From prison into the community : the impact of release planning on sexual recidivism for child molesters.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Research on the factors underlying sex offender recidivism has not considered the importance of the reintegration process through which the offender rejoins the community after prison. This thesis reports findings from 3 empirical studies designed to explore whether poor release planning might contribute to sex offender recidivism. In Study 1, a coding protocol was developed to measure the comprehensiveness of release planning for child molesters, which included items relating to accommodation, employment, pro-social support, community-based treatment, and Good Lives Model (T. Ward & C.A. Stewart, 2003) secondary goods. The protocol was retrospectively applied to groups of recidivist and nonrecidivist graduates of a prison-based treatment programme, who were matched on static risk level and time since release. As predicted, overall release planning was significantly poorer for recidivists compared to nonrecidivists. Study 2 was a validation and extension of Study 1. The original coding protocol, and some revised items, were applied to matched groups of recidivists and nonrecidivists from a different treatment programme. Consistent with Study 1 findings, overall release planning was significantly poorer for recidivists. Data from Studies 1 and 2 were pooled (total N = 141) and Cox regressions showed that accommodation, employment, and social support planning combined to best predict recidivism, with predictive accuracy comparable to that obtained using static risk models. Study 3 investigated whether release planning was associated with actual reintegration experiences, and additionally explored released child molesters’ good lives plans. Release plans were rated for 16 child molesters, who were interviewed post-release about their reintegration experiences and good lives plans. As predicted, significant positive correlations were found between release planning and reintegration experiences 1 and 3 months following prison release, and results suggested that effective reintegration might help facilitate living a good life. Overall, results from the 3 studies suggest that poor release planning and subsequent reintegration experiences contribute to sex offender recidivism. Implications for researchers, clinicians, policy makers, and community members are discussed.