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Abstract: Between Treatment and Justice: Different Answers to Different Challenges

For decades, the relationship between the Justice System and the treatment responses for offenders, in Portugal, were almost inexistent. This scenario has been evolving quickly over the last decade, driven, at first, by legislative changes on the domestic violence field that led to the inclusion in the Law, in 2007, of the possibility of imposing treatment to offenders convicted for crimes of domestic violence. In a second moment sex offenders also began to be regularly referred by courts to treatment, although it does not exist in our Law a mandatory treatment for this group of offenders.

Considering that, in the case of Portugal, studies reveal that the number of individuals who commit sex crimes and seek help voluntarily is very low, the bridge between justice and psychology / psychiatry turns out to be the main route by which these individuals access treatment. Therefore, the main changes implemented at the criminal policies level constitute a challenge to the services responsible for the development and implementation of intervention programmes, urging them to develop specific treatments for sexual offenders (adults and young offenders). In this communication I will make a brief summary of these changes, present some national research data and analyze their implications on treatment. Based on these data and taking into account the theoretical, technical, political and ethical issues that the response to the court orders raise, I will reflect on the existing intervention programmes and on their ability to answer the current challenges. I will end with a brief reflection about the contributions that psychology can give to the improvement of the judicial decisions in this field.


Celina Manita, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology and senior researcher at University of Porto, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences. She has done several studies in the field of crime, violence and victimization (e.g., domestic violence, child maltreatment, sexual violence), judicial decision making, therapeutical change/processes of change, forensic assessment, among others. She is the current director of GEAV - Gabinete de Estudos e Atendimento a Agressores e Vítimas (Center for Research and Counseling of Victims and Perpetrators of Violence) of the University of Porto, which provides treatment for various types of offenders, including sexual offenders, and also forensic assessment to courts. She is a psychologist and psychotherapist and a forensic expert with hundreds of psychological forensic expertises done for the courts. She is member of national and international professional associations in the fields of psychology, criminology and forensic sciences. Has published and lectured extensively on these fields, including assessment and intervention with offenders.