Research may help identify sex offenders most likely to be. . .

Research may help identify sex offenders most likely to be successfully treated

By S. Sleek

Convicted sex offenders who are 40 or older, married or divorced and earn at least $11 an hour are most likely to complete halfway house treatment programs, new research suggests.

Also, offenders who finish such programs are more likely to be better adjusted, take more responsibility for their actions and use fewer justifications for their crimes than those who don't finish the treatment, research reveals.

The findings are significant because other studies have indicated that sex offenders who drop out of or fail to engage in their treatment have a higher risk of recidivism than those who successfully complete treatment, says lead investigator Don Strassberg, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Utah. He says such research may eventually help courts and other officials who make decisions about sex offenders identify those most likely to benefit from the treatment, or those most likely to drop out of treatment.

The research team followed 121 men participating in a one-year treatment program at a halfway house for sex offenders in the Salt Lake City area. Most of the offenders had served time for incest or child-molestation crimes. The treatment included group and individual counseling and classes on managing anger and stress.

The researchers developed their profile of the person most likely to complete the program by looking separately at such variables as age, marital status and income. Three-quarters of the men age 40 to 49 completed treatment, compared with about 14 percent of the offenders age 20 to 24, 17 percent of those age 26 to 30 and 61 percent of those age 31 to 39. About 75 percent of the married or divorced participants completed the program, compared with 45 percent of the single men. And nearly 70 percent of the men who earned $11 or more an hour finished compared with 26 percent of unemployed participants. The older participants may have been more committed to completing the program than the younger men because they naturally are less impulsive and tend to have responsibilities, such as a good job or a relationship, that encourage them to avoid a return to jail, Strassberg surmises.