The Truth About IPP Sentences

Sex offender policies misleading, under-funded and potentially disastrous

Sex offenders must be rehabilitated

Sex offenders must be rehabilitated

Legal sources have told that the government is failing in its duty to rehabilitate sex offenders by cutting spending on vital offending behaviour courses, choosing instead to spend taxpayer’s money on misleading policies designed to convince the public that the government is protecting children when in fact it is not really doing so at all.

As a result of lack of courses, sex offenders are not being released when they should be, are not receiving the necessary support when they are eventually released and are unlikely to ever find work due to the fear whipped up by the government in order to achieve short term political gain.

There is also a misleading and damaging emphasis on ‘stranger danger’, again for political reasons, when in reality most child abuse takes place in the home.

Our source has told us that many offending behaviour courses (OBC), seen as critical to the release of most offenders, are being cut due to lack of government funding. Although the Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP) has to some extent been protected, there are still nothing like enough SOTP courses to satisfy demand.

Sex offenders are being told that they must undertake SOTP whilst in prison and also in the community if they are to be released. However, the government is content to starve the prison and probation services of the necessary funds, content in the knowledge that no MP will ever utter a single word in support of the rehabilitation of those that have become society’s most reviled criminals.

It seems the Home Secretary, Theresa May believes that a man who goes around permanently crippling pensioners in order to steal from them is ok to be released but someone who has committed any type of sexual offence, sometimes 40 years ago, is not.

A violent criminal is apparently much less likely to be subject to the full force of police and probation supervision than a person who has committed even the most minor sexual offence. Nor will the violent criminal be forced to register with the police in the same way as is required of a sex offender.

Successive governments over the last 25 years, the Blair government in particular, have used sex offenders as a political device to divert public attention from more serious government failures. Governments have also reacted to sex crimes with ‘knee-jerk’ legislation that has increased some sentences from 2 years to life imprisonment.

Bulger, Payne, Soham, Garry Glitter and other cases have encouraged ministers to seize the moment and to make political capital out of tragedy, both by bringing in new, often badly thought out legislation and by ramping up existing sentences and restrictions relating to sex offenders.

Lord Bichard, the author of the report following the Soham Inquiry, admitted in a recent parliamentary debate that many of his recommendations following the murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman had been disproportionately implemented for political reasons.

Successive UK administrations have copied the USA and spent millions forcing schools, voluntary organisations, churches and children’s groups to encourage children to see paedophiles around every corner and to cynically terrify parents with ever more frightening thoughts of child abduction, rape and murder.

However, you will never hear any Home Secretary or tabloid editor tell the truth and admit that in reality 95% of all child abuse takes place within the family and is committed by friends or relatives, whilst only a tiny fraction of abuse is perpetrated by strangers. These figures are supported by Britain’s biggest child protection charities and even the government itself.

Meanwhile, the money – your money actually – is continuing to be spent on enforcing the largely useless Sex Offenders Register and MAPPA, paying expensive policemen to visit convicted offenders at home and training just about everyone to seek out abuse by strangers when most of it takes place in a child’s own home.

Private companies too are making a fortune promoting the threat of  abuse and, often with taxpayer’s support, running lucrative courses on child protection at £350 per person. Again, it is all directed towards ‘stranger danger’ when in reality that is not the main source of threats to children’s safety.

Much needed money that could be used to successfully rehabilitate sex offenders is also still being wasted on publicity generating campaigns that allegedly protect children in other countries outside the UK. Child protection is of course not a bad thing but in all these cases, there is a substantial profit being made by someone, largely on the back of fear and paranoia.

Other European countries, those that are not paranoid and have not been taken in by the lie put forward by recent British governments, do not have these problems. They still manage to deal with the appalling crime of sexual abuse but not in the hysterical, ignorant and headline-grabbing manner that we do in Britain.

Instead, they concentrate on rehabilitating the offender and, crucially, finding him a job which, as any policeman or probation officer will tell you, is one of the surest ways in which to prevent further offending.

By reintegrating the European sex offender into the community, he is able to pay taxes, contribute to society, live a normal life and avoid reoffending.

His British counterpart on the other hand is segregated from the community for fear of reprisal or worse, has no support, is subject to regulations that in practice prevent him from working and is almost persecuted by the authorities to the point where he can contribute little, if anything, to society, even after his sentence is completed.  does not condone the actions of sex offenders in any way but we do acknowledge that they exist, mainly within the family and believe that when they are convicted and incarcerated, everything should be done to rehabilitate them.

When they are eventually released, there should always be a job for them (the biggest employer in the country is the government itself after all), they should be supported and in return, the offender should take the opportunity to regain their position as a truly contributing member of society.

It is estimated that apart from the 50,000 sexual offenders currently on the Sex Offenders Register (there were only 3,000 twelve years ago), there are over a million others that have not been prosecuted. What is more, there are many, many more potential sex offenders within the families of Britain that will not be discovered until they have already harmed a child.

It is clear that the manner in which this country deals with the problem has to change. Unfortunately, thanks to misleading information put out by the government and child protection charities, most members of the public are entirely ignorant as to the truth of sex offending in Britain today.

This is hardly surprising when one considers that every recent administration has embarked on the same pointless exercise and disgraceful waste of money, trying desperately to convince everyone that the danger to children lies with strangers when, in reality, the true danger is at the front door.

It is an equally pointless exercise to go along with the tabloids and describe sex offenders as ‘fiends’ and ‘monsters’ when in fact there are now so many sex offences on the Statute Book that almost anyone could find themselves accused of a sex crime at some point, either through ignorance or false accusation.

Instead of looking across the Atlantic for answers and giving in to multi-million pound charities like the NSPCC and zealot-driven, money-making machines like ECPAT, the government should spend a great deal more on rehabilitation and a lot less on the post-release persecution and enforced segregation of those who have been released.

Those who are on licence should of course be supervised but supervised constructively by experienced probation officers with some experience of real life; not by some overgrown schoolgirl who has come straight from university and whose sole intention is to impress their boss by putting the offender back in prison at the first available excuse.

Those who have completed their sentence are by definition free and should be treated as such whilst being given support where it is needed in order to find work, etc.

Finally, there are many in government and law and order who believe that the Sex Offenders Register is a waste of money, counter-productive, ineffective and – in the way in which it is implemented – possibly unlawful.

The register always was – and still is – a political device that keeps people employed (not least through the very dubious and hugely expensive MAPPA system), gives a false sense of security to parents and the public, is by definition a reactive process and as such has yet to be shown to have ever prevented a crime from taking place.

The government, police, prison service, probation service and others seriously need to reconsider the way in which the protection of children from sex offenders is approached.

The American system has failed miserably and has nearly bankrupted some US states; the British system, which attempts to copy the US, is directed towards the wrong people, also costs a fortune and is based on a lie, misinformation and political and monetary profit.

The only people in Britain to benefit from the current emphasis on ‘stranger danger’ are ambitious or indolent MPs, those employed in the massive child protection industry in Britain and over-paid officials who get a lot of money for doing very little other than propping up a failed system that has not worked in the past and will not work in the future.

Sex offenders need rehabilitation perhaps more than any other group of offenders and the government should get on with it. And for those rather silly people who readily swallow the effluent produced by tabloid newspapers and others with vested interests, there is no point either in locking up sex offenders and ‘throwing away the key’.

At the current rate of increase in convictions, if one were to do that we would very quickly end up with a large proportion of the male, working population of the country in jail, living off the taxpayer for years and being unemployable when they came out; there would follow a fall in tax revenue and additional prison and family maintenance costs.  believes that real rehabilitation of sex offenders really is the answer. We are not Americans and have no need to follow them like sheep. Reform of such a politically sensitive issue may be difficult but it is not impossible. It may be a bitter pill for MPs to swallow but swallow it they must.

To leave things as they are is courting disaster; a disaster that will grow and grow and eventually become unmanageable. All for the sake of spending rather more now and getting people out of prison and into work.

This is also about the difference between justice and revenge.

What exactly is so complicated about any of this? It all seems rather obvious to many people but not, is seems, to those in government who are all apparently terrified of criticism, are generally weak and cowardly and, in many cases, are seemingly too thick and stupid to see the consequences of allowing things to stay as they are.

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26 Responses to Sex offender policies misleading, under-funded and potentially disastrous

  1. janet
    July 5, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Do you know about StopSO – the Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Prevention of Sexual Offending. It is a UK wide not for profit organisation. It aims to connect those at risk of sexual offending (or re-offending) with a psychotherapist or counsellor who is trained and willing to work with them. So people who are motivated to change their behaviour can be put in touch with people who can help them to do this.

  2. janet
    July 5, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Do you know about StopSO – the Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Prevention of Sexual Offending. It is a UK wide not for profit organisation. It aims to connect those at risk of sexual offending (or re-offending) with a psychotherapist or counsellor who is trained and willing to work with them. So people who are motivated to change their behaviour can be put in touch with people who can help them to do this.

  3. janet
    July 5, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Do you know about StopSO – the Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Prevention of Sexual Offending. It is a not for profit organisation that aims to provide access for those at risk of sex offending (or re-offending) who want to change – to therapy from therapists trained to work with them, and willing to work with this client group. It is all across the UK.

  4. Zelda
    October 26, 2012 at 11:17 am

    A brilliant article. Why are so many so scared to speak out? My husband has just received an IPP sentence on a false allegation from a child. With the current furore regarding Jimmy Savile the allegations are going to come out of the woodwork left, right and centre. My heart goes out to those who have genuinely suffered abuse but a can of worms has now been opened. If I was a normal bloke in this country with maybe a few ex-girlfriends I dumped in my teens or an ex-wife I had fallen out with I would be worried. What about the female you may have taken home from a nightclub drunk way back in 1996? Was she too drunk to consent? Will she now come forward? Where does it end?
    My husband now faces the prospect of being inside for years, never working again. He has been told by probation that he is a danger to the public and shouldn’t associate with people yet according to them he also “plots and schemes when on his own”. So you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The whole thing is an utter joke.

  5. Hell bent on appeal
    October 3, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    I have had my mind opened up even more by this “blog”. I am pleased to see that not everyone has the same attitude that if convicted, you did it. I am even more pleased to read that people do actually believe in time served etc.

    I live in hope regarding my wrongful conviction and my on-going appeal. Hopefully one day I might be able to put this nightmare to bed and regain part of what I have lost. Believe me I lost almost everything as a result. It is not a good feeling being labelled as something, which you are clearly not.

    It is indeed all about money, politics and perception and nothing whatsoever to do with protecting Children and vulnerable adults.

  6. Shani
    July 27, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    i dont think its right that sex offenders have to sign the register when they have level one only pictures in their posession (clothed pics only) .SOPO is restircting their human rights to continue with normal family life by moving on . After 5yrs if they havent re-offended they should be given clearance not to work with children but to at least move in with kids. i say this as someone who knows a guy on there …and also as a mum whose kids were abused by their own father who walked free as a bird throu lack of evidence. and since when has a kiss on the lips become child sex assault…hoe many of us kiss kids on the mouth by accident or even sometimes to say goodbye. Teh register is a farce , for more serious events there should be SOPO in place but for this there should be a 5 yr time limit at the most. if they re offend in that 5 yrs then a register should be undertaken!

  7. tcarroll
    January 3, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    The US, and particulary states such as Georgia, are the worst offenders in perpetrating costly, ineffective laws for political gain. I work in higher education, and I have seen, first-hand, many examples of politics, myth, and hysteria trumping justice. On particular story that comes to mind is that of a senior (age almost 22)who agreed to consensual sex with an undercover detective who stated, one time, that she was a few months younger than 16. On the computer transcript, the 22-year-old says he has no interest in anyone too young, and when the cop asks how young is too young, he replied “15 or 16 is too young”; however, the cop kept right on pretending she was a few years younger than him until she made her single statement. The young man drove to the town where they were supposed to meet, but never went to the location. It didn’t matter. He spend a year in prison and will spend another 10 on the Violent Sex Offender Registry. He cannot find housing, attend school, get a job, or participate in any activities where anyone younger than 16 might be. He must have polygraphs, at $250 per, every four months, no matter how many he passes. All this, even though he has never been in trouble with the law before and is rated Level 1, lowest risk to reoffend, by the state’s own Sex Offender Registry Review Board. The state of Georgia has relieved him of all hope or motivation to live the rest of his life, and no one is any safer. All research says that the Registry and its restrictions make no one safer, and may, in fact, be counterproductive. Our tax dollars at work — so pathetic. Meanwhile, in Atlanta, gang members shoot people every day, armed robberies proliferate, and corruption is rampant. Not politically influential topics, though, so not much attention is paid.

  8. Charles Clayton
    December 29, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    On reception into prison, all prisoners have access and should actually be given a copy of the prisoners advice booklet which sets out the rules and regulations for prisoners. These booklets are jointly published by the Prison Reform Trust and HM Prison Service It also signposts various agencies of support for prisoners.
    Up until the mid 1990s, these booklets were published by HM Prison Service and printed at HM Prison Leyhill print shop.
    Page 1 of those booklets offered the following advice to prisoners:
    You advised not to discuss your offence, your family or personal details which might render you to harm from other prisoners.
    This was good advice and common sense for not all prisoners can be expected to be altruistic and have the best interests of each other at heart. That has changed in that on offending behaviour programmes a prisoner is expected to discuss his offence and personal details because psychologists, probation officers and course facilitators demand it.
    Is it a coincidence that at around the same time that the rules on confidentiality changed that an Anti-Bullying strategy was developed?
    The escalation of violence in prisons is not only aimed at sex offenders and informants but in general the whole prison population is at risk because of hare brained schemes and ideas developed by the very people who run offending behaviour programmes.

  9. Jenny Richards
    December 29, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Who are these legal sources? Do they have a financial interest in retaining these worthless ‘treatment’ courses? NOMS certainly do all they can to keep them, as they are paid (by us!) based on the number of attendees rather than by result. The cost is astronomical, and that is why there is a move to cut them back.

    A Home Office report (Findings 164, 2002) noted that the reconviction rate of Prisoners Maintaining Innocence (PMI) is extremely low (4.3%) even when they have been artificially assessed as High Risk because of refusal or unsuitability for sex offender courses. There is no evidence to prove a treatment-effect on the risk of reoffending, and research shows that PMIs who do not participate in sex offender courses make up the lowest group of re-offenders. There was also a 6-year study which found that only 2% of the group who did not take part in SOTP reoffended, whilst 17% of the group who did do the course went on to re-offend! In Scotland, SOTP has already been removed due to there being very little statistical evidence that it actually makes any difference.

    SOTP courses are the subject of derision by those taking part, who do so simply because it enables them to progress through their sentence plan. Prisoners returning from such courses can be heard making derogatory comments and openly ridiculing the courses they have just attended. It’s known as the ‘Parole Deal’ because doing the courses is the only way out of prison.

    Participation is voluntary, yet any prisoner declining to take part is punished by loss of earned privileges. No consideration is given to the fact that SOTP is totally unsuitable for a PMI, as he would be required to discuss his ‘offences’ as part of the ‘treatment’. Maintaining innocence results not only in loss of earned privileges, but also wipes out any possibility of re-categorisation or parole. Thousands of innocent men, many of whom are elderly, who are victims of false allegations of historic sexual abuse therefore remain in prison with no chance of early parole. This results in ruined lives, broken families, and a drain on our country’s finances through the cost of unnecessarily extended imprisonment, the huge amounts of compensation paid out to their (often false) accusers, as well as the massive cost of this ineffective treatment programme.

  10. Contrarius
    December 29, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Ages of consent vary across the western world from 21 to 13 and yet the same research findings are used to define ‘the child’ in all jurisdictions. In the UK a 10 year old can be held fully responsible for their actions when they attack an old lady and steal her purse but a 15 year old who decides to have sex with someone over the age of 16 is deemed responsible for nothing that they do. We understand that adult hetero and homosexual relationships and encounters can vary from the rape of a woman up a dark alley on a Friday night to a 90 year old couple who have been married for 70 years and have never had a cross word and all the shades of grey in between. The definition and condemnation of those branded paedophiles don’t benefit from consideration of these anomalies. Simplistic notions of unequal power (when a child is almost totally under the control of adults in other aspects of their lives) and inability to consent(when they consent to a myriad other things every day)are things we choose to ignore. In the same way research which continually supports the present dominant discourse is constantly paraded in the media, while opposing and sometimes more carefully executed studies are left gathering dust on the shelf.
    Unfortunately phrases like ‘ does not condone the actions of sex offenders in any way but…’is a sure sign that the ‘opinion’ offers nothing new. It commences by assuming the terms in which the argument is presented are themselves coherent. The opinion offered remains in fact, doxa, insofar as it presents the same narrative without challenging the story presented by that narrative.

    • Raymond Peytors -
      December 30, 2011 at 10:22 am

      The fact remains that we still do not condone the actions of sex offenders. That is not to say that the UK isn’t completely out of touch with the rest of Europe when it comes to dealing with sex generally, whether that be the age of consent or the ability to sunbathe nude on the beach, both of which are primarily cultural issues. Your claim that Unfortunately phrases like ‘ does not condone the actions of sex offenders in any way but…’is a sure sign that the ‘opinion’ offers nothing new can only be justified if you can demonstrate other articles critical of the government’s obsession regarding cognitive offending behaviour courses. Certainly, I have not seen any others and it would seem that others have not seen them either. – Editor

  11. Anon
    December 29, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Everytime I read an article about sex offenders it irritates me and the reason why?…Although it has to be said there are sex offenders out there who are actually guilty,what about those who have been wrongly convicted because of another,s lies and once convicted are labelled for life unless by the grace of god new evidence emerges that could possibly overturn that conviction and hopefully clear one,s name???..Is it not about time that this and any government stopped trying to crucify innocent men,even women
    and sort out the shambles that currently exists in the shape of compensation that does much to attract false accusers into making false allegations in the first instance??.Lets face it,while there will always be someone who is genuinely guilty of such vile offences,there are are genuinely innocent people convicted on the strength of anothers lies..Why???..As human nature has it life will always be filled with people that are spurred on by revenge, malice ,attention seeking and greed..As sex trials do not require evidence and people become more knowledgeable about that fact,those with dishonest intentions will always seek to abuse the system knowing there is no comeback.Is it not time this governemnt put a stop to this rather than throwing money away that may not rightfully be an accusers??.

    • Raymond Peytors -
      December 29, 2011 at 11:04 am

      The reason is that the government is frightened of alienating the two million who work in child protection (who are voters), afraid of the tabloid reaction to any changes and is terrified of reversing what has become a doctrine of lies developed over 30 years and which is now part of the British psyche. Today’s children, their parents and even their grandparents have all been brought up to believe that there is a sex offender in every street. Whenever IPP sentences are discussed in Parliament for example, it is always sex offenders (supposed paedophiles normally) that are referred to, even though sex offenders make up less than 30% of the total number of IPP prisoners.

    • Hell bent on appeal
      October 3, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Whilst, I full agree that there has to be a system in place that actually works to protect children (this is a foremost concern); I must express concern as a wrongly convicted person that reforms are evermore necessary.

      As Anon states above, all that is required in Britain is the word of one against another… What ever happened to Beyond a reasonable doubt. Well it simply has no place in the English legal system where the allegation is of a sexual nature. The government for years has used sexual abuse to launch broken systems, simply to be seen to be doing something. There are thousands of actual predators out there who are hiding below the surface. I must point out that I NEVER condone what a sex offender or any other criminal does, but with an ever growing problem there must be an overhaul of the system.

      For instants; again as anon pointed out regarding the compensation culture. Instead of a person being given financial recompense for sexual abuse, or any other crime alleged to have been committed against them; why not spend the money more wisely for real victims, by offering counselling and other services to help actual victims deal with what has happened. This will have a knock on effect less false allegation cases making it to court, less money wasted on lies and false claims and therefore will free up some much needed cash to launch a more productive child protection agenda ONE THAT ACTUALLY WORKS.

      MAPPA is a system that cannot work simply because the defendant has no right to attend the meetings in order to make representations in person and therefore most decisions about how to monitor convicted(rightly or wrongly) are being made without the people involved ever meeting the person.

      Probation services are overloaded and cannot cope with the cases they have and therefore actual offenders are not properly monitored in an appropriate way. As I say it is all about finding a system that works, quit convicting innocent people, especially without “evidence” and start to get a system that actually protects the most vulnerable of our society.

      I live in hope that my legal team will soon have news about my appeal. I also live in hope that one day a government in this country will make a decision regarding this subject that will actually work!!!!

  12. Ms Justice
    December 28, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    There are men and women (mostly men ofcourse) rotting big time in prison today accused of sex traficking.Their stories have been massively exagerated by the police and prosecution. It makes great headlines, gets promotions and commendations. The oldest profession in the world has been made to be somekind of an imaginary slave trade with women being coerced and otherwise angelic.This is the biggest myth in modern day prosecution in the u.k.
    These prisoners are made to go on courses and admit to things they have not done so they can tick the boxes and get released otherwise they will be accused of being in denial. And … God forbid the probation think that you are in denial. Then there is no way out.

    • Hell bent on appeal
      October 3, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      I completely agree with your comments, they seem to be made from experience.

  13. fima estrin
    December 28, 2011 at 4:53 am

    I came to US from former USSR as a Jewish refugee on human rights
    violations in 1997,
    In 2003 I was charged with p..rnography possession om my computer and
    was pressed to plead guilty, because I got promise of 100 years in
    prison. I have misdemeanor conviction now, but I am unemployed for 8
    years and have no chance to find any job

    • Raymond Peytors -
      December 28, 2011 at 10:37 am

      You can CLICK HERE to read more about this case which is a stark warning that what has happened in the US is now happening in the UK. More and more innocent people are falling victim, being labelled for life as sex offenders and their lives and families being ruined.

  14. Charles Clayton
    December 27, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Most sex offenders come from within the home setting and that environment and most sex offenders are those known to the child victims, parents, step-parents, teachers, social workers, those who work in children’s homes, priests, scoutmasters, physical education instructors and suchlike.
    Whilst I do not in any way seek to mitigate the actions of sex offenders, the truth of the matter is that the media has created a ‘bogeyman’ and the heightened risk of a child being attacked and abused by a stranger when in fact the evidence does not support that.

  15. Charles Clayton
    December 27, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Courses, courses. courses. As an ex-prisoner (not a sex-offender)so called offending behaviour courses are simply for many prisoners no more than jumping through the hoops as it is known. Run by young women mainly with no experience of real life, these courses are also part of the box tick culture. ‘Oh I have done a course’ as if that explains everything.

    As far back as 2002 Johann Hari writing in the New Statesmen (25 March 2002) ‘The Sad Truth About Child Molesters’, wrote of his own research and findings following a study of a 1998 Home Office report in which he identified negative features of the Sex Offending Treatment Programme after sitting in on one such course at Maidstone Prison;
    “Cognitive therapy can actually enhance the self-knowledge and effectiveness of some very dangerous individuals. At the end of the programme very few men were giving test answers that were in line with the ‘man in the street’.
    Moreover, the study also revealed that those who had been released had ‘rapidly deteriorating relapse prevention skills.”
    Moreover, where many offenders were giving what is referred to as ‘victim narrative’ or phrases relating to victim empathy and remorse, they were more likely than not the kind of phraseology ‘drilled’ into them.
    Where Mr Hari had the opportunity of speaking to offenders who had completed the SOTP he was disturbed to find that in using all the psychology jargon and phrases they also spoke in a muddled way with factual contradictions about their crimes.
    In a separate study, the psychologist J.K. Marques and three colleagues wrote about their findings in the ‘Criminal Justice and Behaviour Journal’. They had monitored sex offenders who were part of a very extensive programme of both individual and group ‘treatment’, and after they were released of a year long aftercare programme. These offenders were given the highest-quality treatment known for sex offenders and it might have been hoped that there would be impressive results.
    Yet the ‘treatment’ made no difference at all. Those who had been through the programme were just as likely to reoffend as those with no ‘treatment’ at all.
    One difficulty with the research into the SOTP is that researchers do not use a control group (sex offenders who do not do the SOTP) thereby having a group to compare with which might indicate the effectiveness of the programme. The result is that such studies are of little value and yet are used and relied on to promote the use of the SOTP. Where there does exist evidence of the ineffectiveness of the SOTP it is matched by how so called success rates are measured and for sure it is easy to produce figures which appear to show that treatment of offenders reduces recidivism when actually the figures show nothing of the kind. It is also very difficult to do proper research on the effectiveness of treatment so that the figures can be confidently interpreted as meaning what they appear to show.
    There is also a need to be sure that any difference in the reconviction rates of those who have completed courses and a comparison group assuming that the groups do not have any kind of inherent bias are due to the effect of the ‘treatment’ course rather than just being due to chance.
    In measuring the success of courses that supposedly address these problems, The Home Office have guidelines for evaluating ‘treatment’ programmes which recommends that, “the strongest design for an evaluation is random allocation of subjects and should be considered and chosen if possible.”
    However the practicalities make this very difficult to achieve in the prison setting.
    There have been a few research studies undertaken abroad which adopt this policy but none in the UK using the principles of Random Control Groups. (RCTs).
    It may seem an easy business to follow up a group of offenders who have undergone the various cognitive skills training courses and after a period of time find out how many have been reconvicted. The problem is, what does such figures prove?
    What is really wanted is how those figures compare with the numbers who would have been reconvicted had they not been involved in for example the SOTP. There can be no direct answer to that so one can only compare the outcome of the ‘treatment’ group as measured by the reconviction rates of a comparison or control group.
    There is one factor which is really impossible to account for and that is that offenders who generally choose to engage in courses do so because they are more predisposed not to offend and thus it is likely that out of this will be some success stories. For the rest there exists elements of coercion that is often resisted, excuses will be made by the prisoner and decisions that target prisoners for courses can be often be subjected to legal challenge most which of course fail.
    Statistics can also be interpreted to mean what the researcher wants them to mean, for example a claim that the effectiveness of courses reduces re-offending by 50% over 2 years can also mean that the figure is reduced to a mere 5% over 4 years. Short-term gains often means long-term losses.
    No such uncertainty exists within the Behavioural Sciences Unit of the American FBI at Quantico Virginia where street experienced FBI agents in researching offending behaviour and offender profiling have identified offender types and those most at risk of offending.
    The FBI literature is also less optimistic about sex offender ‘treatment’ programme effectiveness than the claims being made in the UK. For the FBI, the issues are nothing to do with “thinking skills,” “problem solving skills” or lack of victim empathy although it does feature, but has more to do with psychopathology, morality and the criminal and drug sub-culture and that many offenders will continue to offend irrespective of ‘treatment’ programmes or punitive measures.
    For those offenders who meet the criteria of personality disorder there exists evidence that suggests that some interventions can have unintended consequences, for example the increase of violence due to treatment raising self-esteem and thus fuelling aggression. In addition, those with personality disorder it is suggested are likely to be ‘false compilers’ learning to fake empathy and ‘jumping through the hoops’. (Harris et al 1994.).
    Would it also be fair to argue that if everything else remains unchanged, the likelihood of an offender going on to re-offend will remain unchanged no matter how many ‘thinking skills’ course certificates or educational qualifications he or she would have achieved?
    What we have in cognitive skills courses are heavily value laden sessions where the values and ideas of the tutors are regarded as being positive and meaningful whilst those of the participants are to be challenged regardless of their validity and for sure, a good man in the eyes of God would possess very different qualities from a good man in the eyes of Hitler. Moreover, one person’s sense is often another person’s nonsense, which is no more than degrees of common sense.
    There does seem to be a blind devotion by the Home Office and the Prison Service to cognitive skills training which includes the Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP), Enhanced Thinking Skills (ETS), Reasoning and Rehabilitation (R&R) Controlling Anger and Learning to Manage It (CALM) and the Cognitive Self Change Programme (CSCP) courses but these arguable solutions to offending behaviour are the result of very simplistic explanations as to why people offend when there are so many variables, features and conditions unique to each individual.
    The dynamics of offending may be just more than the way one thinks and certainly the ‘one size cap fits all’ approach where courses are designed to treat groups alike irrespective of ethnic, cultural, gender, socio-economic or personality differences may well leave many questions unanswered and in some instances may render offending behaviour courses as being culturally unfair.
    It does seem that in the current approach, the Home Office and the Prison Service are ‘putting all their eggs in one basket’ which may yet prove to be disastrously ineffective and far more costly than envisaged by the critics of psychology based offending behaviour courses.

    • Adam
      December 29, 2011 at 1:23 am

      As an ex prison officer (and Senior officer) I couldn’t agree more. The course culture has subconsiously developed its own standard responses for prisoners to give to show they are playing the game. Keeps outside probation in a job I suppose.

      • bobjob
        December 29, 2011 at 9:02 am

        Figures from police andprobation show that most sex offenders do not reoffend. Most do not eoffend because they do not want to reoffend. The system (including MAPPA)then takes the credit and puts success down to SOTP or whatever. Probation officers always treat sex offenders as high risk. When they do not reoffend, they claim it is a result of good supervision. The offender is then supervised forever under MAPPA when in fact he is unlikely to reoffend anyway. My point is, you end up with a series of self-fulfilling prophecies designed to support one of the biggest and most lucrative child protection industries in the world; and make no mistake, it really is an industry, one that employs more than 2,000,000 in one form or another. Courses have nothing to do with child protection but have everything to do with keeping people employed.

        • Hell bent on appeal
          October 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm

          bobjob, you have some extremely valid points!!! I am monitored and will not “re-offend” as I did not offend in the first place, as you say MAPPA and probation will claim it is down to them for “curing” me!!!

  16. Michaela
    December 27, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    How is it that mainland European countries find no need to create registers of ‘sex offenders’ and even no need for CRBs, yet sexual crime is lower than in the UK? (I doubt whether these expensive measures have contributed to child welfare at all, in fact, they may well have caused more harm). Nor do these countries suffer from the hysteria that’s so rampant here. Nor are they obsessed with those who might dare to look at ‘indecent’ images.

    The big trouble with the UK is that they imitate US methods without ever questioning them, and pander too much to the populist media while ignoring unbiassed scholarly research. It’s high time the government and law-makers looked towards Europe and turned its back on victim-feminist ideology and the flawed, shallow ‘morality’ of the US Christian right.

  17. Jenny
    December 27, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Its about time someone said it. All the panic and hysteria doesn’t help anyone, least of all children.

  18. Bobjob
    December 27, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    This article is revealing to say the least. When you think about it, all the publicity really IS directed towards the dangers posed by strangers but acually it is in the home where all this abuse tends to take place. It really is about time politicians stopped using sex offenders to generate cheap votes and for charities to start telling the truth instead of just asking for our money.

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