Sunday, March 11, 2007

Catching Up

I wasn't able to keep up with the usual blog suspects for a couple of days (did you know that Doug Berman has had his laptop surgically attached to his body?), but that doesn't mean there wasn't anything good going on. I'll get back to the usual routine this week, but for the end of your weekend, I did want to alert you, in particular, to some very interesting stuff on civil commitment that came up while I was away.
  • Grits for Breakfast occasionally took breaks from his great coverage of the TX youth prison controversy and made this great catch of opposition from a sexual victim advocacy group to GPS tracking of offenders. The group cites the sensible reasons for opposition and concludes with "When used in conjunction with other management tools (e.g. specialized sex offender supervision caseloads, home contacts, employment verifications, alcohol and drug testing, treatment, case reviews, risk assessment instruments, collateral contacts, polygraph testing), GPS does hold promise. However, there is little scientific research regarding its effectiveness for management of even predatory sexual offenders. Under no circumstances should GPS of registered sex offenders be considered a ‘silver bullet.’" Can't think of anyone who could have said it with more knowledge and understanding.
  • Prevention Works reviews the recent NY Times series on commitment and highlights the inconsistencies in assignment of offenders and the lack of evidence for successful "one size fits all" therapy. Their recommendation? "The range of offenders inside these institutions is so broad I cannot imagine how one specific therapy would benefit all the offenders detained. Subsequently, I would propose an overhaul of the entire selection process upon which these commitments are based. Our goal should be to keep the most violent and dangerous offenders off the streets and away from children."
  • And speaking of therapies, CrimProf Blog finds this NY Times story on one of the few studies on the effectiveness of sex offender relapse prevention programs. The findings? Offenders who complete those programs had slightly higher recidivism rates than those who didn't participate. Might be proving Prevention Works' point. We've found that in correctional assessments, too, sort of. In some cases, when we have low risk offenders incarcerated and they participate in programming to get the credits to build for release, they sometimes end up recidivating at higher rates than those who don't do the programs because they're put in with medium and high risk offenders who, um, teach them things, or at least affect their attitudes. The key point, though, is that we haven't done nearly enough studies to support policymaking in this area. Doesn't seem to be slowing things down much, though, does it?

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