Navy Sex Offender Treatment: Promoting Community Safety

By Marin, Tina M.; Bell, Deborah L. | Corrections Today, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Navy Sex Offender Treatment: Promoting Community Safety


Marin, Tina M., Bell, Deborah L., Corrections Today


Sex abuse is a serious problem affecting millions of individuals and families, including military families. It is now acknowledged that treatment works; the most recent, large-scale and best designed treatment-outcome studies to date show this to be true.

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A comprehensive review of treatment programs by William L. Marshall and William D. Pithers (1) concluded that sex offenders who had participated in specialized treatment programs had lower recidivism rates than offenders who did not participate in such treatment. In addition, researchers for the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) are conducting a meta-analysis (a quantitative summary of statistical analyses) of treatment studies. Preliminary findings indicate that the overall effect of treatment is a reduction in both sexual recidivism and general recidivism. Any reduction in recidivism rates can result in significant cost-savings and, more critically, a reduction in harm. (2)

Naval Treatment Services

Since 1989, the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar in San Diego has provided comprehensive, cutting-edge mental health and rehabilitation services to court-martialed offenders. These services include psychological and biopsychosocial assessments, a complete range of substance abuse/dependence treatment, violent offender treatment and group therapies focused on changing criminal attitudes and behavior. The highly trained and experienced staff include licensed clinical psychologists and social workers, certified drug and alcohol abuse counselors, mental health specialists, case managers and correctional counselors.

In addition to these treatment services is the Miramar sex offender treatment program directed by a licensed clinical psychologist, who is a clinical member of ATSA, the international professional organization that provides standards, research and training for this field. Although most people are surprised that such a program exists in the Navy and that there are military personnel serving prison sentences for committing sex offenses, the Navy is on the forefront of the offensive against further abuse. Stopping sex abuse and keeping the community safe are the main goals of this program. (3)

Sex Offender Program Services

Approximately 50 sex offenders participate in the sex offender program at any one time. All convicted sex offenders begin with a mandated 18-hour sex offender education class. The goals of the course are to provide education on the dynamics of sexual deviance and sexual perpetration, provide information regarding offense-specific treatment available during confinement and motivate inmates to participate in such treatment. At the conclusion of the class, inmates are strongly encouraged to seek admission into the voluntary sex offender treatment program. Inmates who decide to enter treatment are provided incentives, such as television privileges, that add to the quality of their time in confinement, and they receive items, such as a Walkman or watch, for their continuing commitment.

To be admitted into the sex offender treatment program, the inmate must be convicted of a sex offense involving a minor, including the possession of child pornography, and have at least 26 months remaining in his sentence. Sex offenders whose crimes involved only adult victims are treated at the Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston in South Carolina. The offender also must admit a degree of responsibility for the confining offense(s) and be willing to discuss his sexually deviant behavior in detail. If these initial criteria are met, the offender participates in a screening and evaluation process that includes psychological testing and a clinical interview.

Sex Offender Treatment Program

While traditional mental health treatment often focuses on the well-being of the offender, the sex offender treatment program's primary focus is on the protection of the community by preventing further victimization. …

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