Desistance from Sex Offending

Alternatives to Throwing Away the Keys

D. Richard Laws and Tony Ward

Hardcovere-bookprint + e-book
September 29, 2010
ISBN 9781606239353
Price: $49.00
306 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
March 11, 2011
ePub ?
Price: $49.00
306 Pages
print + e-book
Hardcover + e-Book (ePub) ?
Price: $98.00 $53.90
306 Pages

This book offers a fresh perspective on treating a population that is often demonized by policymakers, the public, and even clinicians. The authors argue that most sex offenders are “people like us,” with the potential to lead meaningful, law-abiding lives—if given a chance and appropriate support. They describe an empirically and theoretically grounded rehabilitation approach, the Good Lives Model, which can be integrated with the assessment and intervention approaches that clinicians already use. Drawing on the latest knowledge about factors promoting desistance from crime, the book discusses how encouraging naturally occurring desistance processes, and directly addressing barriers to community reintegration, can make treatment more effective and long lasting.

“A well-written text that advances the discussion of what we, as a society, can and should do with sex offenders....In their present work, Laws and Ward have accelerated the pace of our exploration into the study of desistance from sex offending.”


“Provides an excellent, readable survey of the criminological literature on desistance, the age-crime curve, and offender reintegration research....This is a trailblazing book, and essential reading for clinicians, researchers, academicians, attorneys, and anyone interested in the application of desistance theory to sex-offender rehabilitation.”

Open Access Journal of Forensic Psychology

“Practitioners will welcome the more applied nature of the second half of this work with its focus on what the interview and interventions skills and approaches might look like if they adopted a more integrated GLM and desistance approach. The bringing together of theory and practice relies heavily on the work related to the use of life course interviews. Readers will find clear and specific links back to the underpinning theory that informs what is being put forward. They will also find three short case studies used to illustrate how the model might work....Makes an important contribution to theory and policy and should help promote much needed debate about what works with such offenders and what harm some current approaches may be causing offenders and wider society.”

Probation Journal

“Provides an accessible introduction to cutting-edge efforts to rehabilitate sex offenders.”

California Lawyer

“The term 'sex offender' has become a demonizing pejorative, depriving those who have been so labeled of even a modicum of humanity. While fully appreciating the importance of maintaining public safety, Laws and Ward rightfully and courageously remind us of the decency that is still inherent in many who have committed such an offense. The book reviews a wealth of theories and data about how best to assist such persons in their efforts to remain safe and productive citizens.”

—Fred S. Berlin, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

“Researchers and treatment specialists have long been waiting for a book on desistance from sexual offending. Laws and Ward's book is well worth the wait. From two of the most respected practitioner/researchers in the field, Desistance from Sex Offending is a paradigm changer in sex offender treatment and reintegration.”

—Shadd Maruna, PhD, Professor and Director, Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Queen's University Belfast, United Kingdom

“In an era of harsher sentences and stricter punishments, especially for sex offenders, this book is a breath of fresh air. Drawing on extensive clinical expertise and wisdom that comes from years of working with sex offenders, Laws and Ward provide an excellent guide to what needs to be done to help sex offenders change their lives and decrease recidivism. The Good Lives model is the future of sex offender treatment, and its concepts need to be incorporated into correctional programming. This book is an essential resource for clinicians, researchers, and policymakers. It would serve as a great text for courses on offender rehabilitation from a psychological or criminological perspective. Students would benefit from the excellent integration of research and theory into clinical practice, and would find the fresh perspective on rehabilitation to be eye opening.”

—Elizabeth L. Jeglic, PhD, Department of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

“It is rare to find a book that integrates the psychological and criminological literature, particularly in the area of sex offender treatment. This important work offers a unique analysis of current treatment methods and proposes a promising model of offender rehabilitation. The authors acknowledge the complexity of factors that lead to offending and that motivate an individual to desist from offending. Their holistic, strengths-based approach, grounded in positive psychology, addresses the needs of both the offender and the community. This book will enhance the current practice of professionals who treat sex offenders, and holds promise for shifting the focus of the field.”

—Pamela M. Yates, PhD, Cabot Consulting and Research Services, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Table of Contents

I. General Issues

1. Introduction

II. The Criminological Perspective

2. Defining and Measuring Desistance

3. The Age–Crime Curve: A Brief Overview

4. Theoretical Perspectives on Desistance

5. Factors Influencing Desistance

6. Two Major Theories of Desistance

III. The Forensic Psychological Perspective

7. Do Sex Offenders Desist?

8. Sex Offender Treatment and Desistance

IV. Reentry and Reintegration

9. Barriers to Reentry and Reintegration

10. Overcoming Barriers to Reentry and Reintegration

V. Recruitment

11. The Unknown Sex Offenders: Bringing Them in from the Cold

12. Blending Theory and Practice: ACriminological Perspective

VI. Desistance-Focused Intervention

13. The Good Lives Model of Offender Rehabilitation: Basic Assumptions, Etiological Commitments, and Practice Implications

14. The Good Lives Model and Desistance Theory and Research: Points of Convergence

15. The Good Lives–Desistance Model: Assessment and Treatment

VII. Where to from Here?

16. Dignity, Punishment, and Human Rights: The Ethics of Desistance

17. Moral Strangers or One of Us?: Concluding Thoughts

About the Authors

D. Richard Laws, PhD, until his death in 2020, was Director of Pacific Behavioural Assessment in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He was a past president of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. He held adjunct faculty positions at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom and at the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, and was Honourary Professor at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. Dr. Laws was known in the field of sexual deviation as a developer of assessment procedures and behavior therapies.

Tony Ward, PhD, is Head of School and Professor of Clinical Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. His research interests include cognition in offenders, rehabilitation and reintegration processes, and ethical issues in forensic psychology. He has published extensively in these areas and has over 280 academic publications.


Clinical and forensic psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers; sex offender treatment specialists; researchers in the field of psychology and law.

Course Use

May serve as a supplemental text in graduate-level courses.