Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 16, No. 4, October 2004 (
Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Sex Offenders:
A Psycho-Legal Approach to Protection
Societal response to sex offenders is marked by uncertainty about whether punish-
ment or treatment should occur. The distinction between punishment, prevention,
and protection is useful to determine how best to assess, treat, and manage sex
offenders within the criminal justice system. Once convicted, both law and psychol-
ogy are concerned with sex offenders changing their behavior in order to protect
the community. Therapeutic jurisprudence is a legal theory that aims to maxi-
mize therapeutic effects of the law and minimize anti-therapeutic consequences
of the law. Therapeutic jurisprudence provides a framework to combine legal and
psychological processes to balance prevention and protection. Legal and correc-
tional practitioners can work together to address both community protection and
offender protection concerns.
KEY WORDS: therapeutic jurisprudence; sex offenders; offender rehabilitation; risk management;
good lives model.
Harsher sentences for sex offenders increase deprivation of liberty. The trend
towards “populist punitiveness” to manage sex offenders undermines the capacity
of the criminal justice system to “...affect thoughtful and customized adjudi-
cation strategies at the court level” (Edwards & Hensley, 2001, p. 653). As a
result, sex offender treatment becomes subordinate to the dominant objectives of
punishment and prevention. Slobogin and Fondacaro (2000) have detailed three
justiﬁcatory models for the deprivation of liberty. Punishment sanctions blame-
worthy behavior or delivers exact retribution. Prevention prevents harm to self
Cromonology Department, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at GPO Box 123A, Melbourne, Victoria 3001,
Australia; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation