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AK- Alaska Sex Offender Recidivism Study

1996 Alaska

Sex offenders benefit if they participate in treatment during their incarceration, "surviving" much longer than untreated offenders before committing new crimes after returning to society, according to a long term study recently completed by the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Alaska Department of Corrections.

The study also showed that the longer they stayed in treatment, the longer they lasted in the community without reoffense, and that those who reached the advanced stages of treatment committed no new offenses during the period studies.

"These are positive results. They show our treatment program is working," said Margaret Pugh, Commissioner of Corrections. "No matter how you measure, the treatment group did better after release than untreated. And the further they go in treatment, the better their chances are of not reoffending."

The four-year study was done in conjunction with the university's Anchorage Justice Center. It reviewed the records of 685 prisoners who served time in Alaska correctional facilities between January 1987 and August 1995, including 411 who participated in the state's primary sex offender treatment program at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River.

Significant findings of the study are:

None of the 41 offenders in the study who reached the advanced stage of treatment has been reported committing a new offense.

All treated offenders, even those whose participation in treatment was minimal, went longer in the community without committing a new offense than offenders in any other comparison group.

Sexual assault offenders (rapists) and sexual abuse of a minor offenders do equally well, both in terms of how long they stay in treatment and how far they advance.

Alaska Native offenders do not progress in treatment as well as non-Natives, and both older, more educated Natives and those with a history of combined alcohol and drug abuse tend to leave treatment in the earlier phases.

"It's important to realize that this study does not claim we are curing sex offenders through treatment. The fact is, sex offenders are never considered cured," Pugh said. "But treatment can help offenders learn to control their behavior when they return to society. The vast majority of offenders do return to their communities, and treatment clearly is helping to reduce the number of victims of reoffenders."

Pugh said the reasons behind the findings concerning higher dropout rates for Alaska Natives aren't clear, but the department already is working on a plan to address the issue, she said. Part of the effort will involve a working group to focus on cultural issues. The working group will include representatives of several Alaska Native organizations, Pugh said.

"The value of this study is that now we have some baseline data on providing sex offender treatment to Native American inmates. We believe this research is at the forefront nationally, and even internationally, in that regard," Pugh said.

Pugh said the study took much longer than anticipated to complete because of difficulties involved in building and maintaining data bases with the department's inadequate management information system. The department is working with the state's other criminal justice agencies to create an integrated information system that will benefit public safety statewide, she said. ..more.. by the Alaska Department of Corrections. Full Study

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