Justice Department launches pilot therapy program for sex offenders

The Yukon Department of Justice is piloting a new group therapy program for convicted sexual offenders in the territory.

The Yukon Department of Justice is piloting a new group therapy program for convicted sexual offenders in the territory.

The goal is to teach offenders skills that change their behaviour and thinking.

That might include things like recognizing situations where they might reoffend, recognizing the harm they’ve done to victims, and learning about healthy versus problematic sexual fantasy and arousal.

The Yukon’s sexual assault rates are four times the national average.

“I am excited about what might come out of this and (it’s) a treatment that I think is going to benefit the Yukon,” said Leah White, manager of offenders supervision and services, and a former counsellor in the family violence prevention unit.

Sex offender programming is not new to the territory but the Forensic Sex Offender Program (FSOP) adds a group element to what is already offered.

“When you have people with like issues, they will listen to each other more than a psychologist or a probation officer,” White said “Research has told us that groups work better in changing behaviour than individual (programs) as ones and ones, especially sexual offending behaviour.”

The group dynamic provides for more accountability among the offenders too.

“(Offenders are) not just accountable to (their) probation officer, but to this group for showing up, for changing behaviour, for working, talking in the group,” she said.

It also provides the opportunity for those offenders to exchange strategies that have worked for them.

“People will call you (out) on what you’re saying and ask questions.”

The program runs once a week at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and once a week in Whitehorse for inmates serving their jail sentences in the community.

Currently there are four to five people in the group at the jail and six to eight in town.

But White said offenders aren’t simply thrown into the groups. First they’re assessed for their risk factors, including the triggers that exacerbate their deviant behaviour. For example, alcohol can be a big factor.

“(We) work with the person so they understand that when they’re drinking they’re putting themselves and someone else at risk,” White said.

Then the program staff have to make sure the inmates can work in a group.

Inmates convicted of sexual assaults and who have cognitive impairments usually require different programming with a psychologist.

It also requires offenders to get to the stage they’re ready to open up about their behaviour.

“From what I know not a lot of people will say ‘Yeah I’m a sex offender and I want to go into a group (therapy),’” White said. “That’s a hard label to have. For these clients who are going into groups, I have a lot of respect for them for being open and participating in the groups.”

A contract psychologist, a probation officer and a case manager work on the program.

Other jurisdictions in Canada outsource that type of therapy to forensic mental health facilities, White said.

But because the territory doesn’t have such facilities, offenders services looked at developing its own therapy program.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World

Whitehorse meeting on proposed Wildlife Act regulation changes draws large crowd

A public meeting about proposed regulation changes to the Yukon’s Wildlife Act… Continue reading

Bear conflicts in the Yukon down significantly in 2019, Environment Yukon says

There were 163 human-bear conflicts reported in 2019, with 33 bears in total killed

Faro mine remediation company, mayor charged for allegedly intimidating workers

Parsons Inc. and Len Faber are facing five charges each under the Occupation Health and Safety Act

Promising Chinook salmon run failed to materialize in the Yukon, river panel hears

Tens of thousands of fish disappeared between Yukon River mouth and Canadian border

IBU World Cup season starts for Nadia Moser and Team Canada

“It is good to have the first races finished”

Gold Nugget Championship puts spotlight on Yukon figure skaters

The event also served as trials for the upcoming Arctic Winter Games

Glacier Bears compete at Christmas Cracker swim meet in Victoria

The Whitehorse club had nearly two dozen top-10 finishes

New program aims to return kids in care to their communities

All 14 Yukon First Nations signed on to the guiding principles document for Honouring Connections

Whitehorse council approves the purchase of a transit app

Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition raises other issues with bus service

City news, briefly

Some of the decisions made at the Whitehorse city council meeting Dec. 9

Destruction Bay man dies after snowmobile falls through ice on Kluane Lake

Yukon RCMP located the body of Walter Egg, 68, about 250 metres from the shoreline Dec. 10

Commentary: Yukon firearm owners need a voice in Ottawa

Are Yukoners being effectively represented in Ottawa?

Most Read