Though this blog is was originally intended as a resource for offenders in Massachusetts, much of what I write about is applicable to sex offenders in every other state and many countries around the world, especially in Western Europe. Even other non-sex offenders trying to navigate prison, probation and parole, or employment and education opportunities can glean relevant information from this blog and apply it to help overcome their own struggles.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Relapse Prevention Plan: Its Role In Sex Offender Counseling and Sex Offender Registry Board Petitions

Relapse Prevention Plan (RPP): If you are unfamiliar with this tool, a summary of the elements of a RPP is can be found here:

Every sex offender therapy counselor/group is different in its approach.  Some are very structured and have workbooks and homework while others rely more on the organic process of group therapy, working things out verbally.  No matter the approach, the goal is the same: getting you to understand why you did what you did and help you to prevent reoffending.  To this end, the single most important document you will work on and want to leave counseling with is the relapse prevention plan.

A RPP has two very important functions: first, the RPP serves as a cognitive guide to help you, the counselor, and the group gain a better understanding of your psychology, your offense, the circumstances surrounding your offense, and how to recognize patterns and warning signs to head off maladaptive thoughts and behaviors which can lead to reoffending.  Initially, you will work intensively on the RPP, a document you are never completely done with.  I suggest really listening to others when they speak and convey their own stories and struggles.  There are undercurrents and themes many offenders share that you will recognize within yourself and can easily incorporate into your RPP.  Being an active participant and paying attention will help you become a more sophisticated and reflective group member, thereby helping to create a more productive, safe, and successful group and, ultimately, your RPP will benefit from being as complete and insightful as possible.

The second important function of the RPP is it's role in your sex offender classification/reclassification.  At some point, whether you are designated as a Level 1, Level 2, Or Level 3, you will want to lower you risk level or even petition to be released from the duty to register as a sex offender.  As the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board puts it when considering factors for reclassification:

Factor 11: Currently in Sex Offender-Specific Treatment
...(c)...Offenders who actively participate in treatment voluntarily...and those who provide a full written copy of their relapse prevention plan, approved by their treatment provider, may receive additional consideration relative to their level of risk to reoffend and/or the degree of dangerousness they pose to public safety.

Here is the link to view the .PDF document: Motion for Reclassification is 1.37C (page 4.23) and the quoted text for Factor 11 is 1.40 (page 4.20)

This "additional consideration" is a good thing.  As I mentioned in this blog before, the board need information with which to make a decision. It likes to get as much information as possible.  You can have great letters from family, friends, and employers, supporting and attesting to the life you are now living, which the board does want.  However, they are not trained experts the board looks toward for expert opinion and testimony regarding your "dangerousness". Information from your counselor, including the RPP, gives the board much needed professional and personal insight into your treatment and progress since offending.  Leaving out a detailed RPP document is a glaring omission, one you want to avoid. Just think: if you were on the board looking at a RPP-less petition, you would probably err on the side of caution and not lower his risk level since you want to know that the petitioner thoroughly understand his offense and offending cycle and isn't continuing to attribute his offense to alcohol and drugs, for example. Besides, you don't want to give any member of the board one more reason to deny your petition.  At this writing, The Commonwealth only allows you to petition for relcassification every 3 years, so you want to be complete and do it right the first time around.