Rapists and child molesters use sex offender programs to gain freedom, expert says
Violent rapists such as Jill Meagher's killer,
Adrian Bayley, are faking their way through sex offender programs only to
reoffend on release from prison, a sexual violence expert has warned.
Bayley - a serial rapist and violent criminal who has a history of threatening to
kill women - was given bail twice for a vicious offence while on parole before raping and murdering Jill Meagher.
He admitted after his series of sex offending in 2000-2001, he had "gone through the motions" of a sex offenders
program, effectively conning the parole board.
"While I was doing the sex offenders' program I told them what they wanted to hear so I could get out of jail," Bayley,
then 30, told the County Court in 2002.
"It worked but it didn't work," Bayley said after pleading guilty to 16 fresh counts of rape.
Stephen Smallbone, professor of Griffith University's Criminology and Criminal Justice school, said rapists and
child molesters used sex offender programs to gain freedom.
He said prison and justice authorities put too much reliance on the programs and not enough on
risk assessment of offenders in real life "stressful" situations.
Sex offender programs had been a trend in most Australian states since the 1990s.
Prof Smallbone is the co-author of a study of sex offender programs in the Queensland justice system,
which measured effectiveness of months of therapy and counselling on inmates.
The study looked at whether participants had increased levels of empathy with their victims,
or with children or adult women in general, whether they believed sex was an "entitlement" and how
they rated on the "women are deceitful" scale, which measured beliefs that women manipulate and use men.
While rapists of adult women showed improvement on the latter two factors, they did not score well in
relating to their victims.
Child sex offenders showed "statistically significant improvement in victim empathy" but
for sexual offenders with adult victims there was little improvement.
Corrective Services NSW said it had 66 sex offenders currently undergoing
treatment programs and had undertaken a study of 117 participants which showed that 10
had committed further sexual offences within the survey period, although many more had reoffended
with a variety criminal charges.
Corrective Services said its psychologists tested sex offenders and studied their behavioural
changes to assess whether they had undergone real change.
Prof Smallbone's study showed that sexual offenders who began, but then dropped out of treatment,
"may even be more likely to reoffend than those who do not begin treatment in the first place".
Offenders who faked their "successful" treatment were also likely to reoffend. "These kind of
programs are only one element of treatment in preventing reoffending," Prof Smallbone said.
"The motivation is obviously to get out of there, but the question is, like in Bayley's case,
whether their behaviour once they get out is going to be like the perception of their behaviour
while in the prison environment."
He said inmates on the prison programs tried to make themselves "look pretty good", but supervision
programs of offenders released on parole relied too heavily on judgments made in a controlled environment.
"These risk assessments are made in inside prison and really need to be done in the context in which the risk
occurs - back in the real world where emotional, financial and social circumstances put a person under pressure," Prof
Sex offender failures:
Mark Pendleton, 53, was found guilty last month of conspiring
to set up a child sex ring in Thailand, a plan which he discussed with other pedophiles
he met on a child sex offender program in Western Australia.
Serial pedophile and knife-wielding teenage girl rapist,
Raymond Barry Cornwall,
completed a sex offender program to gain release from a NSW prison in 2007. Within hours,
he had removed his tracking anklet, escaped from his supervisors and was on the run. He
was returned to jail and again released into supervised custody, only to breach his court-imposed conditions again.
Bruce Malcolm Thomas, who had spent 35 out of 38 years in NSW Prisons for violently
raping women, walked from jail in 2008 despite the fact that on six previous occasions he
had committed further sexual assaults while on release. Within weeks, he had breached his
conditions and was back in custody.
Alexandria George Brookes, the offending partner of notorious sex offender
Dennis Raymond Ferguson (now deceased) was let out of a NSW prison in 2008. Within weeks,
he was observed entering a child care centre, and was returned to prison for breaching his