Sex Offender Treatment:

Research Results Inconclusive About What Works to Reduce Recidivism

GGD-96-137: Published: Jun 21, 1996. Publicly Released: Jun 21, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed research results on the effectiveness of sex offender treatment programs in reducing recidivism.

GAO noted that: (1) all of the research studies reviewed provided qualitative and quantitative summaries of sex offender treatment programs; (2) nearly all of the studies identified limitations in evaluating treatment effectiveness; (3) there was no consensus as to which treatment reduces recidivism; (4) the cognitive-behavioral treatment approach works well in treating child molesters and exhibitionists, but treatment effectiveness depends on the type of offender and treatment setting; (5) researchers did not engage in comparison studies to measure recidivism rates because of the studies' inconsistent measurements; (6) the research reports lacked sufficient descriptive information on how program participants are selected and recidivism measured; and (7) definitive conclusions could not be drawn about deviant sexual behavior because certain methodological weaknesses have underscored inferences.

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