The Empirical Basis for the Containment Approach for Managing Convicted/Adjudicated Sex Offenders

Kim English, Colorado Division of Criminal Justice
Diane Pasini-Hill, Colorado Division of Criminal Justice

Following the publication of our 1996 book entitled "A Containment Approach: Managing Adult Sex Offenders," the U.S. Department of Justice has encouraged jurisdictions across the country to replicate this promising approach. We continue to build on the original research, which was funded by the National Institute of Justice, and by doing so continue to explore the relationships between treatment and criminal justice supervision and how these can best be integrated to "contain" convicted sex offenders and manage the risk they present to the community. In this panel session, we propose reviewing three studies conducted by the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice and describe how such research has been translated into effective public policy and practice.

First, we will provide an overview of the 5-part Containment Approach and the field research and national telephone surveys that served as its foundation. This presentation will include a discussion of the most controversial component of the Containment Approach: the use of the polygraph as a risk management tool. We will present information obtained from polygraph examinations and describe how such data can be translated into risk assessment and supervision strategies.

Second, we will present a study of 116 juveniles placed in group homes and/or probation supervision for sexual behavior problems. These juveniles participated in treatment that included polygraph examinations. We reviewed the polygraph files of 116 juvenile sex offenders in Colorado who received a polygraph exam within the previous 24 months. Important information, including age of onset, gender crossover behavior, additional victims, and supervision violations was obtained. We will present information about new victims, including siblings, who were identified only through the polygraph exam. We will describe how the study findings were used in the development of statewide treatment standards.

The thid presentation requires some contextual information. In Colorado, state statute requires that a multidisciplinary team of professionals comprise the state Sex Offender Management Board. The SOMB has been mandated to develop standards for the evaluation, treatment and monitoring of adult and juvenile sex offenders. The results of the research conducted by the Division of Criminal Justice and described above have played a key role in the development of the Standards. The Standards represent the state's policy on the management of these offenders, and reflect all aspects of the Containment Approach. In this presentation, we will include findings from our current evaluation of the extent to which the SOMB's Adult Standards have been implemented in Colorado. The evaluation is mandated by Colorado Revised Statute 16-11.7-103(d)(I). The evaluation utilized telephone interviews with all supervising officers, treatment providers and polygraph examiners who work with sex offenders in Colorado. Further, sex offenders' files located in both supervising officer agencies and treatment provider officers were reviewed to determine the extent and uniformity of implementation of the standards and guidelines throughout the state. The presentation will focus on the innovative (and challenging) research design, along with the results of the telephone interviews and file data collection and analysis. The findings have significant policy implications regarding the development of adequate case and treatment plans for offenders; staff training issues; the exchange of information among the treatment provider, polygraph examiner, and supervising officer; consequences and sanctions used with sex offenders in treatment and supervision; specific questions about how the decision to allow an offender contact with children is made; and, general issuyes regarding barriers to implementation. We will also present the impact this evaluation had on the SOMB's revision of the adult Standards, to be undertaken in the summer of 2003.

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Updated 05/20/2006