Pre-sentence assessment of sexual offenders for correctional supervision
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Research has indicated that there is a worldwide increase in the numbers of sexual offenders brought before court in the last two decades as well as an increase in recidivism after imprisonment of sexual offenders. It was found that imprisonment is not the only effective sentence option for sexual offenders and that there are certain categories of sexual offenders that can be rehabilitated more effectively within the community while serving a community-based sentence like correctional supervision. Research has also shown that the risk of re-offending can be decreased by such a sentence. In order for courts to consider correctional supervision as sentence for certain sexual offenders they request pre-sentence assessment reports from social workers to assist them to determine the suitable offenders for this sentence option. The court has certain expectations from social workers in terms of these pre-sentence assessments that are not always met. Amongst other factors, this is caused by the difference in approach between social workers and judicial officials as well as the different goals each profession has in terms of sexual offenders. The problems and needs of social workers with the pre-sentence assessment of sexual offenders were explored in this study as well as the expectations and problems of judicial officials in this regard. Social workers indicated that they lack certain skills, knowledge and confidence as well as professional support and resources to compile effective pre-sentence reports. Judicial officials expect more intensive and comprehensive assessments that focus on the determination of risk of re-offending and the risk to the community. In order to address the problems and needs of both the social workers and judicial officials, suggestions for the improvement of co-operation and understanding of the two different approaches were made as well as guidelines for social workers, trainers and supervisors to enable social workers to present more effective pre-sentence assessments to courts.
- Health Sciences