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Spring 2005
March 1, 2005

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Vol. XVII, No. 1
Winter 2005
Book Review I
Supervision of the Sex Offender: Community Management,
Risk Assessment and Treatment, by

Georgia Cumming and Robert McGrath
Published by Safer Society Press Brandon, VT, 2005
218 pages, $30.00 USD
Available from www.safersociety.org

Over the past fifteen or so years there has been a dramatic and most welcome increase in the quantity of books, articles, workbooks and other published materials available to instruct and guide those who provide evaluation and treatment services to sex offenders.  No corresponding cornucopia of support literature has been forthcoming for those who provide supervision services to sex offenders living in the community.  The very recent publication of the second edition of “Supervision of the Sex Offender: Community Management, Risk Assessment and Treatment” goes a long way to remedy the situation, making up by its quality and scope for the paucity of other similar resource materials.*


The authors are widely recognized for developing and implementing an admirable system of sex offender management and treatment in Vermont, for their highly-valued adult treatment “track” at recent ATSA conferences and for their work in producing the 2002 Safer Society Nationwide Survey: “Current Practices and Trends in Sexual Abuser Management.”  Among numerous other publications authored by one or both, is the 1997 First Edition of “Supervision of the Sex Offender.”  As will be noted, although called a Second Edition, this volume appears to be completely reworked, brought fully up-to-date regarding recent research and, in nearly every respect, rewritten to be entirely new.


Although this edition, with 209 pages, exceeds the page count of the earlier version by 55 pages, the differences between the books are far more than quantitative.  The structure has been thoroughly revised.  The 16 Chapters are divided helpfully into four major sections: Part I – Community Management; Part II – Risk Assessment; Part III – Treatment; Part IV – Explanations and Characteristics (of sex offenders).  Chapters focus on such issues as: Strategies for Interviewing; Elements of Community Supervision; Assessing the Risk of Re-offense; Sex Offender Treatment; Burnout – Self Care.  There are Four Appendices and 12 figures or tables.


Even more impressive than the scope and organization of the contents, however, is the fact that nearly every practice, instrument, strategy and recommendation is based upon carefully referenced research, at least whenever this is possible.  As a consequence, any user of this book will be left with a very positive impression of the thoughtfulness and professionalism of the field (and the authors) and will come away very broadly educated about best practices and the research that supports them.  To offer just one example, the authors provide a remarkably clear presentation of the basics of the Ward and Hudson “Pathways Model” and then lay out the corresponding implications for supervision strategies.  The list of over 250 references includes the most current efforts in the field and could well serve as a must-do reading list for every professional aspiring to do research-supported sex offender work thoughtfully and well.


To preserve the illusion of objectivity, any self-respecting book review must mention a few areas for improvement.  Since adult sex offenders are more likely to be detected for an incident of non-sexual criminal recidivism, violent or non-violent, than for sexual recidivism, more focus might have been given to supervising for that contingency.  There could have been more attention to the full meaning of collaboration and teamwork in managing sex offenders and some description of the expectations - realistic and unrealistic – that treatment providers are likely to bring to a collaborative relationship.  Although the STABLE-2000 is mentioned, its potential to be a useful tool for supervising agents is insufficiently developed.  The treacherous territory related to caseload size is avoided, although it is a pressing concern for those who supervise sex offenders and is a key factor in allowing implementation of many of the best-practice recommendations in the book.  Computer and internet use, an area of increasing supervisory concern, receive only passing mention.  A statement on page 98 that seems to suggest “Tarasoff” requires all potential identifiable victims to be warned could be easily misunderstood by those not familiar with the law.  In fact, it is more likely (at least in some jurisdictions) that a child abuse report would be required than that a Tarasoff warning would be indicated.


The above complaints notwithstanding, it seems clear that the authors consistently chose the path of clarity and brevity over the route of tortuous complexity driven by a need to cover everything they could think of.  The result is a fresh, easy-to-read book that distills much accumulated knowledge and wisdom.  The level of detail it addresses is consistent throughout and seems exactly right for the purposes which the book is likely to serve.  As noted, ample references allow further exploration by those who wish.


Treatment providers who might glance at the book’s title (“Supervision…”) and quickly decide: “not for me,” would be making a grave mistake.  This book should become a familiar tool in the arsenal of every community based provider.  It is a brief, clear review of much of the current state of the field, replete with references.  For those who are called on to do training, especially cross training with probation or parole staff, it can provide an excellent outline and guide.  And for those seeking to improve relationships with supervisory administrators and staff, making a gift of this book would certainly advance the working relationship and enhance your own image as someone aware of the best sex offender management practices and willing to share them in order to improve collaboration in the interest of community safety.   


This reviewer recommends the book without reservation and extends thanks to its authors, who have made yet another stellar contribution to the work we all do.  The book is a credit to them and to the advances in our field – and all those responsible for such advances.



* The numerous resources made available by the Center for Sex Offender Management at www.CSOM.org, the classic report, “Managing Adult Sex Offenders: A Containment Approach,” edited by Kim English, Suzanne Pullen and Linda Jones (American Probation and Parole Association; 1996) and Glen Kercher’s “Supervision and Treatment of Sex Offenders,” (Learning Publications; 1998) are noteworthy exceptions.


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