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Book Reviews   |    
Forensic Management of Sexual Offenders
Reviewed by Peter I. Collins, M.D., F.R.C.P.C.
Psychiatric Services 2001; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.52.9.1263-a
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by Robert Alan Prentky, Ph.D., and Ann Wolbert Burgess, D.N.Sc.; New York, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2000, 331 pages, $74.50

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In recent decades, as awareness of crimes involving sexually deviant and sexually aggressive behavior has increased, we have seen a corresponding increase in research on sexual offenses. However, surprisingly few good texts are available that address the multifaceted aspects of this problem. Drs. Prentky and Burgess, two respected researchers in the assessment and treatment of sex offenders, have filled this gap with an excellent review of the topic.

Prentky was formerly chief psychologist and director of research at the Massachusetts Treatment Center for Sexually Dangerous Persons, and he received the Significant Achievement Award from the Association for the Treatment of Sex Abusers in 1998. Burgess is a highly regarded forensic nurse and a long-standing researcher and coauthor with Dr. Prentky.

In the preface to this book, Prentky and Burgess state that their intention is to review and discuss the major advances that have taken place over the past two decades in the management of human aggression. In doing so, they deliver a well-written and well-referenced overview of this diverse and controversial area.

Over the course of nine chapters the authors cover topics such as incidence and prevalence; diagnosis and classification; assessment; prediction; legal response to sexual violence; forensic evidence; and remediation. They also include a 24-page appendix of risk assessment instruments. A particular strength of this book is the authors' analysis of empirical research on the prediction of sexual dangerousness, from both a clinical and an actuarial perspective. Areas such as methodological problems, base rates, 2×2 contingency tables, and overprediction are examined. Risk assessment scales are analyzed and compared.

Although the authors provide essential information on the topics noted above, the section on treatment could be expanded, considering that this is a book on the management of sex offenders. The section on forensic evidence is a superficial handling of the topic, but given the intended audience it was probably added as a "for interest only" section.

These minor criticisms aside, Forensic Management of Sexual Offenders is an important contribution to the field as a generalist text. It is up-to-date on issues pertaining to substantive law, and it even includes a few pages about children and the Internet. The book is well written and full of gems that will be helpful to both students and experienced practitioners in forensic social work and forensic psychology or psychiatry as well as to personnel in the criminal justice system, from police sexual assault investigators to members of the judiciary.

Dr. Collins is assistant professor with the law and mental health program in the department of psychiatry at the University of Toronto and manager of the forensic psychiatry unit of the behavioral sciences section of the Ontario Provincial Police.




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