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Sex Offense Courts: Supporting Victim and Community Safety Through Collaboration

NCJ Number
Rebecca Thomforde-Hauser; Juli Ana Grant
Date Published
14 pages
This article examines the problem of managing sex offenders and the establishment of sex-offense-management courts in New York State, with attention to their history, how they work, and implementation challenges.
Law enforcement, corrections, and social service agencies have recently focused on working together in managing sex offenders who are in the community on probation or parole. In an effort to enhance defendant accountability and victims' access to services, court and law enforcement officials in New York State decided to develop a specialized sex-offender court. With assistance from the Center for Court Innovation and the New York State Office of Court Administration, several New York jurisdictions engaged in planning, bringing together judicial and non-judicial court staff, prosecutors, defense attorneys, victim advocates, SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) program representatives, probation, parole, polygraph examiners, treatment providers, and others to identify and discuss issues related to the establishment of such a court. An initial step was to collect and analyze data to determine the functions, procedures, and management of new sex-offender courts. Best practices in sex-offense and offender management were determined from national research and the Center for Sex Offender Management (CSOM), which promotes the use of clinical risk evaluations, standardized special sex offender probation conditions, interim probation supervision, and specialized sex offender treatment. Finding common ground among the various stakeholders was an essential ingredient of successful team-building. Over the course of the planning period, practitioners in the six New York counties identified the following elements as essential to a successful sex-offense-management court: early case identification; rigorous judicial compliance reviews and enhanced accountability; judicial leadership; understanding and dedication to working with victim service providers; coordination with sex offender treatment providers, comprehensive training for all stakeholders, and commitment to evaluation and continuous quality improvement. 9 notes