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Effectiveness of Treatment for Adult Sexual Offenders

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2015
6 pages
Roger Przybylski
Based on a review of the scientific literature, this brief summarizes research findings on the effectiveness of treatment for adult sex offenders as measured by recidivism, and it discusses policy implications from the findings as well as knowledge gaps.
The summary of the research distinguishes findings from individual studies and those from synthesis research. There is general agreement in the research community that among individual studies, well-designed and implemented randomized controlled trials (RCTs) provide the most trustworthy evidence about an intervention's effectiveness. Findings from a single study, however, must be replicated before definitive conclusions can be made about the effectiveness of an intervention. Synthesis studies, such as a systematic review or meta-analysis, draw conclusions about the effectiveness of an intervention based a review of multiple studies that have examined a particular type of intervention. This brief concludes that although there is agreement among researchers that the knowledge base on the effectiveness of treatment for adult sex offenders requires further research, existing evidence suggests that treatment for sex offenders - particularly cognitive-behavioral/relapse prevention approaches - can reduce both sexual and non-sexual recidivism. Research results also indicate that a given treatment does not affect all sex offenders in the same way, depending on individual offender characteristics and contextual factors. Treatment is most effective when it is tailored to the risks, needs, and offense dynamics of each sex offender. This conclusion derives from research evidence that the identification of an individual's risk of recidivism and criminogenic needs and then tailoring the intervention plan to these individual factors produces better outcomes than an approach that assumes one type of treatment is suitable for all sex offenders. 12 notes and 46 references

Date Created: June 18, 2020