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Frances Crook's blog · 28 Jun 2017

The end of sex offender treatment programmes

Frances Crook in front of office bookshelves

A few weeks ago I discovered that the prison service had quietly abandoned sex offender treatment programmes.

These courses have been a mainstay of dealing with men convicted of a range of sex crimes and have been a prerequisite for securing transfer to open conditions and eventual release from prison. Tens of thousands of men have gone through the programmes. Now, after two decades, research apparently indicates that the programmes make reoffending more likely.

Our lawyers started to get wind of the change when the young people we represent in prison told us what was happening. I tweeted about it because I wanted to find out what anyone else knew as there had been no announcement. There was only gossip.

I visited a prison and asked the governor and psychologist what was happening. I was told that the programme was indeed being ditched and that new courses were being introduced, that were ‘accredited but not evaluated’. So once again, something that seems to be a good idea is going to be imposed on people despite the fact that no one has any idea whether it will make things better or worse.

A prisoner doing a few hours a week on a behaviour programme, whilst living in a fetid, violent, unpredictable, drug ridden, filthy prison and being treated with little respect the rest of the time, seems to be to be asking a lot

The Mail on Sunday journalist, David Rose, picked up the story from my tweets and did some investigating, and an article was published on Sunday.

I have always been sceptical about prison-based offender courses. Whilst I appreciate they get people out of their cells for a few hours, and goodness knows that is a good thing, how much they really change attitudes or behaviour is a moot point.

Of course, in a prison like Grendon where the whole institution is focused on therapy and engaging people, it is well known that lives are changed and success pretty much guaranteed. However, a prisoner doing a few hours a week on a behaviour programme, whilst living in a fetid, violent, unpredictable, drug ridden, filthy prison and being treated with little respect the rest of the time, seems to be to be asking a lot.

It is disappointing nevertheless that not only do they not help but the sex offender courses appear to make things worse.

Prisons are odd places, not like real life in any way. I tend to think that expecting any behaviour courses in prisons to prevent future offending or to work magic and turn men with a history of violence, aggression and misogyny into model citizens is just not going to work.


  • Trevor says:

    When I think back to my childhood in the 1970s and how lax the attitude was towards sex I feel sad because I am better able to understand how young impressionable people were being “molded” by the system and I’ll explain what I mean.
    Why do we buy and read newspapers?
    The answer is obvious.
    But ask yourself this question
    if a newspaper decides to include in every edition
    photos of topless models
    is it still a newspaper?
    Yes and no, the majority of its content is still news but the photo of the topless model turns that newspaper into a porn magazine even it only has one photo of a bare chested woman.
    Most of us know that pornographic magazines serve one purpose which is to entice sexual desire in the hearts of men.
    I won’t mention the name of the newspaper in question because most of us know that was only one newspaper that portrayed women as “sexual objects.”
    My point is I can’t begin to imagine how many young impressionable boys were enticed by the topless photographs in that newspaper.
    Also, what does it say about our society and our professed values when a succession of governments tolerated the portrayal of women as sexual objects in a daily newspaper?
    We should not dismiss it as a bit of fun or such like
    because it is far from “fun” especially when women find themselves being ogled by men who grew up during the decades when a certain newspaper decided to encourage lust rather than respect for women.
    I’m not saying that what this newspaper used to do can be blamed for the sexual offenses carried out by men against women.
    What am I saying? We as a society had taken our eyes off the ball perhaps because society was too busy finding ways to make more and more money?
    But now that we seem to be more thoughtful (and obsessed with trying to save money) we can see that our attitude towards women was far from good and respectful and that may have influenced the young boys that grew up to become sexual offenders?
    Why would a newspaper portray women as a sexual object to be lusted after by men?
    Money…plain and simple.
    The models posed for money but they didn’t stop to think about the effect it may have had on the male readers of the paper.
    We need to start questioning our values and whether they encourage respect for women or turn women into objects of lust.
    If we value women we will show that by how we treat them.

  • Lisa says:

    They don’t want to fix the problem or help people, they would rather make it a political platform and charge taxpayers for registries nonsense.

    • Trevor says:

      I think that what we need is respect for women and men need to control themselves in the presence of women.

  • Une says:

    People will only benefit from courses if they go into them with a genuine desire to change. Attending a course to avoid sanction, or because you might get out earlier, is not sufficient commitment. We should not force prisoners on to courses, but only permit people who are committed to change to attend.
    Such courses must be delivered by people with mental health training (real training, not just a couple of days ‘awareness’) so they can deliver appropriate responses to this difficult and needy cohort.
    All in all it is a disastrous waste of money which has caused great harm. MoJ should review all ‘interventions’ and see which are effective – not an easy thing to do, but not impossible.
    All interventions, individual and group, should be headed up by an appropriately qualified therapist – officers and support staff can help, but they should not take responsibility.
    In groups people must not be allowed to retell their offences in gory detail, which is bad for them and the others present. Focus must be on choice, feelings, behaviour management – this is complex and takes a professional to manage. You cannot push people through a sausage-machine CBT course and expect miracles.

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