I recently posted on social media about my clinic’s intensive program for sexual offenders and how it aides sentence mitigation. I got accused of providing lighter sentences for financial gain.
I’m angry, to say the least. I take our work with people who have committed sex crimes very seriously because I consider it sexual abuse prevention work.
I’ve decided to put my emotions to the side and write something informative about sentence mitigation.
What is Sentence Mitigation?
I’d like to point out that what we’re talking about is not the trial. We’ve already determined guilt and we’re now determining the punishment for the crime(s) committed.
Judges are obligated to take all information about that person into consideration when being sentenced for a crime.
Prosecution’s role is to present evidence of all of the aggravating factors in the case. They use these factors to argue for stronger and harsher sentences.
Aggravating factors can include:
- Prior offenses
- Vulnerable victims
- Hate crimes
- Violence, etc.
Defense attorneys present facts about the person supporting a less harsh sentence.
Any facts presented for sentence mitigation are not related to the guilt of the person. They’ve acknowledged what they have done (pled guilty).
Mitigating factors can be in place prior to the offending such as:
- Lack of criminal record
- Mental illness
- Physical illness
- History of abuse
Other mitigating factors are those the occur after the offense has happened. These can be:
- Acceptance of responsibility
- Rehabilitation post offense (treatment)
- Cooperation with law enforcement
- Mental illness, etc.
Mitigating factors do NOT excuse a crime but help provide an explanation.
As professionals, our time is valuable. Dr. Weeks created the Mitigation Aide Research Archive because there isn’t enough focused, data-backed research available in easily digestible formats.
Therapy as a Sentence Mitigation Tool
Do defense attorneys suggest clients go to therapy so they have some fuel for sentence mitigation?
In a word, yes.
Many of our clients are referred to us by their attorneys after they have had a visit from the police or the FBI. This happens, basically, no matter the type of offense.
Get a drug and alcohol assessment.
Domestic violence charge?
Do some classes.
Complete an anger management program.
What Your Therapist Knows
What most people might not know, but all treatment providers know, is very few people self-refer for any kind or offending.
In over 10 years of practice ownership, I can count on one hand the number of clients who came to treatment because they felt they had a problem.
Many clients are pressured into treatment. This pressure may come from a partner, spouse, employer, or the police.
People don’t self-refer for many reasons: shame, fear, or stigma. They wait until they’re caught. Whether they’re watching pornography at work, getting a DUI, getting caught in an affair, running up the credit cards with gambling debt, etc.
Do you believe your sexual behaviors are compulsive or harmful to you or others? Then you should take the CSBD-19 free, validated self-assessment tool.
Doing the Work, Not Just Showing Up
The act of going to therapy itself does not help the defense attorney make a mitigation argument.
What happens in therapy can help a defense attorney make a mitigation argument.
If a client is referred by an attorney for treatment, the initial thought might be something like “Okay, this will look good to the judge.”
Any good therapist will know whether or not a client is taking the therapy work seriously. If the client is just biding time, trying to look good for the judge, it’s reflected in the treatment reports that go to the attorney.
Trust me, bad treatment reports never make it to court.
Same thing for evaluations that deem a client high risk to re-offend. They hardly ever see the light of day in a court room.
What gets a person in the door of a therapy office isn’t always what keeps them there.
I, and other treatment providers, aim to help the offender move from the shocked stage into looking deeply at their actions and motivations.
Although it’s popular to believe all people who commit sexual crimes are deviant monsters who deserve to die, most people who are committing these crimes know they have a problem, feel a good deal of remorse, and want to do what they can to avoid hurting anyone else.
Now we see how an attorney referral for sentence mitigation can turn into an offender into a healthy, productive member of society.
Do you believe you have an online pornography addiction? Take the free Cyber Pornography Addiction Test (CYPAT) and have the results to speak with your therapist.
Final Reflections on Sentence Mitigation
Sitting at the end of a day filled with many emotions, I reflect on the work I do. I am proud of the work I and my staff do with this population.
I realize I work with people the world would rather discard. Many people think they don’t deserve treatment.
It would be great if more people self-referred, I don’t really care if it’s an attorney that gets them through the door.
Those of us who work with sexual offenders are doing prevention work.
My final words are not mine but those of one of my wonderful colleagues: Everyone deserves treatment. Period. Full Stop.
- Mitigating Circumstances in Sentencing
- Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in Criminal Sentencing Law
- What are Mitigating Factors in Sentencing?
Do you feel your sexual behavior, or that of someone you love, is out of control? Consult with a professional.
Have you found yourself in legal trouble due to your sexual behavior? Seek assistance before the court mandates it, with Sexual Addiction Treatment Services.
Are you a professional looking to stay up-to-date with the latest information on, sex addiction, trauma, and mental health news and research? Or maybe you’re looking for continuing education courses? Then you should stay up-to-date with all of Dr. Jen’s work through her practice’s newsletter!