Sex offender treatment
Sex offender treatment programs, usually mandated by courts, prisons, or parole or probation departments, consist of cognitive-behavioral treatment, usually provided in a group setting. They focus on treating the putative cognitive distortions, lack of victim empathy, denial of the offense, and "deviant" sexual preferences of the sex offender. Studies show that the benefit of treatment is modest, at best; that treatment works best for the tiny minority of very high-risk offenders, while possibly aggravating risk (doing harm) for the broad majority of men at lower risk of recidivism; and that older offenders, due mainly to their very low risk, derive no benefit at all from treatment. One key reason these programs exist is so that the façade of "doing something" can be retained. Put differently, society has generously offered the offender a chance to reform; if he does not benefit, it is nobody's fault but his own.
Sex offender treatment providers usually say that sex offenders cannot be cured, but they can learn to self-control their behavior. They usually regard sex offenders as dishonest, manipulative, and prone to denial, justification, intellectualizing, and minimization. Sex offenders, many of whom believe that what they did was not "wrong", even if illegal, and don't want to be "cured" (they're not sick), may find themselves forced to tell lies, to reveal history or views they would like to keep quiet, and to feign views they do not believe in, in order to complete the program and avoid the negative consequences of "failing" (being denied parole, being sent to or returned to prison).
The shameless, self-interested collaboration of psychologists with the "sex offender treatment industry" is scandalous. They are either naïve and ill-informed (and perhaps academically not very strong), or they are venal. If they are not ill-informed, they know that many incarcerated boylovers and other sex offenders are harmless to society, if not beneficial. Yet the venal psychologist treats them even if they don't need treatment, even if the treatment does more harm than good. It brings to mind the misuse of insane asylums in the former Soviet Union: anyone who did not see the wondrous benefits of communism was mentally ill. Treatment of those who do not need it, and are not seeking it, is unprofessional at best.
Drug offender treatment is frequently led by former drug users. Sex offender treatment is never provided by former sex offenders.
Reliable studies on the treatment of civilly committed offenders do not exist, since so few have been set free. Much of the research into the treatment of sex offenders has come out of Canada, where national criminal history records are easily accessible. Canadian psychologists have studied not only treatment outcomes but also risk assessment, or determining who is likely to reoffend.
According to psychologist Theodore Donaldson, "Two cottage industries have resulted from this law: the experts that can sprinkle their holy water, and the tools to measure risk assessments". According to the New York Times, "A cottage industry of professionals who diagnose sexually violent predators has developed in the last two decades, and several hundred psychologists, often with little or no background treating sex offenders, make a lucrative business of recommending who should be committed." Al Jazeera notes, "Since these trials are not based on past crimes, but rather the probability of future ones, they rely heavily on expert witnesses, and a lucrative cottage industry of these experts – who have billed the state (Florida) a total of $26 million – has built up around predicting the future behavior of convicted sex offenders."