Can Sexual Offenders be Rehabilitated?
Recent news reports about the ordination of convicted sex offender Mark Hourigan raise the question of whether sex offenders can be rehabilitated. Keith F. Durkin, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology at Ohio Northern University shares his thoughts on the topic:
1. Sex offenders have an exceptionally high recidivism rate. In a paper I published in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation (dated 2007, Vol 45:249-256) I conducted an exhaustive review of the research on this topic. The most conservative 25-year recidivism rate is about 53%. If the victim is not a family member, that baseline risk is 70%. There are factors which are seen as increasing the risk of offending from those baseline numbers, including victimizing males and younger children. Since Hourigan's known victim was an 11-year old male non-relative, Mark Hourigan is at an exceptionally high risk for re-offending.
2. Hourigan and his supporters claim he is reformed. However, it's a fairly well established fact that a tiny percentage of child sex abuse cases are ever reported to police. Honestly, there is no way to know for sure he has not offended again.
3. Sex offenders frequently uses positions of trust to gain access to victims (e.g., youth leader, teacher minister). As a minister, Hourigan will be placed in a position of trust. He claims he won't have contact with kids in this capacity. I don't believe this
4. Hourigan claims to be "rehabilitated". Many experts, myself included, are highly skeptical of the claim that any sex offender can be rehabilitated.
5. Finally, Hourigan claimed on CNN he can help others due to the fact he is a reformed pedophile and wants to "help others." So why does he have to work in a congregation? Why doesn't he become a prison ministry?
Dr. Durkin's research has appeared in a variety of journals including Deviant Behavior, Federal Probation, Sociological Spectrum, Seminars in Integrative Medicine, Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, College Student Journal, and the International Review of Modern Sociology.
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Dr. Keith F. Durkin
Ohio Northern University