Following on from my last blog on this (103), the prisoners newspaper Inside Time ran a story entitled “SOPT bombshell”. It was written by a Dr Robert Forde.
He stated that the research done by the MOJ, which showed that prisoners who completed the SOPT programme showed a 10% rate of re-offending over an average of 8.2 years as opposed to 8% for the prisoners who had not completed the SOPT, was kept secret by Liz Truss, the then Justice Secretary, until after the general election. Strong stuff.
Dr Forde has been a “constant critic” of these programmes over the past 13 years; as I have, but what do I know, I’m just a prisoner, right? Despite having faced 3 failed misconduct complaints against him, due to his allegedly “misrepresenting the research on the effectiveness of sex offenders programmes,” it turns out that Dr Forde was one of the few forensic psychologists who was able to come to his conclusions using properly obtained data and research; as opposed to being one of the many prison psychologists I have encountered who come to their conclusions based on their own indoctrinations and confirmation bias; in other words they conclude first then only use information or data to support conclusions. It’s what you or I would call unethical, incompetent, dishonest, naïve or a whole host of other adjectives.
It was as far back as John Major’s government when “a group of persuasive psychologists” convinced them to bankroll this failed project. How many millions wasted? No-one knows. I submitted a Freedom of Information request to find out how much the MoJ spends on prison psychological services. They don’t know? How is that even possible? Public money and they don’t know!
Also consider this: research papers have been published as far back as 2003 (Rice and Harris) which “showed that most evaluations of sex offender treatment were of poor quality, and contained a bias towards showing a treatment effect even if none existed.” It was ignored. Other studies since have shown the SOPT to be ineffective. They are all out there. In fact, for those of you who are interested, these reports are freely available on government websites.
Prisoners have had parole refused and spent many more years in prison purely on the basis of them not having done the SOPT. In fact, I myself have been told that if I don’t do the SOPT, I’ll never be released. For me, that is a double bitter pill to swallow. Firstly, I have been wrongfully convicted of the offence of murder. Secondly, I have not been convicted of any sexual offence, ever; yet, these psychologists in their infinite wisdom assess me in the same way as they would a sex offender. So, I’ve already spent 14 years of my life in prison serving a sentence for something which never happened, with a minimum of 12 years more years to go, and these idiots are telling me that they are going to keep me in for the rest of my life unless I complete the SOPT; a course that increases sexual offending? It rather begs the question “are these people stupid?” redundant. They have been destroying the lives of prisoners and their families for many, many years.
All the government has done to address the issue of the incompetence of prison psychology is to bankroll 2 new replacement offending behaviour courses. Both of these courses are untested as are many of the other courses, they employ: “… there is no evidence that they are effective in changing patterns of behaviour as opposed to emotional states …” Dr Forde ends his article by acknowledging other avenues to help prisoners: education; trade training; restorative justice; support in the community; and good mental health care.
Check out his full article on the Inside Time website (www.inside time.org).
Be happy; be safe (although, you are probably a little less safe thanks to those wonderful prison psychologists).
Graham Coutts, 5th August 2017