Program intensity is linked to offender needs. Moderate to high needs will be met in medium or maximum security settings where programs are longer and more intensive. Offenders who are identified as low risk/needs will be matched with low intensity, short duration programs in minimum security settings, and in the community.

The majority of treatment programs usually include an education component emphasizing attitudes towards sexuality and relationships, empathy enhancement, anger management, victim awareness, techniques to reduce or control deviant arousal and relapse prevention skills. Emphasis is placed on reducing the risk of sexual offending through a combination of self-management and external control.

Future Directions

The public's fear of sex offender recidivism is legitimate. The effects of sexual offending are felt by victims, families and communities for years following the offence.

Over the past few years, Canada has changed both law and practice in dealing with sexual offenders. The following are some of the new initiatives:

  • The Corrections and Conditional Release Act allows judges to set parole eligibility at one-half of the sentence
  • Sex offenders can be detained until the end of their sentence
  • Police are authorized to notify specific individuals or the community at large of the release of sex offender deemed high risk to reoffend
  • Police can ask the courts to apply a peace bond to sex offenders in the community to restrict their movements, require reporting to police or reside at a particular location
  • Sex offenders can be declared a Long Term Offender at time of sentencing, meaning that the offender can receive up to 10 years community supervision following imprisonment for at least 2 years
  • Sex offenders can be declared a Dangerous Offender at time of sentencing, meaning that the offender can be held in prison indefinitely
  • Criminal records of pardoned sex offenders who apply for positions of trust with children can be revealed upon approval by the Solicitor General

A number of these provisions are relatively new and we need to give them time to work. Together, they make a fairly comprehensive set of protections for the community. Some of them can be used more effectively, and we can continue to build on what we know about treating sex offenders. The success of offenders in the community can be improved through appropriate treatment while in custody, intense relapse prevention programs during conditional release supervision, and long-term follow-up and support for sex offenders on an "as needed" basis at no cost to the offender.