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Seen and not heard: The service user’s experience through the justice system of individuals convicted of sexual offenses

McCartan, Kieran F.; Harris, Danielle A.; Prescott, David S.


Kieran McCartan
Professor in Sociology and Criminology

Danielle A. Harris

David S. Prescott


User experience and client satisfaction is capturing more attention in the field of social services. The provision of treatment services to individuals convicted of sexual offenses, in particular, has expanded exponentially over the last 20 years. This growing population is now interviewed, interrogated, investigated, assessed, managed, treated, supervised, and surveilled, while their perspective as “service users” is almost entirely absent from research. To that end, this article introduces the service user voice within the context of society’s responses to sexual offending. We conducted thematic analysis on secondary data from interviews with 93 individuals. These include 74 men from the United States and 19 men from the United Kingdom, all of whom had been convicted for sexual offenses. The original qualitative data from the two original studies were freshly analysed, inductively and deductively, using Thematic Analysis so that the themes, as well as resulting codes, were appropriate and fit for purpose. Specific themes emerged from each of three clear stages in their service user journey: (a) Interactions with the formal criminal justice system (police, courts, and custodial corrections), (b) Interactions with community corrections (probation and parole), and (c) Interactions with treatment providers (rehabilitation, therapists, and evaluators). We describe the service user experience at each stage and discuss how policy and practice can resolve areas of disconnection. We suggest several ways to promote and privilege the service user voice for those convicted of sexual crimes.


McCartan, K. F., Harris, D. A., & Prescott, D. S. (2021). Seen and not heard: The service user’s experience through the justice system of individuals convicted of sexual offenses. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 65(12), 1299-1315.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 26, 2019
Online Publication Date May 27, 2019
Publication Date Sep 1, 2021
Deposit Date May 2, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 2, 2019
Journal International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Print ISSN 0306-624X
Electronic ISSN 1552-6933
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 65
Issue 12
Pages 1299-1315
Keywords prevention, service user voice, desistence, treatment, individuals that commit sexual abuse
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : © 2019. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications


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