Rehabilitation For Sex Offenders: Do We Really Want It?

Scales of justice depicting Rehabilitation For Sex Offenders

Do we really want rehabilitation for sex offenders?

Let’s take a look at one of the most compelling accounts in season one of the In The Dark podcast by American Public Media. The story is that of Patty Wetterling, the mother of the boy Jacob Wetterling who was abducted in 1989. His abduction and the 27-year investigation is the subject of the first season of the podcast.

His mother, Patty, channeled her grief into action. She helped to pass the 1994 Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act. It created the very first national sex offender registry of its kind in our country.

However, she says in her interview that her attitude about the registry and about sex offenders has since changed.

Now she advocates for sex offenders, and she doesn’t like where the registry has taken this country.

More Sex Offenders Than Ever?

A pertinent question about the sex offender registry seems to be whether the numbers genuinely add up. Do we really have this many violent sex offenders who will hurt children in our country? Or have we expanded the definition of sex offender too far? Have we made life impossible for people for those on the margins of society? Additionally, how about people struggling with an untreated addiction?

For sex offenders who have done violent crimes, or crimes against children, what hope do they have to lead a productive life after serving time in prison? What confidence do we have of keeping them from re-offending if we deny them access to a support network?

Does America Really Want Sex Offenders Treated?

What Patty Wetterling now says she wants is for there to be no more victims. It’s that simple.

She wants parents and children to live in the world Jacob knew before he was abducted. She wants a world where it was safe for three 12-year-old boys to ride their bikes alone, at sundown on a country road.

For Wetterling, that means sex offenders have to be treated. It seems like that might suggest that the rest of us have to change our attitudes about sex offenders.

There is one article about sex offender treatment with the title; There’s A Reliable Therapy For Sex Offenders — But Nobody Wants Them To Get It. It tells the story of Charlie Taylor, a convicted sex offender, and Harry Nigh, Mennonite Pastor.

In 1994, Charlie was done serving his prison sentence in Ontario, Canada and moved in across from a community center in Hamilton. He had no friends, family or even parole officers. But Harry Nigh and his community welcomed him in. They brought Charlie to family and church functions and Charlie never re-offended.

This therapy model, now called Circles of Support and Accountability, or CoSA, is federally funded in Canada, and in 7 states in the U.S. However, support for it is slow-growing. Funding for CoSA in Canada was cut in 2014.

The truth is, as the article points out, most people need to treat sex offenders as “the other.” As in the case of Charlie Taylor, many sex offenders can’t see what they did clearly. Many of their own past histories involve horrific suffering and abuse. For these reasons, it’s easier to attempt to separate them from the rest of society.


In conclusion, the sex offender registry is large and growing. States have increasingly restricting laws for those put on that list for life. In addition, if we continue to try to separate sex offenders from everyone else as a way of treatment, what will happen?

If you are facing legal problems related to a sex offense or the sex offender registry, call Attorney David J. Kramer today for help.

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