Observed sexual recidivism rates of sex offenders range from about 5 percent after 3 years to about 24 percent after 15 years. Sex offenders have higher rates of general recidivism than sexual recidivism. What led you to the field of social work, and specifically, to work at a male prison? I continued to have the desire to be a social worker and I finally made the decision to go back to school in I completed a short community service project during my undergraduate education with an AIDS Resource Center and they did groups in a female state correctional facility.
I saw a significant need for inmates to be given the tools and encouragement they needed in order to be successful when they are released.
Those who had life sentences needed to learn positive coping skills to get them through their days. While working in the state mental health system, I saw patients with significant criminal histories and wondered if there was any type of support for them while incarcerated. I was still interested in corrections and I pursued employment with my current employer. I was thrilled when I got the offer.
I knew there would be a culture shock, but I was ready for the challenge. How did develop your specialty working with male sex offenders? And what is it like working with this population? I was first exposed working with sex offenders in the child welfare system with the sex offenders generally being the caregivers of the children who were now in foster care. The work with sex offenders at that point was indirect. They were receiving their treatment outside of our agency, but their offense was often a topic at meetings and court hearings.
During my interview at the prison, they asked me how I felt working with sex offenders. I definitely had some apprehension and anxiety about it. This was direct work with sex offenders in a group setting where they would need to disclose even the smallest detail of their crime. Would I be able to handle that? I was very nervous and scared on the day of my first class.
There was another social worker with me to help get the group up and running. She stayed with me for quite a few weeks helping me to navigate the group process. I was afraid to hear all the minute details of the crime. I was afraid to hear what they had done to their victims, which were often young children. I was afraid of how I would react. Initially, it was very difficult to hear how the victims were assaulted.
I began checking in with myself to make sure I was handling the stories of abuse and assault in a healthy manner. I also had to be aware of my feelings towards the inmates.
They have already been judged for their crime. The reward comes at times when I least expect it. Julie Medlin founded the Medlin Treatment Center MTC , which is an outpatient counseling center that treats specializes in treating sexual deviancy.
We utilize her Responsible Living program at our facility in a group setting. There are also individual sessions that can be done; however, we do not have individual sessions as a part of this program at this institution. It utilizes a Cognitive Behavioral, Relapse-Prevention model. The inmates earn points each week for attendance, participation, and homework. Inmates need a certain amount of points to graduate from the class. If the minimum amount of points are not earned, they can fail the group.
So, I encourage inmates to actively participate and complete the homework. Homework is assigned on a weekly basis which we go over individually during group. Inmates can be removed from the group if they are denying their offense or are simply not making progress.
The high intensity program includes all seven phases. The low intensity program includes phases 1, 3, 5, and 7. Sessions are held on a weekly basis. The purpose of this is to remind inmates why they are in treatment, help in taking responsibility for their offending, help others learn about their offense, review the past week and any difficulties they may have had, and discuss any red flags from the past week.
We do this on a weekly basis because this is a significant part of offending that many inmates do not understand. While all of the phases are important, Victim Empathy is a phase where we spend a lot of time. Another important phase is Responsibility Taking. Many inmates struggle with this because it requires them to be forthcoming and honest.
Not only with the group, but with themselves. A great part of the group process is that the inmates hold each other accountable.
When the inmates recognize thinking errors in one another, they are quick to bring attention to that. The inmates who are serious about the group want everyone to be serious. They are sharing every detail of their crime with a group of people and I recognize how difficult this can be for them.
They have told me they are embarrassed to discuss their crime in detail in front of me, simply because I am a woman. As time goes on, the trust builds within the group and they begin to be more open about their crime and their feelings related to their crime which helps them tremendously. This is one place where they have told me they feel they can trust somebody. Also, what percentage of your job is clinical vs. My day starts off going through the metal detector at the front gate.
I head toward Control to get my keys and body alarm. Control is where the lieutenants are posted and all emergencies are paged through Control. Keys are to be placed on a security clip on your belt buckle. Keys are never to be placed in pockets. I head towards my block, which is outside of the Main Corridor.
I begin checking email and complete forms necessary for any misconducts that occurred the day before. My first appointment is for 8: I see inmates for interviews for psychological evaluations for parole. I also see inmates for Individual Recovery Plans, medication noncompliance checks, individual sessions, emergency situations, continuity of care for inmates who have a mental health diagnosis, and interviews for the inmates arriving at the institution.
When I am not seeing inmates, I complete the psychological evaluations and all documentation, which is done on paper and entered into the computer system. During the noon count all inmates are counted several times per day , I go to the block to check in with the inmates on the mental health roster. So, being flexible is important. Very little of my job is case management. What are the typical barriers to successful reentry into society for individuals exiting the prison, and how do you help your clients overcome these?
There are significant barriers for inmates reintegrating into society. Some inmates have served significant time. For those inmates who have served 10 years or more, they are concerned with how much society has changed since their initial reception into prison and how they will adjust to those changes. Typical barriers include lack of support in the community, lack of employment history or skills, lack of resources in the community, and educational issues.
When inmates are getting close to their release, we discuss their plan. I will provide resources to them in their community. For those inmates with a psychiatric diagnosis, I am setting up initial mental health treatment in their community for them. Ultimately, it is up to the inmate to seek out these services once they are released.
I provide them with the information and the appointments. It is their decision to seek out help. I encourage them to make contact with community resources immediately and not let the stress of reintegrating into society build up.
I have a list of companies that will hire people with a criminal history and I provide that to them. There are companies and people who will give inmates a second chance.
We talk about recidivism and how they can prevent themselves from returning. Sex offenders probably face the biggest challenge when reintegrating into society. There are many inmates who have been parole and are still incarcerated. This is because they do not have a home plan. Many inmates try to get accepted to a faith based halfway house. They have registration requirements related to the Adam Walsh Act which they must diligent with keeping track of timelines.
If they are a sexually violent predator SVP , the community is notified of their return which can pose even more problems for them. Being empathic and realistic regarding the challenges they face is important. One aspect of my job that I enjoy most is the interviewing for psychological evaluations for parole. It is during these interviews that I learn the most about the inmates. I learn more about their crime and the circumstances surrounding it.
I learn about their childhood and what it was like for them. Sometimes, they are able to express how they got to where they are now.