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Men of Prey

Scientists peer into the dark world of sex offenders

8:23pm, July 22, 2002

From inner-city mean streets to serene suburban cul-de-sacs, from bar stools to pulpits, and from state houses to the state prisons, sex offenders uniformly inspire fear and loathing. On occasion, rapists, child molesters, and their ilk also stir up unexpected irony. Consider this turn of events. On June 9, scientists and clinicians from throughout North America ended a 3-day meeting in Washington, D.C., where they discussed the state of knowledge about sexually coercive acts.

Although intriguing lines of research were described, conference participants readily admitted their ignorance about crucial issues. There was no consensus on what causes individuals to become sexual criminals, how best to predict which of them will offend again after release from prison, or even whether current treatment programs for sex offenders are effective.

Fair enough. On June 10, however, the Supreme Court begged to differ. Prison-based rehabilitation programs for sex offenders work so wel

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