Risky business? Supporting desistance from sexual offending

Weaver, Beth and Barry, Monica (2014) Risky business? Supporting desistance from sexual offending. In: Responding to Sexual Offending. Palgrave, Basingstoke, pp. 153-169. ISBN 9781137358127

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    Abstract

    The aim of this chapter is twofold: to scope out some of the implications of desistance research for the community management of sexual offenders in the current UK policy and practice context and to identify what works (why and how) in controlling and/or changing offending behaviour drawing on the views and experiences of what Wood and Kemshall (2007) term 'MAPPA eligible offenders', in this instance, high risk sex offenders. Recognising the limited empirical research on desistance from sexual offending, this chapter begins by outlining the principal themes emerging from desistance research in general, through which lens studies examining desistance from sexual offending are discussed. Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) are the operational structures overseeing the community management of sexual offenders in England and Wales since 2001 and in Scotland since 2007 . Despite the wide-ranging and high profile remit of MAPPA, little is known about the effects of professional efforts to exert control and support change. To shed light on these practices and their effects, this chapter presents some of the findings of a recent qualitative study examining the views and experiences of 26 professionals and 26 MAPPA eligible offenders. It is argued that a greater balance is required between the pursuit of control and the promotion of change. While the imposition of short term, restrictive, external controls might offer some reassurance to practitioners tasked with the difficult and uncertain business of public protection, risk management to reduce reoffending in the short term is unlikely to effect longer term change. Rather, as we elaborate in this chapter, supporting opportunities for people to move on and change the direction of their lives is likely not only to foster improved internal self-control, enhance compliance and augment naturally occurring processes of change, but also to protect the public in the longer term.