Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Justice Administration

Committee Chair

Tewksbury, Richard

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Dawson-Edwards, Cherie

Committee Member

Hayden, Theresa

Committee Member

Mustaine, Elizabeth Ehrhardt


Sex offenders--Rehabilitation; Community mental health services


Although it is widely recognized that many convicted criminal offenders experience considerable setbacks in communities that make their lives more arduous, registered sex offenders (RSOs) who live in American society arguably face more challenging impediments. As a result, ensuring their access to social support is especially salient. The notion that social support is particularly relevant to RSOs is perhaps best manifested through a common feature of community-based sex offender treatment programs, where participating RSOs are obligated to forge social relationships with primary support partners. These individuals are an important population to examine, as they purportedly play important roles with respect to helping a particularly stigmatized group of criminal offenders – RSOs – successfully reintegrate into society as productive, law-abiding citizens. And yet, relatively little is known about individuals who have a social link with and provide social support to publicly identified sex offenders, and no previously identified study has specifically examined support partners of RSOs. Thus, in order to provide critical, informative, and rich knowledge about individuals presumably closest to RSOs, the present study utilizes in-depth qualitative interviews with 38 support partners across two sex offender treatment programs in the South. Analyses focus on their motivations for serving as support partners, costs associated with such roles, stigma management techniques, and attitudes and beliefs toward sex offender registration and notification (SORN). Contributions to knowledge, limitations, and corresponding policy implications are discussed.