Can Bad Men Change? What It’s Like Inside Sex Offender Therapy

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Time on 05/14/2018 by Eliana Dockterman

The men file in, a few wearing pressed button-down shirts, others jeans caked in mud from work on a construction site. They meet in the living room of an old taupe bungalow on a leafy street in a small Southern city.

Someone has shoved a workout bike into the corner to make room for a circle of overstuffed chairs dug up at the local Goodwill. The men jockey for a coveted recliner and settle in. They are complaining about co-workers and debating the relative merits of various trucks when a faint beeping interrupts the conversation. One man picks up a throw pillow and tries to muffle the sound of the battery running low on his ankle bracelet, a reminder of why they are all there.

Every one of the eight men in the room has been convicted of a sex crime and mandated by a court to see a therapist. Depending on the offense, their treatment can last several months or several years. (TIME has given both the men and the therapists pseudonyms in this story.)