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Ask the Mental Health Expert Archives 2001-2004

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Young Offender

Q. I am currently writing a Pre Sentence Report on a Young Man who has recently turned eighteen and has pleaded guilty to making indecent photographs. To assist me with this report I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of appropriate research which I could you use to support my recommendations.

Firstly, I require any information about child pornography on the internet. Secondly, any research which supports the opinion that interventions with young sex offenders have a good success rate in relation to disrupting the offending cycle. Thirdly, any information which supports my belief that there is little or no support for young sex offenders within Young Offender Institutes. Lastly, any information about the assessment of sex offenders would be appreciated. Whilst this is a lot of information that I am requesting, your assistance in this matter would be greatly appreciated.

A. Judging from your politeness and use of the word "whilst", I am guessing you are writing from England or one of the "Commonwealth" countries! If so, the issues you are raising may have different answers than in the U.S.--for example, I am unfamiliar with the term "Young Offender Institutes", and the term did not come up in my literature search. However, I will try to provide you with some general references and people to contact, in the hope these will prove helpful to you.

First, with respect to child pornography on the internet, you might read the paper "The content and accessibility of sex education information on the Internet", by M. Smith and colleagues at the University of Michigan (Health Educ Behav 2000 Dec;27(6):684-94.). The authors identified 41 sites with sex education material from almost 6 million pages yielded by the keywords. Sixty-three percent of the 1,556 most compatible pages were categorized as pornography. Also, see the paper, "Cybersex: regulating sexually explicit expression on the Internet" by Cate et al, Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington 47405, USA. [contact fcate@indiana.edu].

With respect to early intervention with young sex offenders, you should see the paper "Adolescent sexual offender recidivism: success of specialized treatment and implications for risk prediction", by Worling JR et al, at the SAFE-T Program, Thistletown Regional Centre for Children & Adolescents, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The paper is in Child Abuse Negl 2000 Jul;24(7):965-82, and generally supports your hypothesis.

Recidivism data (criminal charges) were collected for 58 offenders participating in at least 12 months of specialized treatment at the SAFE-T Program. Data were also collected for a comparison group of 90 adolescents who received only an assessment (n = 46), refused treatment (n = 17), or dropped out before 12 months (n = 27). Offenders completed a battery of psychological tests to provide standardized data regarding social, sexual, and family functioning. Recidivism rates for sexual, violent nonsexual, and nonviolent offenses for treated adolescents were 5.17%, 18.9%, and 20.7%, respectively.

The Comparison group had significantly higher rates of sexual (17.8%), violent nonsexual (32.2%), and nonviolent (50%) recidivism. The authors concluded that "...results support the efficacy of treatment for adolescent sexual offenders." This paper also discusses assessment issues, as does the paper by Prentky et al in Sex Abuse 2000 Apr;12(2):71-93. I hope this information helps you with your report.

May 2001

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