Compare and assess the benefits of treatment programs for male child sexual offenders in correctional services against the costs of implementing such programs

Criminology Research Council grant ; (23/96-7)

This paper reports on a cost-benefit analysis of child sex offender treatment programs for male offenders in correctional services. This study provides an overview of child sex abuse issues and provides a description of cognitive therapy treatment programs in several countries and around Australia. It then discusses the methodological and practical issues involved with the economic analysis of offender treatment programs and child sexual abuse as well as presenting findings based on South Australian data. A comprehensive list of the effects of child sexual abuse is outlined and there is a discussion of the methodological difficulties in attributing values to these. Despite these difficulties, overall estimates of the cost of programs and the benefits derived from lowering recidivism are reported, together with a sensitivity analysis of the results. The magnitude of the problem of child sexual abuse generally and offences by recidivists in particular, suggest the range of potential economic costs from child sexual abuse are substantial and the economic benefits to be achieved from appropriate and effective treatment programs high. Given the application of recent economic techniques to measure the intangible costs of child sex abuse and the methodological and informational problems encountered, the study can be considered a major first step towards a comprehensive economic analysis of in-prison child sex offender treatment programs that also provides a framework for future research efforts.