International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative CriminologyManaging Unacceptable Risk Managing Unacceptable Risk:Sex Offenders, Community Response,and Social Policy inthe United States and Canada Abstract: This article compares the community protection–risk management model for the
control of sex offenders with the clinical and justice models that preceded it and with a restor-
ative justice alternative based on the principle of community reintegration. The author dis-
cusses how this community protection–risk management model reflects the new penology as
well as the fusion of panopticism and synopticism. The author also discusses the model’s
actual and potential social costs. He concludes with a brief look at circles of support and
accountability. This Canadian approach involves setting up support circles of volunteers who
enter into a covenant with persons designated as high-risk sex offenders to help them both to
integrate into the community and to reduce the likelihood that they will reoffend.

Following developments that have swept the United States and Canada during thepast decade, the development of comprehensive special controls for sex offendersis an emerging international trend (Agence France Presse, 1999; Jenkins, 2001).
The number of sex offenders under state control in the United States and Canadahas been increasing dramatically. Between 1988 and 1990, the number of incar-cerated sex offenders in the United States increased by 48%, and by 1998, aroundone third of prisoners in some states were sex offenders (Becker & Murphy,1998). In Canada, the 1991 national sex offender census estimated that about 24%of federally incarcerated offenders and 12% on conditional release were sexoffenders (Motiuk & Belcourt, 1996). Increases in the number of sex offendersunder correctional controls are a contributing factor to as well as an effect of thecreation of new social control mechanisms to protect society against sexoffenders.
In 1990, the state of Washington introduced its Community Protection Act fol- lowing widespread public outrage over the sexual assault and mutilation of a 7-year old boy (Boerner, 1992; Lafond, 1992; State of Washington, 1989). In 1994,the state of New Jersey took only 4 months to introduce Megan’s Law in responseto massive community protest over the sex slaying of a 7-year old girl (Wright,1995). Since then, every state in the United States has introduced legislation creat- NOTE: Portions of this article were presented at the University of Bologna on October 20, 2000, and atthe Justice Studies Association Conference, Wheaton College, on May 30, 2001.
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 46(4), 2002 International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology ing registries for convicted sex offenders and provisions for notifying members ofthe community about the whereabouts of high-risk sex offenders. In at least 30states, access to sex offender registries is provided through state-sponsored Websites ( (Logan 1999; National Criminal Justice Associ-ation [NCJA], 1999).
At least 15 states have already passed legislation allowing for the indetermi- nate commitment under civil law of persons who are found to meet the criteria fora violent sexual predator, that is, a violent sex offender who is considered to have apsychological abnormality or personality disorder. After the constitutionality ofone such law in the state of Kansas was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in thecontroversial Kansas v. Hendricks decision of 1997, at least 20 other states beganto develop or are considering developing their own laws (Winick, 1998).
Another special measure (known as “two strikes” or “three strikes” laws) involves providing enhanced penalties for repeat felony offenders, including sexoffenders. Washington State was again the pioneer with its 1993 legislation, withat least 24 other states and the federal government introducing their own legisla-tion in the following 3 years (Boorstein, 1998; Lieb, Quinsey, & Berliner, 1998;Surette, 1996).
Finally, several states (notably, California, Florida, Georgia, Colorado, Wis- consin, and Montana) have passed laws making it mandatory for judges to imposechemical castration as a condition of parole for repeat sex offenders against chil-dren and optional in the case of other sex offenders (Logan, 1999).
In Canada, the federal government introduced a variety of measures providing for the enhanced control of high-risk sex offenders during the 1990s. Theseinclude detention until warrant expiry, peace bonds (Neumann, 1994), long-termsupervision orders (Coflin, 2001; Morisette, 2001), and legislation requiring thecollection of DNA samples from persons convicted of violent sex offenses andother serious offenses (Rupert, 2000).
In the province of Ontario, Premier Mike Harris’s Conservative government enacted Christopher’s Law (which came into effect April 23, 2001), creating aregister for sex offenders. This legislation was named after ChristopherStephenson, an 11-year-old boy who was sexually assaulted and murdered byJoseph Fredericks, a sadistic psychopathic pedophile (Government of Ontario,2000). After at least five other Canadian provinces had begun the process of devel-oping a similar registry (Campbell, 2001), the federal government finally gave into provincial pressure and announced on February 14, 2002 that it would establisha national registry (Tibbits, 2002).
What is behind this tremendous fear of sex offenders that is gripping contem- porary Anglo-American societies (Jenkins, 1998, 2001)? How can we explainsuch a concern not only to punish them (through deprivations of liberty and pri-vacy and shaming tactics) but also to incapacitate them through extraordinarymeasures that override conventional understandings of justice and civil rights? These measures include registration and tracking systems, DNA data banks, for-malized community notification systems, indefinite civil commitment, and evenchemical controls.
In recent articles, criminologists such as Jonathan Simon (1998) of the Univer- sity of Miami, Florida, and Dario Melossi (2000) of the University of Bolognahave written about the reemergence more than a century after Lombroso of therepresentation of a criminal perceived to be a monster. For such criminals, there iszero tolerance. They are considered to pose an unacceptable level of risk, espe-cially toward those persons in society—women and children—considered to bemost vulnerable. Of those who pose such risk, none is more feared than the preda-tory pedophile or rapist. These are persons for whom neither punishment nortreatment are considered to be effective controls and whose perceived enduringdanger means they must be under the watchful eye of state and community for therest of their lives.
It is interesting that many of the new sex offender laws are named after children whose brutal sex slayings have aroused tremendous public anger. These lawsinclude the Jacob Wetterling Law, Zachary’s Law, and Megan’s Law in the UnitedStates and Christopher’s Law in Canada. Perhaps never before have members ofthe community played such a direct and powerful role in crime control, not only indemanding the speedy passage of legislation but also through the mechanism ofcommunity notification and citizen surveillance, often with the assistance of theInternet and other communications technologies.
This article explores how and why a community protection–risk management approach to sex offenders came into being as part of the culture of control (Gar-land, 2001) in the United States and Canada at the latter part of the 20th century.
How is this approach different from other approaches? What are some of its actualand potential consequences? How might an alternative based on the principle ofcommunity reintegration work? First, we compare the community protection–risk management approach with its two major predecessors earlier in the 20th century, the clinical approach andthe justice approach. We then discuss the community protection approach interms of what Simon and Feeley (1995) describe as the conjuncture of populistpunitiveness and the new penology as well as in terms of what Mathiesen (1997)describes as the fusion of panopticism and synopticism. Next, we examine someconsequences and costs of the community protection approach. Finally, we dis-cuss an alternative approach that is rooted in the restorative justice tradition andknown as “circles of support and accountability”(Kirkegaard & Northey, 2000).
In each of the four approaches to the social control of sex offenders discussed, there is a different story told about sex offenders and their victims and how thecommunity and government should respond. In each story, different voices can beheard expressing different values, interests, and beliefs; different views of whatthe problem is; and different proposed solutions (Lafond, 1992).
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology THE CLINICAL APPROACH
In this approach, the risk posed by sex offenders is the result of a mental or per- sonality disorder, such as psychopathy, which can be reliably diagnosed andtreated by mental health experts. With proper diagnosis and treatment, offenderscan be rehabilitated and the public protected. In this story, the voices of victimsand other members of the community are secondary to the voices of mental healthexperts and the legislators and officials who rely on their expertise and advice.
Also secondary are the voices of civil libertarians who argue that offenders con-sidered to be mentally disordered should receive the same rights and proceduralsafeguards granted to other offenders (Petrunik, 1994).
A good example of a clinical approach in legislation is the enactment of sexual psychopath statutes authorizing the confinement of accused or convicted sexoffenders that occurred in 25 states, the District of Columbia, and Canadabetween the 1930s and 1950s (Brakel, Parry, & Weiner, 1985; McRuer, 1958). Inthe United States, these statutes (although nominally civil) were a hybrid of civilmental health and criminal controls. They authorized the involuntary indetermi-nate commitment of individuals convicted of (or in some jurisdictions merelycharged with) sexual offenses who were found to be mentally disordered, danger-ous, and in need of treatment. In Canada, individuals adjudicated as criminal sex-ual psychopaths were required to serve at least 2 years in prison for the crime forwhich they were convicted plus a life-indeterminate term under preventive deten-tion in a penitentiary (McRuer, 1958).
The period between the 1930s and 1950s was a time when many experts believed that much criminal behavior, particularly sexual deviance, was caused bypsychopathology. According to Lafond (1998), Experts could identify and cure those sex offenders suffering from psychologicalpathology and could permit their release back into society as productive and safemembers. Both society and the individual would benefit by this benign applicationof medical expertise. The community’s interest in safety and the “patient’s” interestin a cure could be served simultaneously. (p. 471) Variations of these laws, both criminal and civil, expressing similar faith in the knowledge and authority of mental health experts were also passed in many Euro-pean countries, including the Netherlands and the Nordic countries, as well as inNorth America. However, between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, as a com-bined result of social science research and the extension of the civil rights move-ment to offenders and mental patients, faith in the type of forensic clinical ap-proach underlying the sexual psychopath statutes began to crumble (Petrunik,1982).
First, a body of social science research began to emerge that challenged the ability of mental health experts to accurately diagnose mental disorder, particu-larly psychopathy, which began to be viewed as more of a moral judgment than a scientific classification of disease (Bleechmore, 1975a, 1975b; Cirali, 1978;Hakeem, 1958). Even more critical, social science research began to challenge theability of mental health experts to predict which mentally disordered individualswere at serious risk to harm others and which ones were not risky enough to justifytheir involuntary confinement.
In the Baxstrom studies in New York state, sociologists followed up more than 900 forensic psychiatric patients considered to be both mentally ill and dangerouswho were released following a 1966 Supreme Court decision that due process oflaw had not been followed in their commitment decisions. All these individualshad been transferred from prisons to high-security psychiatric hospitals anddefined by mental health experts as at high risk to reoffend. Yet, less than one outof every three persons released against clinical advice was detected in a newoffense during a 4-year follow-up period. This finding of a high number of falsepositives following clinical predictions, which was repeated in similar studies inother states and other countries, effectively challenged the belief that mentalhealth experts could validly and reliably assess which offenders were at greatestrisk of reoffending. The large number of persons designated as too dangerous torelease, which were found to be false positives, was clearly based on the conserva-tive assessments of clinical experts. These experts put a far higher priority onreducing risk to the public and their own liability through false negatives than onavoiding false positives. Here, the deprivation of the personal liberty of alreadystigmatized individuals was considered to be a lesser evil than possible harm toinnocent victims and the potential liability of clinicians (Cocozza & Steadman,1976; Steadman, 1972, 1980; Steadman & Cocozza, 1975).
Second, the results of program evaluation research questioning the effective- ness of correctional intervention generally and sex offender research in particularbegan to be published in the 1970s and 1980s. Whereas many individuals haveundoubtedly benefited from a variety of treatment programs, the efficacy of sexoffender treatment at an aggregate level has been placed in doubt. A widely citedreview of research on the effectiveness of sex offender treatment programs(Furby, Weinrott, & Blackshaw, 1989) suggested that although differentapproaches to sampling and measurement made comparisons difficult and defini-tive conclusions impossible, the effectiveness of treatment was limited at best. Inaddition, there have been some preliminary results from the ongoing CaliforniaSex Offender Treatment and Evaluation Project (Marques, 1994, 1999). This pro-ject, which follows up treated and untreated sex offenders released into the com-munity, has thus far noted that the recidivism rates of treated offenders are slightlylower, although not significantly so, and that the cost of treatment programs totaxpayers is high. Quinsey (1998) contended that other than surgical or chemicalcastration, only the cognitive behavioral approach to relapse prevention (particu-larly when combined with pharmacological treatment) has had any significanteffectiveness in reducing sex offender recidivism (as cited in Heilbrun, Nezu,Keeney, Chung, & Wasserman, 1998).
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology Offenders, including sex offenders, who are diagnosed as psychopaths have proved especially resistant to treatment. Some Canadian research has found eitherno improvement in psychopaths who received certain kinds of treatment (Ogloff,Wong, & Greenwood, 1990) or even higher rates of recidivism among psycho-paths receiving a particular kind of treatment—group therapy—than among psy-chopaths who did not receive such treatment (Harris, Rice, & Cormier, 1994).
Third, critics have argued that indeterminate confinement of such offenders without the legal safeguards granted other offenders is a violation of constitution-ally guaranteed rights (Chandler & Rose, 1973; Harvard Law Review, 1974,1975; Petrunik, 1982, 1994).
As a result of these criticisms of the clinical approach, there was a renewed interest in the late 1970s and the 1980s in a traditional justice model approach tosocial control that had its roots in the utilitarianism and libertarianism of enlight-enment philosophers such as Di Beccaria and Bentham.
The justice approach to social control begins with the premise that all legally sane offenders, including sex and violent offenders, act rationally in terms ofrewards and punishments and must be tried in a court of law according to princi-ples of due process and proportionate penalty. The primary concern of the justiceapproach is with the offenses not the offenders. The law authorizes judges toadminister sentences that are proportionate to the seriousness of current offensesand to the prior record of offenders, with only a limited consideration of aggravat-ing and mitigating factors. In contrast with the clinical approach, which called foran indeterminate sentence or civil commitment based on assessments of offenderpathology and propensity for future harm, the justice approach advocates deter-minate sentences. Once offenders have fully served their sentences, they are nolonger under the control of the state and cannot be punished twice for the sameoffense. Under the justice approach, there is also a concern to avoid undulyrestricting the liberty and privacy of mentally disordered persons. Principles ofindividual civil rights, equality under the law, and the use of the least restrictiveyet feasible alternative in imposing a penalty take precedence over offender reha-bilitation, victims rights, and community protection (American Friends ServiceCommittee, 1971; Petrunik, 1994).
The dominant story told in the justice approach is that most sex offenders labeled as mentally disordered and dangerous by clinicians are not as disorderedor as dangerous as they are made out to be. For proponents of the justice approach,evidence pointing to low diagnostic reliability, inaccurate prediction, and ineffec-tive treatment mean that the use of indeterminate confinement and coerced treat-ment for individuals defined as sexual psychopaths violates principles of utilityand natural justice.
Two major sets of voices were heard. Social scientists claimed that the actual risk posed by many of those clinically labeled as dangerous had been exagger-ated; civil libertarians claimed that the rights of many allegedly dangerous offend-ers and mental patients were being violated by a form of therapeutic tyranny.
Strikingly absent in the justice approach were the voices of those who speak onbehalf of victims of crime and in the interests of a safe community (Petrunik,1994).
The justice approach at work can be seen in the abolition of the sexual psycho- path laws in most American states during the 1980s and their replacement by leg-islation providing for fixed sentences and the requirement that no treatment couldtake place without informed consent (Lafond & Durham, 1992). In Canada, thecriminal sexual psychopath legislation was amended in 1962 to apply to danger-ous sexual offenders and again in 1977 to the broader category of dangerousoffenders. The 1977 legislation allowed for the use of a determinate or an indeter-minate sentence (Petrunik, 1994).
Although legislation based on the justice approach did address the concerns of civil rights activists and critics of the mental health profession’s role in criminaljustice, other interest groups were unhappy about such reforms. During the 1980s,social movements speaking on behalf of victims and their rights and communitysafety began to lobby for an approach to social control based on placing commu-nity protection first and treating both offenders’ rights and offender rehabilitationas secondary (Lafond & Durham, 1992).
Foremost among these social movements were the women’s movement and the child protection movement. Representatives of these movements noted that thefindings of victimization surveys and other social science research (Janus, 2000)supported many of their concerns. Particularly important were findings suggest-ing that women and children, allegedly society’s most vulnerable groups, werevictims of a variety of unwanted sexual acts, as high as one in every three personsduring the course of a lifetime. Furthermore, most of these unwanted sexual actswere never reported, and many of those that were did not result in prosecution andconviction (Committee on Sexual Offenses Against Children and Youths, 1984).
In short, a new body of research began to question some of the findings on whichthe justice model’s approach to dangerousness was based.
First, some critics noted that research indicating the unreliability of clinical assessments of dangerousness (particularly the high number of false positives)was largely carried out on populations of mentally ill (usually psychotic) personswho had been found not guilty by reason of insanity or not competent to standtrial. Findings pertaining to this population thus cannot necessarily be generalizedto sex offenders. Although one study found that sex offenders are diagnosed withmental disorders more than twice as often as non–sex offenders (Bambonye,1996) and sex offenders are often diagnosed as having personality disorders orparaphilia (Romero & Williams, 1985), few meet the present clinical criteria inthe United States or Canada for certification as mentally ill and imminently dan-gerous (Brooks, 1992).
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology Second, although clinical predictions have been shown to overestimate the number of false positives, the number may not be nearly so large as proponents ofthe justice model suggest. For example, estimating the number of sex offendersand sex offenses by using conviction statistics can lead to a minimization of thedanger posed by sex offenders for several reasons (Brooks, 1992; Groth, Longo,& McFadin, 1982).
First, reporting rates for sexual assaults and attempted sexual assaults are very low (Abel et al., 1987; Brickman & Briere, 1989; Lizotte, 1985; Polk, 1985;Wright, 1984; all cited in Petrunik, 1994). The Canadian Urban VictimizationSurvey found that 62% of female sexual assault victims who said they had beenassaulted did not report the assaults to the police (Solicitor General of Canada,1985). Also in Canada, the report of the Committee on Sexual Offenses AgainstChildren and Youths (1984) found that 75% of 1,006 female respondents and 90%of 1,002 male respondents who reported being victimized did not report theirassault to someone in authority.
Second, self-report research on sex offenders indicated a high rate of previ- ously undetected offending. For example, Gene Abel and his colleagues (1987)carried out research on nonincarcerated paraphiliacs with a confidentiality certifi-cate guaranteeing that the information obtained could not be used to charge partic-ipants. The 89 rapists in his sample reported an average of 7.5 victims; the 232child molesters in his sample reported an average of 75.8 victims. Another self-report study of rapists and child molesters (Groth et al., 1982, as cited in Heilbrunet al., 1998) estimated that sex offenders avoid detection about twice as often asthey are apprehended for their crimes.
Third, reported sexual offenses, especially prior to the 1980s, often did not lead to charges or prosecution due to technical problems. Such problems included vic-tims who dropped the charges or were unwilling to testify, difficulty obtainingwitnesses, and perceived unreliability of young children as witnesses (Marshall &Barbaree, 1990). Consequently, when researchers took into account unofficialdata sources (for example, reports that for various reasons did not result in the lay-ing of a charge or a prosecution), rates of offending were significantly higher. Forexample, Canadian researchers found that when they included unofficial policedata and Children’s Aid Society records as well as official statistics, the rate ofchild abuse offenses tripled. Robinson (1989) reported a follow-up study of menassessed and treated for pedophilia who were monitored in the community for anaverage of 4 years. Using official data, the researchers found a recidivism rate ofjust more than 1 in 5; when unofficial data were considered as well, the recidivismrate was almost 6 in 10.
Fourth, some critics argued that sentences for sex offenders were not propor- tionate to the serious psychological harm caused to child and women victims.
Clinical research findings indicated that the harm resulting from sexual assaultwas more serious and enduring than previously thought and affected every area oflife from sexuality, sleeping, and eating to forming intimate relationships withothers. Claims were also made that men who were sexually abused were at greater risk of becoming sexual abusers themselves (Berliner, 1998; Finkelhor & Associ-ates, 1986; Hanson, 1990; Kendall-Tackett et al., 1993).
Fifth, there was criticism of an offense-driven approach to the sentencing of repeat sex offenders who were found to be at especially high risk to recidivate forsex offenses. A study of the entire Canadian federal offender population(Research and Statistics Branch, Correctional Services of Canada, 1991) foundthat compared to all sex offenders, repeat sex offenders (those with a previous federalterm for a sex offense) are more than twice as likely to commit further sexoffenses . . . [and] . . . much more likely to violate conditional release. (p. 5) Last, some research indicated that child molesters not only have high numbers of victims (Abel et al., 1987) but also remain at risk for long periods of time. A Ca-nadian study (Research and Statistics Branch, Correctional Service of Canada,1993) tracked 197 child molesters sentenced to a Canadian provincial institutionbetween 1965 and 1973 and found that 425 were convicted of sexual or violent of-fenses during follow-up periods ranging from 19 to 28 years. Almost one quarterof the detected recidivists was reconvicted of new sex offenses more than 10 yearsafter release. Heilbrun and his colleagues (1998) noted that researchers “have re-ported recidivism rates between 0 and 40% in one-year follow-up studies, be-tween 10 and 46% in two-year follow-up studies, and between 18 and 55% inthree-year follow-up studies” (p. 141).
The influence of such social science research along with the strong emergence of victims’ rights, violence against women and children, and community safety asmajor social issues have had a strong effect on the response of the communitytoward sex offenders. In general, the mood of many communities with regard tosexual offenders became one of zero tolerance with sensational incidents involv-ing children in particular and resulting in periodic waves of moral panic (Jenkins,1998). Advocacy groups, the mass media, and vocal segments of the public placedenormous pressure on politicians and justice officials to do something aboutwidespread anxieties about sex offenders (Edwards & Hensley, 2001). Both thejustice model and the forensic clinical model were now under sustained attack.
During this period, a new technology-assisted approach to social control by the state made possible by the accumulation of extensive computer databases ofoffenders and the development of new statistical models began to gain influence.
The primary objectives of this new penology or actuarial justice are neither reha-bilitation nor fair and just punishment. Rather, they are the identification of statis-tically determined categories of persons considered to be at various degrees of riskto society and the management of individuals in these categories through a varietyof techniques. These include instruments measuring deviant sexual arousal, poly-graph and drug testing, psychological profiling, cognitive behavioral psychology,and pharmacological intervention aimed at preventing relapse as opposed toeffecting a cure (Feeley & Simon, 1992, 1994).
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology THE RISK MANAGEMENT–
The convergence of these two major trends (actuarial justice and populist social movements) at the level of state and community social control has resultedin a community protection–risk management approach. The dominant story beingtold here is that of community outrage at the failure of the state to protect its mostvulnerable members from violent sexual predators. The major voices heard arethose of victims rights and public safety advocates and those of politicians and lawenforcement officials who recognize the necessity of responding to the commu-nity’s demands if they wish to be considered successful in their jobs. Moderninformation technology, including the Internet, CD-ROMs, and databasesaccessed by telephone, have been important means for these different sets ofvoices to readily connect and have their concerns heard. Those voices less likelyto be heard include those of mental health therapists calling for more resources fortreatment, civil libertarians concerned that fundamental rights are being violated,and offenders themselves, specifically their concerns with stigmatization and lossof privacy and freedom of movement.
The most influential examples of a community protection–risk management approach in North America can be found in several major pieces of legislationintroduced in the United States between 1990 and 1998. The communityprotection–risk management approach that developed in Canada will be dis-cussed in a later section.
The first important piece of legislation was Washington State’s Community Protection Act of 1990. This legislation introduced a comprehensive set of specialmeasures for sex offenders, including registration, community notification, andpostsentence civil commitment for offenders designated as violent sexual preda-tors (Lieb et al., 1998; Poole & Lieb, 1995).
The second major piece of legislation was the federal Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Act of 1994, which requiredstates to set up sex offender registries or else receive a 10% reduction in federallaw enforcement funding. The Jacob Wetterling Act targeted two categories of sexoffenders: those convicted of an offense against a minor and those convicted of asexually violent offense. Offenders were required to register for a minimum of 10years, and states were required to release relevant information (minimally, name,address, fingerprints, and photograph) necessary to protect the public (Coflin,1997, 2001; Lewis, 1996; Logan, 1999; Matson & Lieb, 1996).
As of October 6, 2001, the number of sex offenders estimated to be registered in the United States was 388,319. California led with 87,000 registrants (as of Jan-uary 30, 2001), followed by Texas with 28,728 (as of February 5, 2001), Michiganwith 26,715 (as of May 1, 2001), Florida with 20,278 (as of January 30, 2001),Washington with 15,385 (as of November 6, 2001), Wisconsin with 12,000 (as ofMay 16, 2001), and New York with 11,500 (as of January 31, 2001). See
The third major piece of legislation, New Jersey’s Megan’s Law of 1994, was the result of an advocacy movement led by Maureen Kanka (Megan’s mother)demanding that citizens had the right to know if sex offenders lived in their neigh-borhoods. The widespread attention across the United States given to MaureenKanka’s advocacy movement and the subsequent legislation passed in New Jerseyin 1994 had such a tremendous social and political impact that subsequentlypassed community notification laws have become commonly known as Megan’slaws (Jenkins, 1998; Wright, 1995).
The fourth major piece of legislation, the federal Megan’s Law, was passed by President Clinton in 1996. The federal Megan’s Law revised the Jacob WetterlingAct in a variety of ways. There was a strong statement that all states shall releaserelevant information necessary to protect the public and that states that did not setup community notification systems would receive a 10% reduction in lawenforcement funding (Lieb et al., 1998). Following Indiana’s pioneeringZachary’s Law in 1994, about 30 states and the province of Alberta, in Canada,now provide the public with direct access to detailed information (including crim-inal history, photographs, street maps showing places of residence, and descrip-tions of vehicles) on sex offenders through official state-sponsored Web sites(“Alberta to List Sex Offenders,” 2002; Logan, 1999; NCJA, 1999). Some statessuch as Alaska (Mercer, 1997) and California also have unofficial Web sites main-tained by concerned citizens. At least one state (California) provides officialaccess through a CD-ROMdatabase, and at least three states allow access to theirregistries through 800 or 900 phone numbers. There is a fee for this service, andcallers must provide their name and exact information (for example, name, streetaddress, date of birth, and social security number) on individuals about whomthey are inquiring (NCJA, 1999).
Several states have introduced a strong shaming or “scarlet letter” component to notification. In Louisiana, offenders are required to identify themselves to com-munity members. Registrants in urban or suburban areas are required to givenotice of their names, addresses, and the crimes for which they were convicted toat least one person in every residence or business within a three-square-blockarea. If they live or work in a rural area, the boundary for notification is a 1-mileradius from their homes or workplaces. In addition, the sentencing court has thediscretion to require offenders to notify community members by the use of signs,handbills, vehicle bumper stickers, or labels on clothing (Logan, 1999). A dra-matic use of the scarlet letter approach has recently taken place in Texas, where ajudge ordered 14 sex offenders on probation to place bumper stickers or portableplastic placards on their vehicles reading, “Danger! Registered Sex Offender inVehicle” and signs in front of their residences reading “Danger! Registered SexOffender Lives Here” (“Texas Sex Offenders,” 2001).
A fifth major piece of legislation was passed in 1996, the federal Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act named after a victims’ advocatewho died in a plane crash. This legislation amended the Jacob Wetterling Act byrequiring lifetime registration for offenders convicted of one or more sexual International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology offenses involving penetration through the use of force or threat or penetration ofvictims younger than 12. The Lychner Act also mandated the FBI to create, within3 years, a national sex offender registry that would link the registries of individualstates and enable the tracking of sex offenders across state lines (Logan, 2000;Winick, 1998).
In 1998, a sixth major piece of legislation, The Commerce, Justice and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, was passed. This legisla-tion mandated states to identify which sex offenders might be considered sexuallyviolent predators, that is, those offenders convicted of sexually violent offenseswho suffer from a mental abnormality or personality disorder, making them likelyto engage in predatory sexually violent offenses. Those sex offenders designatedas sexually violent predators are required to provide additional information uponregistering (including information on treatment they have received or are receiv-ing), to verify their address information on a quarterly basis, and to be subject tostate and federal registration and notification requirements throughout their life-times. All states not complying with this legislation by November 25, 2000, weresubject to losing 10% of their federal law enforcement funding (Logan, 2000).
The impetus for all this legislation was community outrage over the brutal sex- ual assault and murder or serious injury of a child victim by a sexual predator andthe desire of politicians and justice officials to quell public anger and fear.
In Washington State, the Community Protection Act was passed in 1990 fol- lowing the report of the Governor’s Task Force, set up in 1989 in response to aseries of violent sexual incidents that shocked the public. In one incident, a youngwoman, Diane Ballasiotes, was raped and murdered by Gene Kane, a sex offenderon work release. In a second incident, Earl Shriner, a pedophile with a history ofbrutal sex offenses and a murder for which he was found not criminally responsi-ble, sexually assaulted a young boy and cut off his penis. The mothers of these twovictims were members of the Governor’s Task Force and played a prominent rolein mobilizing public support for the legislation that was proposed (Boerner, 1992;State of Washington, Task Force on Community Protection, 1989).
In Minnesota, in an incident that prompted the federal Jacob Wetterling Act, young Jacob Wetterling was abducted by a suspected violent pedophile. Neitherhis body nor his assailant was ever found. Members of the Wetterling familyplayed a key role in promoting the legislation named after him (Lewis, 1996). InIndiana, the sexual assault and murder of Zachary Snider led to the enactment ofZachary’s law, which provided for a sex offender registry that could be accessedthrough a Web site (Jenkins, 1998).
In New Jersey, 7-year-old Megan Kanka was assaulted and killed by a sex offender who lived across the street; the girl’s family did not know about his crimi-nal history as a child sex offender. Maureen Kanka, Megan’s mother, became aprominent figure in the enactment of both state and federal legislation identifiedby the name of her daughter and continues to be a spokesperson advocating forstronger measures to protect the community against sex offenders (Kanka, 2000a,2000b).
In at least one of these instances, the perpetrator of the assault (Shriner) had been released from prison having serving a fixed sentence for a serious sexoffense, although he was still considered highly dangerous because under thecriminal law, the state had no right to extend his sentence. In addition, Shriner wasineligible for civil commitment under state mental health law after a court ruled hedid not meet the definitions of mental illness and imminent danger to self or othersunder this law (Boerner, 1992).
In addition to registration and notification provisions, there are two other major community protection–risk management strategies used to control sexoffenders in the United States: sexually violent predator commitment statutes andchemical castration statutes.
Sexually violent predator commitment statutes are the most restrictive mea- sures that have been adopted thus far to deal with serious sex offenders. Undersuch statutes, concern with the rehabilitation of offenders and their right to libertyafter serving their sentences is viewed as secondary to the interests of publicsafety. To avoid double jeopardy, the statutes are explicitly intended as preventivemeasures to reduce the risk posed by dangerous offenders, not as punishment forspecific crimes. Washington, the first state to adopt such a measure, introducedviolent sexual predator legislation as part of its Community Protection Act in1990, but the constitutionality of the legislation was soon challenged in the courts.
Following Washington’s pioneering legislation, several other states, including Kansas, California, Iowa, and Arizona, introduced similar legislation during thenext 5 years (Greenhouse, 2001; Janus, 2000). In a landmark case, Hendricks v.
(1996), the United States Supreme Court ruled that Kansas’ Violent Sex-ual Predator Act was constitutional. In January 2001, Washington State’s legisla-tion was also found to be constitutional by the United States Supreme Court in theface of a challenge that it violated the principle of double jeopardy. The number ofindividuals in the United States. confined under such legislation is now around900 (Greenhouse, 2001).
In North America, unlike Europe, there has been a great reluctance to allow surgical castration to be used for offenders, mainly because the permanence ofsuch a procedure was seen by many medical doctors to pose ethical problems(Russell, 1997). However, temporary chemical castration has been used for along time as a voluntary treatment for sex offenders, usually combined with someform of behavioral therapy or psychotherapy. It involves the weekly use of anti-androgens (usually a synthetic progesterone such as Depo-Provera or Luperon) to International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology reduce blood testosterone levels in men and thus greatly reducing their sex drive(Spalding, 1998). Thus far, chemical castration has been found to be less effectivethan surgical castration in reducing recidivism but more effective thannonpharmacological interventions (Quinsey, 1998).
In recent years, several American states have passed legislation mandating the use of chemical castration as a risk reduction method that would complementother postcarceral risk reduction methods such as registration and notification.
Such legislation has been driven by public concern that many sex offenders areirredeemably dangerous and can be deterred neither by fixed prison sentences norreliably cured by psychotherapies and behavioral therapies.
In 1996, California was the first state to pass such legislation (Lombardo, 1997), followed by Florida in 1997 (Spalding, 1998). Under California’s law,which applies to sex offenders convicted after January 1, 1997, chemical castra-tion must be applied as a mandatory condition of parole for all repeat sex offend-ers against children younger than 13. The judge also has the discretion to imposechemical castration as a condition of parole for any other sex offenders. Treat-ments begin a week before offenders are released from prison and must be contin-ued on a weekly basis for an indefinite time until the Department of Correctionsconsiders they are no longer necessary. Offenders have no choice but to submit tochemical castration if they want to be granted parole. The only option they have isto undergo surgical castration instead (Druhm, 1997).
In Florida, which passed legislation similar to California’s, failure to use Depo-Provera while on probation leads not only to reincarceration for the rest ofthe sentence but also prosecution for a separate felony offense punishable with a15-year sentence (Spalding, 1998).
As is the case with other risk reduction legislation for sex offenders, there are likely to be court challenges when the legislation is applied. There is considerablecontroversy over whether chemical castration can be considered a treatment for amedical condition. It is clearly incapacitative and arguably punitive because of thesignificant deprivation it imposes on the liberty of persons who have completedtheir prison sentences (Lombardo, 1997; Spalding, 1998).
Although some of the same public concerns about sexual offenders are occur- ring in Canada as in the United States, Canada thus far has been slower and morecautious in developing community protection–risk management legislation.
There are a number of indications, however, that this may be changing, particu-larly at a provincial level (Campbell, 2001; Petrunik, 2001).
As in the United States, community protection legislation in Canada goes back to the 1980s. In 1984, the sexual assault of a female halfway-house employee byan offender on day parole led the federal government to pass legislation allowing the National Parole Board to detain individuals at risk of a serious harm offensepast their mandatory release date (two thirds of sentence), until warrant expiry,that is, the end of the sentence (Marshall & Barrett, 1990).
In 1992, following a public inquiry over the 1987 slaying of a young woman by a sex offender on a temporary absence leave, the federal government enacted theCorrections and Conditional Release Act. This legislation restricted early paroleeligibility and unescorted temporary absence for high-risk sexual and violentoffenders. It also required correctional officials to inform local police officials ofthe release from custody of all offenders on temporary absence, parole, or manda-tory supervision (Aikenhead, 1988; Marshall & Barrett, 1993). In the case ofoffenders released on warrant expiry who are considered to “pose a threat to anyperson,” correctional officials are required “to give police all information under itscontrol that is relevant to the perceived threat” (Corrections and ConditionalRelease Act, 1992, Section 25, as cited in Sherman, 1998, pp. 74-75).
Thus far, only one Canadian province (Ontario) has already established a regis- try system. However, with at least five other provincial registries in the planningstage and a threat by provincial officials to create their own coordinated nationalsystem, the federal government announced on February 14, 2002, that it wouldput forward a bill to set up a national sex offender registry later in the year (Camp-bell, 2001; Chwialkowska, 2001, Tibbits, 2002). In addition, several provinces(including Ontario in 1998 and Manitoba in 1995) have created legislation per-mitting law enforcement officials to release information to the public about high-risk offenders (Cooper & Lewis, 1997; Solicitor General of Ontario, 2000).
There are no provisions for postsentence civil commitment or mandatory chemical castration in Canada. Sex offenders considered to be highly dangerouscan be dealt with under the Criminal Code through dangerous offender legislationthat provides for indeterminate sentencing as dangerous offenders. They can alsobe dealt with through long-term supervision orders for up to 10 years, which comeinto an effect when individuals designated as long-term offenders have completedtheir original sentences (Morisette, 2001).
Dangerous offenders must have been convicted of a serious personal injury offense and demonstrated one or more of the following: extreme brutality in car-rying out the offense, failure to control sexual impulses, and likelihood of causinginjury, pain, or other evil to other persons in the future (Petrunik, 1994). Long-term offenders must meet similar criteria but are subject to less restrictive control(a determinate prison sentence followed by community supervision) on the basisthat there is a reasonable possibility that their risk can be managed through a com-bination of treatment and intensive community supervision (Coflin, 2001;Morisette, 2001).
The dangerous offender legislation has been in existence since 1977 and was recently amended in 1996 to expand the window of opportunity for its application,to allow only an indeterminate sentence, and to increase the eligibility period forapplying for parole from 3 to 7 years. There are presently around 320 persons con-fined as dangerous offenders. Long-term offender legislation was introduced in International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 1997, and as of 2001, approximately 60 persons (more than half in the province ofQuebec) have been found to meet the long-term offender criteria (Morisette,2001; Solicitor General of Canada, 2001).
An approach distinctive to Canada is the practice of recognizance or peace bonds specifically for sex offenders. This measure (Section 810.1), which waslargely prompted by the high-profile case of a pedophile offender named WrayBudreo, was added in 1994 to existing peace bond provisions (Section 810) in theCriminal Code. Section 810.1 enables a judge to hold a hearing following a com-plaint by anyone who fears, on reasonable grounds, that a person will commit oneor more of 12 specified sexual offenses against children. A person found to be atrisk of such offenses, using a balance of probabilities standards, is prohibited fromcontact with children younger than 14 and from being in locations such as schoolyards and parks where one might reasonably be expected to find such children. Aperson who refuses to agree to the terms of a peace bond or violates them can besentenced to prison for up to 1 year. The term of a peace bond is 1 year, but it can berenewed an indefinite number of times (Grant, 1998; Neumann, 1994).
Some individuals held under a Section 810.1 peace bond have never been con- victed of a criminal offense. Blatchford (2000) described the case of a Canadianman brought to the attention of the Toronto Police by Interpol, who had allegedlybeen trying to “groom” children in various foreign countries to participate in sex-ual relationships with him. The children he contacted all had been the focus ofintensive media coverage after tragedy struck their families and he approachedthem in the guise of offering sympathy and support. Following a psychiatricexamination that determined he was a pedophile, the man voluntarily agreed tosign a peace bond forbidding him from being in contact with children and requir-ing him to take polygraph tests every 3 months, to undergo chemical castration,and to take part in therapy. As a result, although he has never been convicted oreven charged with a sexual offense, he is liable to go to prison should he violateone or more of these conditions.
In May 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Wray Budreo’s appeal challenging the peace bond legislation, thereby upholding its constitutionality(Abbate, 2001).
Numerous critical commentaries and a few empirical studies have sounded a number of alarm bells that a community protection–risk management approachmay be costly in money and resources and limited in effectively reducing offend-ing and may have other serious negative side effects. The following discussiondraws from literature discussing practical and ethical issues (Edwards & Hensley, 2001; Lafond, 1998; NCJA, 1999), recent evaluation research (Farkas & Zevitz,2000; Zevitz & Farkas 2000a, 2000b), and the literature on therapeutic jurispru-dence. The latter is defined as the analysis of the positive (therapeutic) and nega-tive (antitherapeutic) effects of laws, legal procedures, and enforcement practiceson the mental health and well-being of those affected: offenders, victims, andother members of the community (L. Simon, 1999; Peebles, 1999; Winick, 1998).
In an analysis of the Washington and California experience with sexually vio- lent predator commitment laws, Lafond (1998) argued that the costs of such legis-lation are unduly high. These costs include the costs of implementing new bureau-cracies to carry out the law, the costs of litigation (including the inevitable appealsto higher courts and constitutional challenges), the fees of psychiatric experts, andthe costs of maintaining special facilities for those committed. Lafond estimatedthat Washington has been spending more than $98,000 and California about$107,000 a year per person committed (Lafond, 1998). He argued not only that thelegislation will be expensive to carry out but also that it is likely to generate severalgenerations of expensive litigation; he concluded that the costs involved are prob-ably not a wise expenditure of scarce public resources.
Winick (1998) pointed to a number of possible antitherapeutic consequences: Labeling offenders as “sexually violent predators” . . . is demonizing, dehumaniz-ing, and demoralizing in ways that not only predictably diminish the offender’spotential to change, but also increase social and occupational ostracism if the indi-vidual is ever released to the community thereby preventing successful social reinte-gration. . . . In addition, the political rhetoric that often accompanies enactment ofthese laws may make the public come to see all sex offenders as repeatedly offend-ing sexual predators, even though some may be first-time offenders. First-timeoffenders may be particularly amenable to treatment, yet the rhetorical heat of thesexual predator label may make it politically impossible for them to obtain diversionto treatment programs. (p. 539) Registration and notification legislation have already posed considerable problems in terms of costs and resources as well as in ensuring that there is com-pliance with the legislation. Of 25 states surveyed by the U.S. Justice Department,15 of those interviewed said they had no way of knowing what percentage of sexoffenders in the state were registered, with the remainder of those interviewed es-timating that between 51% and 100% were registered (NCJA, 1999). State offi-cials and criminal justice practitioners talked about the sheer magnitude of thetasks involved and the high cost in time, money, and resources resulting from try-ing to enforce the laws. Some officials commented that law enforcement staffcould spend virtually all their time on registration and notification issues and stillnot do all that they were legally required to do. A number of concerns were identi-fied by officials surveyed by the Justice Department (NCJA, 1999) and in researchby Zevitz and Farkas (2000a, 2000b; Farkas & Zevitz, 2000) in Wisconsin, asfollows: International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 1. unofficial dissemination of registry notification beyond that legally authorized (including the use of unofficial Web sites) to transmit information far beyond thearea of an offender’s residence; 2. possible identification of victims (particularly in the case of intrafamilial offenses) through public identification of offenders; 3. negative effects on the housing market in areas where identified offenders reside, and limitations on the ability of offenders to obtain housing; 4. harassment and acts of vigilantism;5. excessive fear of being victimized or its opposite, an unrealistic sense of security because of the existence of registration and notification; 6. problems with the accuracy of data collected and a lack of feedback on the effec- tiveness and costs of registration and notification (including information on com-pliance and recidivism); 7. inappropriate use of information on the Internet (for example, access by children to sensitive information and the use of registry information by offenders to “network”among themselves or market pornography); and 8. increased expenditure of the time and resources of law enforcement, probation, and One of the major unanticipated negative consequences has been the impact on the housing market. In at least one state (New Jersey), a Megan’s Law disclaimerhas been issued to advise potential buyers or renters of the existence of the law.
This disclaimer cautions renters and buyers to check with law enforcement offi-cials about the possible existence of registered sex offenders in the neighborhoodto which they are considering moving (NCJA, 1999).
Another major issue has been the ability of registered offenders, following community notification, to settle in neighborhoods and obtain housing and accessto community services (Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b). In Wisconsin, a 60-year-oldoffender confined to a wheelchair was forced to move from the apartment he hadpreviously lived in when his landlord refused to honor his lease and let him return.
As a result of community protests, he was forced to relocate eight times between1997 and 1999 and now lives in isolation. In addition, he was shunned by neigh-bors and not welcomed in local churches. He was even discouraged from usingpublicly funded transport for disabled persons (NCJA, 1999).
In addition to such negative effects on the offenders themselves, there have been a variety of negative consequences for family members (Zevitz & Farkas2000b). They include restrictions on where they can go to school as well as onaccess to recreational and other services and even harassment and exclusion as aresult of the “courtesy stigma” that afflicts them via their close ties to the offend-ers (NCJA, 1999).
From a therapeutic jurisprudence perspective (Winick, 1998), it is easy to see from such examples how registration and notification requirements can impedethe potential for offender rehabilitation in a variety of ways. Individuals registeredas sex offenders acquire a highly adhesive label that must be worn for many years and sometimes for a lifetime . . . [Such lengthy or life-time registration along with the requirement for community notification] . . . indi-cates that the individuals are not redeemed and not forgiven by the community. Theyare characterized as deviant and ostracized by the community in ways that may seemimpossible to overcome. By denying them a variety of employment, social and edu-cational opportunities, the sex offender label may prevent these individuals fromstarting a new life and making new acquaintances, with the result that it may beextremely difficult for them to discard their criminal patterns. (Winick, 1998,p. 556) Finally, Edwards and Hensley (2001) point out that the emphasis on punish- ment and incapacitation and the disinterest or even hostility toward treatment andreintegration that tends to accompany community protection approaches may in-duce a sense of hopelessness in sex offenders. This hostile climate may reducetheir motivation to change their behavior with the result that their actual risk ofreoffending may increase.
In discussing the rise of the community protection–risk management approach in the late 20th century, we borrow from Mathiesen’s (1997) discussion of twotypes of social control, panoptic and synoptic, and from Feeley and Simon’s(1992, 1994) notions of the new penology or actuarial justice.
The notion of panoptic control is derived from Jeremy Bentham’s notion of a prison where every prisoner is under constant surveillance. In Mathiesen’s (1997)usage, panoptic control refers to the few (that is, prison or psychiatric staff) whosurvey the many (that is, all those who are under correctional or psychiatric con-trol). Mathiesen contrasted the notion of panoptic control with that of synopticcontrol, which refers to the many (that is, members of the community) who surveythe few (that is, those such as sex offenders who are considered to be especiallydangerous to the community).
What Feeley and Simon called the new penology (1992) or, more broadly, actuarial justice (1994) is a panoptic approach to controlling risky categories ofpersons by small numbers of persons who use expert knowledge and technologyto carry out their work of surveillance. This panoptic approach combines theassessment of risk in selected target populations with a variety of risk manage-ment techniques.
First, there is the identification of categories of offenders according to their risk using risk assessment scales. Second, there is intensive surveillance and trackingof persons, particularly those who fall into the highest risk categories, using com- International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology puterized registries and testing and screening procedures such as urine analysis,blood tests, polygraph tests, and plethysmographic testing to determine deviantsexual responsivity. Third, there is a shift in emphasis from approaches designedto treat offenders to approaches that focus on preventing recidivism (relapse pre-vention). Such approaches combine behavioral management and pharmacologi-cal intervention along with supervision. Fourth, there is the use of incapacitativemeasures, the nature and extent of which depend on determinations of the level ofthe offenders’ risk. Some examples are the use of restrictions on movement suchas peace bonds, electronic monitoring, and confinement in prisons or psychiatrichospital and pharmacological intervention such as chemical castration.
Feeley and Simon (1990, 1994) noted the following major characteristics of 1. There is a focus on actuarially defined target populations and categories of person as opposed to particular individuals.
2. The actuarial language of differential probability and risk takes primacy over ear- lier discourses of clinical diagnosis (that is, the clinical model) and proportionateretribution and civil rights (that is, the justice model).
3. There is a technocratic emphasis on the cost-effective and efficient management of people and resources not only in the interests of public safety but also in the corpo-rate interest of providing social control agencies with measures of their productivitythat can be used to justify their mandates and budgets.
Congruent with the increasing emphasis of state agencies on panoptic forms of risk management characteristic of actuarial justice and often in the vanguard of ithas been the response of populist social movements (Garland, 2001; J. Simon &Feeley, 1995). These movements respond to dramatic media reports of the sexualvictimization of children and women by attempting to increase public safetythrough collective punitive and incapacitative actions.
Such populist groups take as their starting point that the civil rights of offend- ers and their rehabilitation through treatment must take a back seat to the rights ofvictims and the right of the community in general to freedom of movement, free-dom from fear, and safety and quality of life. In such a view, even the most mini-mal risk of sexual or violent victimization is so unacceptable that there is a call forzero tolerance. The approach taken at a community level is not only to demandpanoptic control on the part of the state but also to take an active synoptic role inrisk management through surveillance and collective expressions of disapproval.
Concerned members of the community demand the means to exercise such mea-sures on the basis that it is their right to know the presence of a particular kind ofrisky person (that is, the sex offender) in their midst (Sherman, 1998).
Some of the ways in which synoptic controls are actively exercised are the 1. community vigilance measures such as neighborhood watch, block parents, citizen patrols, street proofing, and sexual danger courses for potential victims; 2. media coverage of persons or places deemed to be risky for vulnerable segments of the population and crime stopper call-in programs; 3. intensive lobbying of public officials by pressure groups calling for reforms to increase public safety and allegations of undue concerns for offender rights andinsufficient concerns for victims and community safety; 4. vigilantism, including picketing residences of known or alleged sex offenders and demanding they leave the neighborhood, vandalism, and acts of interpersonalviolence.
5. public access to sex offender registries via the Internet, CD-ROM, or 900 phone The widespread use of such community social controls suggests a trend toward a synoptic approach that involves the eyes of the many—the community—survey-ing the few—that is, the predatory sex offender. This trend, however, has gonehand in hand with the ongoing development of panoptic controls by the state, withone development sparking the other. As Mathiesen (1997) stated, “Panopticismand synopticism have developed in intimate interaction even fusion with eachother” (p. 223). What Mathiesen did not note, however, is that some forms ofsynopticism may be based on different visions of justice than are others. In otherwords, a synoptic approach need not take a punitive or incapacitative stance. To il-lustrate this point, the last part of this article briefly discusses a synoptic commu-nity response to sex offenders that is based on the principle of community reinte-gration rather than that of community protection.
The Community Reintegration Project (CRP), better known as circles of sup- port and accountability, had its origins in the restorative justice work of the Cana-dian Mennonite church in southern Ontario and in a ministry of reconciliationestablished by several individuals working as chaplains with Correctional Ser-vices Canada. The aim of this ministry, in the words of former Correctional Ser-vices Canada Head Chaplain Pierre Allard, is to demonstrate “the impact of acommunity of faith on a community of crime”(Cayley, 1998, p. 301).
The first circles of support and accountability were informally set up in 1994.
In one instance, Reverend Hugh Kirkegaard, a Baptist minister and communitychaplain with Correctional Services Canada, set up an informal support group toassist the aforementioned Wray Budreo who had a total of 36 convictions (26involving sexual touching of boys between the ages of 5 and 17). On his releasefrom prison, after being detained to warrant expiry as a high-risk offender, Budreo International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology moved to the Toronto area without friends, a place to stay, or a job. He was placedon a peace bond by the court requiring him to avoid contact with children and wassubject to hostile media coverage and threats from members of the community(Abbate, 2001; Makin, 2000).
Volunteers from Kirkegaard’s church helped Budreo find a place to stay and helped him cope with the police, pressure from the media, and hostile people inthe community. Members of the group took turns telephoning him and visitinghim on a daily basis. They sought to both provide Budreo with support and to holdhim accountable for changing attitudes and behaviors that could get him into trou-ble. Also in 1994, Reverend Harry Nigh, a Mennonite pastor in the nearby city ofHamilton, set up a similar circle around Charley Taylor, another high-profilepedophile who had been released from prison after warrant expiry and placed on apeace bond (Cayley, 1998; Nigh, 1997).
During the next few years, as these initial circles were judged successful in pre- venting sexual recidivism, Reverend Kirkegaard began to work together withReverend Nigh, Reverend Evan Heise, and other Mennonite pastors concernedwith restorative justice to develop a general model of community reintegration forsex offenders. The result was the CRP, a model of circles, support, and account-ability that could be applied to other sex offenders in other communities (Heiseet al., 2000). This model can be briefly summarized as follows.
Members of the CRP team identify candidates for the project among those sex offenders who have been denied parole and detained in custody until warrantexpiry, the last day they can be legally confined. Offenders considered for the pro-ject lack community support, are considered at high risk to reoffend, and typicallyare high-profile cases who have been subjected to a peace bond on releaseand sometimes community notification under provincial community safetylegislation.
The circle of support around offenders consists of four to seven specially trained volunteers (usually members of a church or religious faith group) whoagree to help offenders establish themselves in the community and avoid situa-tions that might lead to reoffending. Volunteers are taught about how the law andcriminal justice system works, human sexuality (including sexual deviancy),group dynamics, and some basic principles of counseling. Once the circle is estab-lished, members work at everything from helping offenders to find housing andwork and to take part in recreational activities to helping them change attitudesand behaviors that might lead to reoffending. This inner circle of support may besupplemented by an outer circle consisting of police, social workers, family, andfriends who sit in occasionally or as needed. The volunteers in the inner circlecommit to working with core members, and core members commit to workingwith them. The shared agreement or consensus into which they enter with eachother is called a covenant.
The volunteers agree to provide a community of support and accountability by assisting with practical living needs; open and honest communication; designating afew members of the circle who will screen sensitive information about the offender(for example, confidential information provided by therapists); consulting withother members of the circle before speaking to people outside the circle such as thepolice or the media; mediating with the outside community including the police andthe media; adhering to plan of action that the circle has agreed upon; defining theconsequences of failure of the core member or the inner circle members to meet theterms of the covenant; respect for the process used by the circle to reach consensus;commitment to immediate response in a crisis situation. (Heise et al., 2000, pp. 15-16) respect the confidentiality of personal information shared in the circle; open andhonest communication; developing a relapse prevention plan, sharing it with the cir-cle and agreeing to follow it; identifying any substance abuse problems, medicalproblems and counseling needs and commit to dealing with them; signing a formauthorizing the release of confidential information to at least one circle member;consulting with the circle before discussing his situation with persons outside thecircle (for example, police and media); respecting the consensus that is reached inthe circle. (Heise et al., 2000, p. 16) Between its beginnings in 1994 and 2000, the CRP has set up 30 circles in the Toronto-Hamilton area and another 12 in other parts of Canada. Most of the cir-cles have been in operation from 18 to 24 months, and the longest has been inplace for more than 6 years. A recent evaluation of Circles in Ontario found thatalthough the statistical probability was that seven offenders were likely toreoffend, only three members have been charged with another sexual offense. Theoffenses that resulted in charges were an indecent telephone call, a sexual offenseagainst a female adult, and a sexual offense against a child (Wilson & Prinzo,2000, p. 18).
One of the objectives of evaluating the CRP has been to assess the feasibility of wider application. Although circles of support and accountability are currentlyonly applied to sex offenders released on warrant expiry, it may be possible toextend or modify this concept so that a wider range of offenders might be covered.
In closing, let us briefly compare the voices being expressed by adherents of the community reintegration approach to sex offenders with the voices of thosewho represent the other major approaches we have discussed. In addition to devel-oping the practical features of circles of support and accountability, some mem-bers of the CRP (Kirkegaard & Northey, 2000) have been attempting to develop arationale for their project in Christian theology and the writings of contemporaryscholars such as Rene Girard (Cayley, 2001). Kirkegaard and Northey seek tounderstand the social roots of both sexual violence and the community’s fearfulresponse in the confluence of the commodified sexuality of consumer society, thepervasive anomie wrought by the rapid emergence of a global economy, the cul-ture of abuse, and the desire to find scapegoats to make things right.
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology In contrast with other approaches to sex offenders, the voices heard from mem- bers of the CRP propound a distinctly different message.
In the clinical approach, the clinical expert, with the alleged authority of sci- ence and medicine, speaks loudest, claiming that individuals can be healed andcommunities made safe through diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.
In the justice approach, it is the voices of legal experts with strong civil libertar- ian values that are loudest. These experts argue that it is not the community that isat risk but rather the right of all individuals to not have their liberty restricted with-out just cause and without the full protections of constitutional guarantees.
In the community protection–risk management approach, it is the community safety advocates and risk reduction technocrats who speak in the interests of safe-guarding the community against those whose deviant natures pose unacceptablerisks to children and women. The approach taken is to segregate or isolate sexoffenders from the community on the basis that they are too dangerous to be partof it. Failing the possibility of such isolation or segregation, they are placed undervarying degrees of watch from within because their enduring propensities for sex-ual deviance mean they can never be fully trusted.
In contrast, circles of support and accountability transcend panopticism and a narrow protection-based form of synopticism in favor of a reintegrative or restor-ative approach. Members of the CRP decry the dehumanizing and scapegoating ofsex offenders. They call for an end to approaches based on divisions between“us”– (the good and decent citizens of society) and “them” (the alien and mon-strous others who must be banished from society on the basis of their deviant pro-pensities).
Instead, the CRP looks to the possibility of individual and community healing in which not only sex offenders and members of the circle but also the communityat large have the opportunity for positive change. This does not mean denying thevery real dangers sex offenders can pose to members of the community. On thecontrary, the accountability placed both on sex offenders and on circle volunteersto minimize risk is the primary concern. Sex offenders must meet the legal restric-tions such as peace bonds that are placed on them, follow a relapse prevention planthat includes whatever form of treatment is clinically deemed to be necessary, andkeep all other terms of the covenant they have made with circle members. Animportant difference from the community protection–risk management approach,however, is that sex offenders receive sympathy and help, not just hostility, from atleast some members of the community. Rather than being driven from neighbor-hood to neighborhood like some tormented Frankenstein and perhaps re-offending in despair that he can ever be any different, the sex offender is given achance to redeem himself under the caring but ever so watchful eyes of a con-cerned community.
The author would like to thank the following: Jim Coflin for his generous shar- ing of information from his research on sex offender registries, officials of theMinistry of the Solicitor-General of Canada (particularly Andrew Harris and Clif-ford Yumansky) for access to ministry documents), Myriam Denov and MariaLos for their helpful comments, and Lizanne Avon for her editorial assistance.
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Michael G. Petrunik, Ph.D.
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