Going home: Even sex offenders should be allowed to rejoin society

By Charles Wohlforth . . . The good news is that Alaska’s sex offender treatment program works. The bad news is that a shortage of providers creates a many-months-long waiting list that traps sex offenders from rural Alaska in Anchorage, sometimes homeless.

With 250 sex offenders coming out of Alaska prisons annually, 45 percent of them Native, this is a public safety threat and a humanitarian fiasco. We must do better.

The popular belief that sex offenders cannot reform is false. Sex offenders are much less likely to commit a new crime after prison than other criminals. In Alaska, their rate of re-arrest for sex crimes after four years is only 3 percent, according to Department of Corrections data.

After going through Alaska’s model of long-term cognitive-behavioral therapy, high-risk sex offenders eventually become no more likely than a typical member of the public to commit a new sex offense, according to a department white paper. Low-risk offenders reach that point on the day they are released from prison.

Alaska has the highest rate of sexual assault in the country. The problem is worst in rural Alaska. Most sex crimes are against children.

Victims suffer more deeply and for longer than the rest of us can possibly imagine. I accept and affirm their lasting pain and the belief of many victims that the men who did this to them should suffer just as much.

But that cannot be society’s primary goal. It is more important to avoid future crimes, even if speeding treatment and letting offenders get stable jobs and homes may look like mercy.

Some of the Alaska Native sex offenders I met at the nonprofit Partners for Progress Re-entry Center seemed sincerely sorry and eager to make amends. No purpose is served by putting them on the streets.

Grace Harrington, a case worker at the center for the last three years, said her clients have made her believe in humanity in a new way.

“I thought I understood what sex offenses meant when I started working here,” she said. “My mind has been changed because of the human beings that I’ve met and the interactions that I’ve had and the empathy that’s grown. Because I truly believe in human rights, and I do believe in human beings changing, and I’ve seen it with my eyes.”

Whether sexual predators can change their deviant drives may be doubtful. But therapy can stop them from acting on those impulses by teaching them to think morally.

Laura Brooks, Corrections’ deputy director of Health and Rehabilitation Services, recently explained the department’s successful containment model at the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission’s Sex Offender Work Group. The commission is looking at sex offense laws at the request of the Legislature.

The model uses long-term monitoring of parolees, including polygraph tests, combined with therapy that focuses on changing their criminal thinking patterns through discussion and workbooks. The therapy can last two years and the waiting list to begin is as long as six months.

Commissioner of Corrections Dean Williams said the department has been unable to find enough therapy providers and polygraph administrators to keep up with the need for treatment.

This is a good place to invest.

Read the rest of this opinion in Alaska Dispatch News.

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    • #19092 Reply
      Darrel Hoffman

      Sounds like Alaska has found an answer that other states, especially Michigan, need to model. Successful re-entry for sex offenders has to start with appropriate treatment for them to defeat the evil sex thoughts that come to their mind. They also had to learn that just because you have the “feeling” doesn’t mean you have the right to act upon it. This goes against everything Society teaches through social media, entertainment, and the news that if is feels good you have the right to do it. More important, however, all need to know and this includes victims, that the only real cure and healing comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone can heal the wounded hearts involved and until sex offender and victim alike turn to Him for their answers, neither one will overcome the shame and pain both suffer.

    • #19099 Reply
      Michael Shimkin
      Michael Shimkin

      While I find the author has a grasp on the realities of recidivism, I was disturbed by the ramping-up of provoking descriptors and the seemingly interchangeability of how registered persons are described. He starts with “sex offenders”, then moves to “high-risk sex offenders” and then finally we are left with “sexual predators” yet never distinguishing the differences. And here in lay the problem; the offense of indecent exposure because you had sex on the beach is now lumped together with forceful rape. Could a potential solution be to coin new terminology? Look how quickly “alternative fact” became mainstream.

      • #19103 Reply
        Needs to read Steve Yoder’s article

        The author needs to read Steve Yoder’s article to grasp journalistic ethics and integrity on titles of RCs. Maybe NARSOL can send the AK chapter a copy for them to send along or send it directly themselves.

      • #19204 Reply

        The Sexual Predator label is nonsense in the way its used anyway. When you hear “sexual predator” you picture some guy running around raping/molesting multiple people, but in reality, you’re labeled exactly that based off the age of the individual in just one crime. For example, in certain states, if the victim was under he age of 12 then one would automatically be labeled a sexual predator. I find this asinine considering in the end there’s no real difference between a man raping a women he followed home and molesting a child. Why does having a child victim make the man a predator?

        • #19238 Reply
          Jonny everyman

          A child doesn’t have an opportunity to defend themselves.

          I have my issues with the registry but I think we have to acknowledge the wrong. If your attitude is the law isn’t fair then you are living in the wrong country.

    • #19102 Reply

      I have so many issues with just the first part of what is said in this article. And I don’t have time to read the entire thing at this moment but I will later.

      First: Why does EVERY sex “offense” need a rehabilitation? I had a rendezvous with a teen a year shy of legal age. I also didn’t want to continue because I was uncomfortable with it. It boosted my ego a bit as she was VERY attractive but I wasn’t comfortable. Why did I need sex offender treatment and why does anyone who rendezvous with a teen need it?
      The way this and other article speak about how “sex offender treatment works” makes it seem as if they are talking about HABITUAL offenders who just can’t help themselves and have an attraction to minors or small children or raping women. That’s not every sex offense case.

      Second; “Victims suffer more deeply and for longer than the rest of us can possibly imagine. I accept and affirm their lasting pain and the belief of many victims that the men who did this to them should suffer just as much”

      Here we go with the “victim” thing again. And again I’ll say that I dont believe that teenagers who CHOOSE to engage and also LIE about their ages should be referred to as “victims”. That’s the legal systems b.s. to make a situation sound worse than it is for the purpose of A) Getting a conviction and B ) Fear mongering.
      I was a teenager myself. I sowed my wild oats with an older woman. Don’t dare call ME a victim of something I enjoyed.

      Is it a crime to break a law? Yes. Is it necessary to have to refer to the other person as a “victim”? No.
      By constantly using the term “victim” there will never be any sympathy for any of us. Not even a smidgen of sympathy when we’re forced to live in tents and under bridges because : “victim”.

      CUT IT OUT!

    • #19106 Reply
      no hope

      “I accept and affirm their lasting pain and the belief of many victims that the men who did this to them should suffer just as much”
      is it me or am i the only one that see’s the author say “the men”
      i believe and ill double check my facts but there are 10% of RSO’s that are woman and on television you see more and more woman every day sleeping with students and so on.
      That being said i like the fact that its a program helping people and mentions that if we are given decent jobs and can live in a decent place that the majority of us will become decent citizens, as opposed to re-offending with other crimes because we violate a living restriction and so on.
      The government uses statistics like 70% re offend rate after being released from jail.
      What they dont tell you isthat 3% is a sexual re-offense. The other 67% are things like failing to register because you dont have transportation to get to the registration office because you cant get a decent job to provide transportation or housing. failing to live up to your financial responsibilities like probation and so on again due to the fact no one will hire you. living in a restricted area because they make laws that push us into a small area then make it illeagal to live there. vagrancy/petty theft of food and so on because you cant provide for yourself /pan handling because its the only job you can get, all of these crimes and the majority of the 70% re offense crimes are caused by these supposed laws and regulations that were created to protect children. We all now know that it does not protect anyone in fact they do the opposite if anything. A desperate animal like a human being will do whatever it has to in order to survive. If he/she cant make money to live and eat he/she will steal and or beg, if they have no place to live/rest they will try and sneak in an area undetected that is restricted if only to get a few hours rest.
      Finally and i know this has been said forever and ever but predators and offenders are not the same in some cases jared fogle and jerry sandusky are not the same as some 19 year old that was caught having sex with his 16 year old girlfriend. they are not the same as someone that has one image of an underage child on their computer, they are not the same as some 21 year old drunk(really happened) that exposes him/herself by accident to a minor on her 21st birthday celebration at a restaurant with a bar and the mother of the minor pressed charges ruining the woman’s life(on Florida’s sex offender registry for life)
      Can someone with some common sense and some power please make a federal case for different levels of offender so they dont all get grouped together and the ones that have a minor lapse in judgement dont suffer like the ones who have molested lots of children

    • #19134 Reply

      What are you doing to help us travel abroad? What countries or territories can we visit/ do you have a list, this would be helpful. Thanks.

      • #19143 Reply
        @Ernest – Travel answer


        You can also look up the RTAG online and see info there in the matrix as well as over at ACSOL which has a lively community discussing travel continually.

    • #19140 Reply
      Joyce M Lowery

      Until society along with the powers that be figure out that molestation and rape are two separate things, two separate thoughts, two separate actions, not much will change. Lumping crimes together is an evil against mankind itself. Hopefully, someday, psychologists will get their heads out of the book and use some good old fashioned common sense. The book they teach from and learn from is not accurate.

    • #19228 Reply
      Bob Buckboardmann

      The States and Counties Say, “You cannot Stereo Type a Person~!!!!!
      “””””IT IS AGAINST THE LAW~!!!!!”””””””

      But Isn’t that “””EXACTLY”””, what they are doing
      with offenders, yet only 3 percent,
      Ever Re-Offend~!!~???? Hmmmm ?

      Shifting Gears, Megans List, is really, just a website for Vigilantes~!!!!
      and for people, who are Bored~!!!!

      Moreover, If a Pedophile or anyone for that matter,
      REALLY wants a Child,
      a Website, ISN’T GOING TO STOP THEM~!!! DUH~!!!
      ‘Nuff Said~!!!!

      So, Stereotyping is acceptable, from the Government~!!!
      Do as I say, Not as I do~!!! Seems to be the Govt.’s Message here~!!

    • #19359 Reply

      I believe that the Sex Offender treatment is about money and no amount of therapy will change a persons behavior until they decide to change on their own. The registration is a waste of money just as online uncover solicitation sting operations . To think like a pervert is to be a pervert really ironic.

    • #25119 Reply

      There’s absolutely nothing to be available about sex offenders. If you had sex on beach and you are put away for that clearly, you don’t deserve to be put away. But that’s about it. If you have abused a child in any way or forcibly raped anyone in any way, you do not deserve to be out of prison ever. In my opinion you are not capable of Rehabilitation common or do you have the right to do so. As the author said, these actions affect victims in ways that we cannot even imagine. It affects the core of their being and who they become. This is the worst crime there is. And there is a reason why it is treated as such in prison. The fact that sex offenders and sexual predators, yes I said Predators because that’s exactly what they are, want more rights and are not given the gas chamber immediately upon a guilty verdict, is unbelievable to me. I truly honestly hope, that sometime in the future Society realizes just how detrimental these people are and how releasing them into society is absolutely unacceptable. They should be given the death penalty with a $0.15 bullet or should be killed by the family. That would be Justice.

      • #25131 Reply
        Sandy Rozek
        Sandy Rozek

        No, that would be vengeance. The point is that none of those things happen. Almost all in prison who have committed all types of crimes will be released, and it is in the best interest of all of us to do that which makes society safer. That is not accomplished by perpetuating a system that fosters hopelessness and homelessness.

        I understand that you may have been hurt, either directly or indirectly, by sexual abuse, but you may not speak for everyone in your pronouncements, only for yourself. I know many former victims of child sexual abuse, and while it is true that the memories do not erase themselves from their minds, the majority of them choose to move past that time and that pain. That puts them, not their abuser, in control. Valid therapists and victim service providers focus on healing and recovery and often, when desired by all, family reunification and forgiveness. Former victims of all violent crime and situations, up to and including the holocaust, not only recover but also put it behind them.
        The very worst crime? Would I rather my loved one have been murdered than inappropriately touched or even raped? Ask any parent that question. Ask yourself.
        All evidence contradicts your opinion about rehabilitation, as does common sense: The overwhelming majority of one-time convicted individuals living in the community do not commit any more sexual offenses.
        I know this is an emotional issue; it is for us also, but getting bogged down in emotional responses is why we are where we are now. It is time for laws and policies firmly grounded in facts and empirical evidence.

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