Performance under pressure: the impact of coercive authority upon consent to treatment for sex offenders


University of British Columbia

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Master of Laws - LLM




This thesis is concerned with the correctional treatment process for sex offenders, and the problems that criminal justice system authority poses for treatment settings. A particular focus is whether inmate participation in treatment programs is voluntary or coerced, given the link between programs and prospects of release. In examining this question, the author considers the results of an empirical project in which a group of inmates were interviewed about their perceptions of the correctional treatment process. Background to this project includes discussion of the doctrine of informed consent and respect for autonomy as its underlying rationale; discussion of the concepts of coercion and voluntariness; and examination of the development of rehabilitative ideals. A conclusion drawn from the discussion is that the presence of coercive authority may impact adversely upon correctional treatment efforts. Coercive authority creates difficulties in relation to the voluntariness of inmates' consent, the confidentiality of the treatment relationship, and the professional autonomy of the clinician. These problems in turn raise questions as to whether correctional programs retain the character of treatment, or are more properly considered as part of punishment, or as tools of social control. However, coercive authority is a necessary presence if correctional services are to work towards the goal of protection of society. The central question to be addressed therefore is whether the prospects of release can be used to motivate inmates for treatment in a way that is consistent with the requirement of voluntary consent to treatment. The results of the empirical project suggest that for the majority of inmates, the link between treatment and release is not coercive. However, a number of inmates did indicate they felt coerced into treatment programs. Reforms may thus be necessary to avoid coercive authority resulting in coerced treatment. In discussing these results, the author considers a number of directions for reform, including the introduction of an operational presumption of coerced referrals to treatment, which would place greater emphasis on clinicians' obligations to secure voluntary consent.


Sex offenders -- Rehabilitation -- Canada.; Sex offenders -- Rehabilitation -- Moral and ethical aspects.; Sex offenders -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Canada.

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Law, Peter A. Allard School of