A government program for people convicted in England and Wales of rape or child sexual abuse was scrapped because participants became “aroused” by each other’s stories and were therefore more likely to re-offend, it has been revealed.
The Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP), which ran from the early 1990s until 2017, had rapists and pedophiles gather for “hot spot” sessions where they were asked to describe the graphic details of their offenses, in an attempt reduce re-offending by identifying and addressing known criminogenic needs.
However, two men who took part claimed that some of the information left other participants aroused. The two convicts spoke out on BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 program about their shocking experiences.
One man, who referred to himself as Paul, aged 60, said he started the program on three separate occasions. He hoped it would serve as a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help him think and act differently.
But each time Paul claimed to have been kicked off the course for not learning enough. He felt that vividly describing the deviant behavior normalized it instead of preventing it.
Paul also said pairing those convicted of indecent exposure with serious offenders “actually made prisoners worse.” He said that he felt that some in the group were learning to become “better sex offenders without being caught.”
“People were learning from their mistakes,” he told the BBC.
Ministry of Justice statistics also revealed that 10 percent of participants reoffended, compared to eight percent not enrolled.
Former Home Office forensic psychologist Dr. Robert Forde shared that one inmate told him, “I hate doing this course.”
When questioned why, Dr. Forde was told: “I’ve never had so many deviant sexual thoughts as I’ve had since I started.”
The inmate attributed his feelings to “talking about sex offending all the time” which was what he wanted to “get away from.”
Dr. Forde, who is now retired, claimed that inmates could also deceive course leaders. They could have pretended to have sexualized thoughts and then claimed they had stopped at the end, he said.
Another offender, Peter, in his 50s, told the BBC that reliving their offenses does not help.
He felt that it provided a false feeling of being “fixed.”
“You’re going back over the offenses, so you keep reliving this stuff that just isn’t helpful,” he said.
The failings of the SOTP program left two psychologists, Penny Brown and Callum Ross, demanding for greater research.
This week, the Lancet Psychiatry medical journal published a paper in which Brown called for government programs to face harsher critique.
She believes government policies should come under as much scrutiny as scientific papers.
“The need to show that you’re doing something shouldn’t override the risk of actually causing harm,” Dr. Brown told the BBC.
The two programs that replaced SOTP, Horizon and Kaize, are yet to be tested.