Sunday, November 16, 2014

ATSA 33rd Annual Conference – San Diego 2014 (Part 2 of 2)

Welcome back to part 2 of our review of the ATSA conference, this week myself and David Prescott will discuss some of the material that we think might be of interest to the wider SAJRT community.
An area of research that I (Kieran) have been involved in for a while is SORN, particularly the public notification aspect of it, and as such I attended a session looking at preliminary data from a National Institute of Justice funded study looking at law enforcement attitudes to it (Jill Levenson, Andy Harris & Chris Lobanov-Rostovsky). The data that was discussed was based on approximately 100 interviews with law enforcement officers across four states (California, Massachusetts, Florida & Colorado) each with a different approach to sex offender registration and notification. The preliminary data indicates that law enforcement believes that registration can have its benefits in enabling them to do their job effectively but that the data and the computer systems being used currently are problematic, unhelpful and do not map together well. In addition, it was felt that in the main the majority of sex offenders complied with their registration requirements and when they did not it was not necessarily a purposive breach indicating a return to offending, but rather individual human error and/or carelessness. The authors will be discussing this research again in a more expanded fashion over the next couple of years and it will be interesting to see what else it brings to light. (KM)
One of the benefits of this structure of ATSA this year (i.e., that there was only one plenary on the Thursday and Friday morning) was that there were more research, as well as treatment, papers to attend and often times these papers where allowed more space for discussion. I attended a session on the health and social cost of prevention and heard two radically different papers, one on the cost of sexual abuse in the UK (Carol McNaughton Nicholls) and one on trauma informed treatment (Liam Marshall). At first these two papers may seem to be poles apart but in reality they talked to the same pertinent issue, which the negative impact is being a victim of sexual abuse has you individually and how this impacts your future mental, physical as well as emotional health. Both papers talked to the importance of recognizing abuse early on people’s lives and intervening to prevent it from continuing as well as enabling the victim to start the healing process before the abuse severely impacts their long term development. In addition the two papers, but particularly McNaughton Nicholls, talked about the inter-relationship between different types of vulnerability and being a victim of abuse suggesting that we could maximize the limited resources that we have in a more effective interrelated approach. (KM)
The past two decades have seen dramatic changes to our understanding of psychopathy. With the first waves of higher-quality research, concerns emerged about whether or not treatment had any effect on criminal re-offense, or whether it would actually make matters worse. A study by Seto and Barbaree (1999) came to prominent international attention, suggesting that treatment could make matters worse. A follow-up investigation by the same authors with Calvin Langton using more sophisticated techniques, a longer follow-up, and expanded sample found less reason for alarm and yet did not garner the same amount of attention. At around the same time, many professionals became concerned that the marketing efforts of measures of psychopathy were outpacing the actual accumulation of knowledge, and that extending the construct to juveniles could do more harm than good. This year, Paul Frick, Michael Caldwell, and Mark Olver offered fascinating perspectives on people with high levels of psychopathic traits across the lifespan. (DP)
An entertaining presenter, Paul Frick summarized years of research on callous/unemotional traits in children. He noted that although response to treatment can be a challenge among these children, reward-oriented parenting approaches, cognitive-behavioral treatment, and interventions targeting social skills appear to be promising. Michael Caldwell then described the treatment of adolescents with high levels of psychopathic traits at the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Caldwell’s research in this area has been compelling, with significant reductions in violence. Finally, Mark Olver presented the current state of research on the treatment of adults who score high on the PCL-R and concluded that there is currently no evidence that appropriate correctional treatment makes psychopathic offenders worse, that risk reduction assessed during treatment is linked to reduced sexual and violent recidivism, and that risk reductions can be found among offenders with significant psychopathic traits. (DP)
The findings of each of these presenters are important for a number of reasons. The first is that there is increased reason for optimism that the right treatment can work under the right conditions for even the most challenging of clients in treatment. While much more research is needed, Frick, Caldwell, and Olver have certainly added to our knowledge and practice. (DP)
This completes the SAJRT brief review of the ATSA conference. This review is by no means comprehensive or extensive so please have a look at the conference brochure on the ATSA website to see what some of the other interesting and informative papers were.
Kieran McCartan & David Prescott

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