Ethan Allen School Rehabilitates Juvenile Sex Offenders

By Millard, Dianne; Hagan, Michael | Corrections Today, August 1996 | Go to article overview

Ethan Allen School Rehabilitates Juvenile Sex Offenders

Millard, Dianne, Hagan, Michael, Corrections Today

Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle scattered in disarray, the untreated juvenile sex offender presents a fragmented and often misleading picture. The juvenile sex offender's life typically has been marked by carelessness and tumult. For each juvenile sex offender, the pieces are different and can be assembled only in specific ways.

Ethan Allen School in Delafield, Wis., is one of three male juvenile correctional institutions operated by the state Division of Youth Services. Its sex offender treatment program for adolescents strives to sift through the complexities of sex offender etiology to achieve several specific goals: to examine the complex array of pieces of the puzzle each young sex offender represents, to learn about these pieces through confrontation and reframing, and to rebuild the offender into an orderly whole. The ultimate goal is to develop a responsible, productive person capable of meeting life's challenges.

The Stout Serious Sex Offender Treatment Program (SSOP) was developed in 1984 in response to the increasing number of juvenile commitments centering around sex offenses. The SSOP team, assembled under the guidance of Dr. Paul Griswold, used the cottage treatment principle, whereby all staff who impact upon the daily life of the offender is trained for and participate in the delivery of treatment services to the offender. Staff meets regularly as a team to share information, coordinate planning and analyze treatment issues. Initially, the team consisted of a social worker, group facilitator, youth counselors and a section manager. Over the past 12 years, staff and educational treatment components have been added to the program.

Currently, SSOP staff includes two full-time social workers, a group facilitator, seven youth counselors, six teachers and a section manager. The team employs an intensive six-phase group therapy approach to address youthful sex offender dynamics. It also utilizes a behavioral level system through which each offender is expected to progress, with Level I indicating minimal cooperation with rules and responsibilities, Level II and Level III indicating increased acceptance of rules and responsibilities, and Level IV reflecting a maximum level of adherence to rules and responsibilities. In addition, institution staff psychologists, working with SSOP staff, provide individual and family therapy services.

Participants in the program tend to share specific personality traits, life experiences and perceptions. They typically engage in aggressive and self-destructive behavior. Many have had childhood experiences marked by physical and emotional abuse and neglect, often related to substance abuse in the family. Few have had positive male role models. The victims of their aggression include family members, acquaintances, and strangers and include both sexes and all ages. Participants tend to depersonalize their victims, viewing them as objects and not as human beings.

Two examples provide insights into the background of the contemporary juvenile sex offender. "Charles" was raised primarily by his mother in the inner city of a large metropolitan area. His father came around once in a while. At 12, Charles was hanging out with a gang and skipping school. At 14, he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon and stealing a car. Charles' mother sent him to live with his father, hoping that a strong male influence would turn him away from gangs and delinquent behavior.

Charles' father forced him to make drug and drug payment pick-ups. While under the influence of drugs, Charles' father raped him repeatedly. At 16, Charles was committed to juvenile corrections on a controlled substance charge while awaiting waiver to adult court for first-degree sexual assault. He had taken part in an armed gang rape involving seven male accomplices and two teenage girls with ties to a rival gang. Charles volunteered to participate in sex offender treatment.

"John" was raised by his mother and a series of her husbands in several small towns in rural Wisconsin. …

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