, the media comes to me, comes to you, and says, “Why?” – And the people don’t seem to have a full grasp as to how difficult this is, how complex it is, and the resources you give to it.

Tom Williams: Well, that’s exactly right. In the public’s mind, if you put these folks away and throw away their key, they’d be just as happy but we recognize that you can’t really imprison folks for a long period of time.

Len Sipes: You can’t put everybody in prison. That’s impossible.

Tom Williams: No, you can’t, and punishment is not going to be sufficient to – well, punishment is sufficient to I guess suppress deviate behavior but eventually the person needs to get treatment. So our studies are indicating, in terms of the length of stay that folks have been in prison before they come out, you know, we have a much older population on the CSOSA with regards to sex offenses. Only 6% of our population are under 25 but a large majority of our population are between the age of 40 and 60 so you know they’ve spent significant periods of time incarcerated.  But when they come to us, the important thing that we attempt to do is we have our own assessment with regards to the risk to reoffend but when we also have collaborations with Dr. Gates and her group, there’s an additional assessment that’s done as well, so that establishment is looking at what’s that risk to that individual with regards to his future sex offending.

Len Sipes: And we have smaller caseloads, we use polygraph, we have specially-trained community supervision officers. What most people know as parole and probation agents, we call them community supervision officers in Washington, D.C. So the case load is fairly small, they’re well-trained, they use GPS surveillance in some cases, they use polygraph in some cases, correct, so we do it right is the point.

Tom Williams: Well, we do do it right but we are extremely fortunate with regard to the caliber of CSOs, of men and women that work in this particular program. First of all they have a passion for their work, which is really key, and they are well-educated with regards to their advanced degrees, and also they are well-educated with regards to additional training in this discipline. So they come to the agency with a wealth of knowledge, and we too increase that knowledge base while they’re with us. But the important thing that really helps us a lot in terms of managing this population well is the relationship that the CSO has with the treatment provider and the polygraph.

Len Sipes: Right, and that gets back to Dr. Gates. I mean, that’s one of the unique things. You’re not on your own. This is an entire organization surrounding you and supporting you, and supporting what you and the staff does in terms of getting at what’s causing this issue with people for their own good and for public safety.

Dr. Celena Gates: Um-hum. That collaboration is key, and that word was mentioned a couple of times in the first segment. It’s relevant this population in a way that perhaps isn’t the same for other types of offenders or other types of mental health issues. The collaboration and working together, and having a complete, accurate understanding of the who the offender is, what his risk issues are, when he’s likely to be more or less at risk, what can be done about those situations, who can intervene – all of those are very, very complicated questions but they can be answered, they can be effectively addressed if everyone is working together, communicating consistently and effectively, there’s cross-training. There are a number of different ways that we can make that effective.

Len Sipes: Some of these offenders are obviously in denial in terms of their own acts and how culpable they are in terms of their own acts, correct?

Dr. Celena Gates: Yes, they are. They can start off that way.

Len Sipes: They can start off that way.

Dr. Celena Gates: This is not the easiest subject to talk about, you can imagine, and the stigma associated with being a sex offender is incredibly difficult. So they’ve often had to go through the judicial process of that, whatever that entailed, and now they’re being asked to hold themselves accountable to it again, and a lot of them feel like, “I’ve done my penance,” so to speak.

Len Sipes: Yeah, they’ve served time in prison and they’re coming out, and suddenly they’re in a small caseload and they’re —

Dr. Celena Gates: There’s an awful lot of attention being paid to them.

Len Sipes: We at Court Services, we really do have a high level of contact with the people under our supervision, we really do, so they’re having that high level of contact and then they have you to deal with.

Dr. Celena Gates: Coming in saying, “Let’s talk about this more.”

Len Sipes: Yeah, let’s talk about this more.

Dr. Celena Gates: And so that can be incredibly difficult on a lot of levels – emotionally in terms of their relationships with family, what it’s going to mean for their lives, and that sort of thing. But part of what we try to do is give them a sense that, although we’re talking about the past, we’re talking about behaviors that perhaps they’re embarrassed about – and rightfully so, should be – but we’re doing so for the purpose of moving forward. We want them to understand their risk factors. We want them to understand their behaviors. We want them to have the tools that they need to avoid engaging in future problematic behaviors. As was mentioned earlier, most offenders are not the jump-out-of-the-bushes kind of guy. They’re guys who have gotten themselves into situations that they themselves may not fully understand, and that’s part of the task is to help them understand how this benefits them, how it benefits the people in their lives, and obviously then ultimately that translates to having safer communities.

Len Sipes: When I talk to community supervision officers, oftentimes I get the sense of manipulation on the part of sex offenders, that they are by trade a pretty manipulative bunch. True?

Dr. Celena Gates: I think that’s a generalization, and I think we’ve already established that it’s hard to make generalizations about the population, but there are certainly certain kinds of offenders for whom you want to pay extra attention to what they say, for whom you want to collaborate and corroborate even more than you would, but that’s the key to the assessment, really. It really is about being able to identify what a person’s particular traits and tendencies and proclivities are, and educating the people who work with them about how to operate against those, so to speak. And on the other hand, if someone isn’t manipulative, because there are offenders who don’t have that trait, then we don’t over-supervise them or over-treat them or over-analyze everything that they say.

Len Sipes: The key is the uniqueness of that individual offender. Nothing is done in a cookie-cutter approach. We design a program and a supervision strategy around that person’s uniqueness and that, Tom Williams, seems to be the key to all of this.

Tom Williams: Well it is, and the kind of behavioral treatment seems to be the one that work best with this population, and that’s the program or the theory basically that Dr. Gates and her group are integrally involved with, and all the staff are actually trained in that discipline as well. So with the combination of the treatment, the supervision, as well as the polygraph, just to look at potential deceptions that may be coming through, because we can talk to the person and they can tell us one thing but the polygraph itself will help us to determine if there’s any kind of deception that’s going on that may increase that person’s risk to reoffend in the community, and then that’s when we kind of get together with the treatment provider and say, “What is it that we’re looking at here that actually resulted in that polygraph?”

Len Sipes: Only three minutes left, very quickly, we do employ GPS so if we’re concerned through the polygraph test or any other evidence that we have with our law enforcement partners or working with the family or working with the community, we put them on GPS and we can follow them that way. We can overlay maps. We can overlay Google earth to see if there’s a playground there and that’s why he’s hanging out, correct?

Tom Williams: Well, that’s part of it. That’s one of several strategies that we use. We don’t want to say that’s something that we do for every person but it’s just one of several.

Len Sipes: I understand, but the larger issue is through treatment and through these supervision strategies and through the small case loads, but particularly treatment, we can in many cases stabilize that individual and minimize that individual’s risk to public safety. That is true, is it not?

Tom Williams: That’s exactly right, and that’s the whole key that we’re working with.

Dr. Celena Gates: That’s the goal.

Tom Williams: That’s the goal, the main goal, but also with regards to that is there comes a point in time when a person’s going to complete the services. The important thing is what’s that relapse prevention plan and how can we exercise that plan, and what are your triggers, as Dr .Gates mentioned before, that I need to be attentive to, situations that I need to not be involved in or put myself in where the potential could be for me to reoffend.

Len Sipes: And that’s an extraordinarily important point, Dr. Gates, and in the final minute or so of the program, you give them tools because they’re going to be off supervision at a certain point.

Dr. Celena Gates: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: You give them tools to carry into the future, and that may be possibly the most critical part of treatment.

Dr. Celena Gates: Indeed, I think it is. I think that often we begin the process by thinking about what the end of it will be. Once we have an understanding of who the offender is and what their risk factors are, we’re thinking about what do they need in order to stay out of situations where they talk to people like me or have to meet people like at Mr. Williams’ agency. We want them to be in the community safely, to have developed enough skills and knowledge of what their risk factors are so that they don’t reoffend.

Len Sipes: And once again, it’s all based upon the individual assessment. That’s the key here, and the individual assessment, the individual treatment, the individual supervision strategies, and those individual treatment strategies to carry that person not just a year beyond supervision but 20, 30 years beyond the supervision without reoffending.

Dr. Celena Gates: That’s the goal.

Len Sipes: And protecting public safety. That’s the bottom line, correct?

Dr. Celena Gates: That’s the goal.

Tom Williams: That’s how we can do our part to ensure that this person is healthy, maintaining good relationships, and not come back within the criminal justice system. We just can’t continue to incarcerate them and expect that’s going to have an effect versus to treatment.

Len Sipes: All right, Tom, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us for this what I consider to be extraordinary discussion on the supervision and treatment of sex offenders. Please have that age-appropriate conversation with your children. Please use good judgment in terms of whose home you go into or who you let in your home. Watch for us next time as we look at another very important issue in today’s criminal justice system. Have yourself a pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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