If you’ve been charged with a sex offense your lawyer may recommend pretrial sex offender treatment, and here’s some reasons why. A sex offense charge is a big deal. Even the mere accusation of a sex crime makes you look “worse than a murderer,” as my book’s title says. Assuming you’re either out on bail or you haven’t been charged yet, pretrial sex offender treatment has many advantages.
MITIGATION IS NEVER TOO EARLY
Attending pretrial sex offender treatment shows that you’re making an effort to improve yourself. One of the best ways to show a judge that you deserve a break is to prove that you’re amendable to treatment and that a shorter sentence, coupled with treatment, is a better option for you. Your sex offender treatment provider may further add some credibility to your mitigation efforts at sentencing.
Notice that I’m referring to “sentencing” as if you’re going to be convicted. That’s because people who go to pretrial sex offender treatment usually plan on pleading guilty. If you’re going to maintain your innocence and go to trial, however, pretrial sex offender treatment may not be a good idea. After all, if you’re innocent why would you need treatment?
FINDING A PRETRIAL SEX OFFENDER TREATMENT PROVIDER
Chances are your lawyer has a pretrial sex offender provider in mind. Finding the right provider is crucial because, even if you plan to plead guilty, you still don’t want to admit to anything specific about your offense or any unreported offenses. Remember, all therapists have a “duty” to report sexual abuse. If you admit to the sexual abuse of someone, they must report it to law enforcement. A good pretrial sex offender provider will know what questions should be asked to avoid this dilemma.
This probably also means no testing, unless your lawyer says it’s ok. While not admissible in court, polygraphs (lie detectors), PPGs (penile plethysmographs), and other computerized tests that come out negatively can shed a bad light on your case and hurt any chances of getting a good plea deal. If the prosecutor obtains “evidence” through these tests showing that you’re guilty of this and even more crimes, she may not be willing to make a deal with you.
Work carefully and closely with your attorney before and throughout any pretrial sex offender treatment. In my book, “Worse Than a Murderer: Doing Time as a Sex Offender,” I go over pretrial sex offender treatment procedures in much more detail.
WHAT’S THE TREATMENT LIKE?
Most likely the pretrial sex offender treatment you attend will be group treatment with several convicted sex offenders and at least one therapist. They usually meet once a week and it’s similar to other support groups you may have seen. It’s a relaxed mood and the underlying tone is “supportive.” It’s mainly guys (the women have their own groups) who talk about some of the issues they’re facing — and it’s not always about sex-offender stuff. In fact, it’s usually not about sexual stuff at all.
You’ll probably be an observer and not be expected to participate. Just hearing about what led others to sexually offend is itself powerful treatment. You’ll learn a lot about why you offended just by listening to their stories. The guys already know you can’t say anything because you’re facing charges. They’ve been in your spot before. Group treatment may be combined with individual one-on-one treatment with a therapist. Again, a good therapist will know what to ask and not ask. Follow your lawyer’s advice on whether one-on-one treatment is a good idea.
Before you go to group treatment, prepare yourself. You’ll hear guys introduce themselves and admit to some things that may disturb or shock you. You’re not used to hearing people admit that they are a “sex offender” or that they raped their daughter, or maybe even worse. You might compare your (alleged) crime to theirs and think you’re not as bad as them. Maybe not in some ways, but you’ll notice that the thinking that caused a guy to commit a sex offense that’s “worse” than yours was the same thinking you used when you committed your crime. Think about that. Can you be open-minded enough to see that it’s possible?
You’ll definitely leave with some mixed feelings, and some enlightenment.
Dale Chappell is the author of hundreds of published articles on the federal criminal justice system, and the Insider`s Guide series of federal post-conviction books. He is a consultant in federal post-conviction procedure and an authority on federal sex offense issues.