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Psychological Assessment of Sexual Offenders

Individuals convicted of serious sexual offenses, such as sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault, must be evaluated (in New Jersey) by the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center to determine whether the individual appears to be a repetitive and compulsive sexual offender. The defense may disagree with the determination of this state institution, and request an independent psychological evaluation for a second opinion. A hearing is then held to present expert testimony, so that the court can determine appropriate sentencing for the sexual offender. 

Treatment can be provided to a sexual offender while incarcerated at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center, or after release on parole, as a condition of release into the community. In the absence of situations that carry a presumption of incarceration, treatment may be provided or required as a condition of probation, and supervised through the probation department. 

For sexual offenses that are not serious enough to require the above evaluation procedure, psychological evaluations are also recommended, to present treatment recommendations to the court. Sexual offenses are committed by individuals with a wide array of psychological problems, and it is essential to identify the underlying psychological disorder that predisposed the individual to commit a sexual offense. While most, if not all, sexual offenders meet the diagnostic criteria for one or more of the sexual disorders, many offenders also are diagnosed with additional psychological disorders requiring treatment. Mental retardation, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, and substance abuse can all influence an individual's sexual behavior, leading to a sexual offense. The goal of a psychological evaluation is to recommend treatment that will minimize the potential for additional sexual offenses in the future. 

Psychological evaluation of a sexual offender requires a review of all materials relevant to the offenses, including statements to the police, previous psychological evaluations, witness accounts of his/her behavior, and past criminal record. The psychologist will then conduct a clinical interview and administer psychological testing appropriate to the situation. A more detailed psychosexual history is a vital part of this evaluation. 

The psychological report will summarize the findings of the evaluation, and will specifically indicate whether there is evidence of repetitive and compulsive sexual behavior. Additionally, treatment recommendations will be made, as well as presenting a prognosis regarding the likelihood for future criminal sexual behavior. In court, the psychologist will present these findings, and will respond to cross examination from the opposing attorney, and to questions from the court regarding the findings and recommendations. The court is responsible for making the final determination regarding sentencing of the sexual offender.

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