The Kia Marama Special Treatment Unit Child Sexual Offending Treatment Programme

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A residential treatment programme for men in a medium secure unit who have committed sexual offences against children.

Type of intervention

Group work, individual work, prison

Target groups, level of prevention and subgroups

(Potential) Offenders | Tertiary prevention | Adults (21+ years) |Men aged 18-20 can be considered on a case-by-case basis | Males | Group work, individual work, prison | English

Target population

The Kia Marama Special Treatment Unit houses adult males who have been convicted of sexual offences against children.  

Kia Marama was established in 1989 as New Zealand's first specialist prison treatment programme for men convicted of sexually motivated offences against children.  The programme was based on the Rockwood Psychological Services programme in Canada, and was designed with the input of Dr William Marshall.

Delivery organisation

Department of Corrections (Statutory Body), New Zealand.

Mode and context of delivery

The Kia Marama Special Treatment Unit consists of two 60-bed units and specialises in the treatment of men who have been convicted of child sex offences.  The Unit operates as a therapeutic “community of change” environment.  

The Child Sexual Offending Treatment Programme that is delivered at Kia Marama is a high-intensity psychological group programme that was designed based on international best practice principles in the treatment of men convicted of sexual offences against children. 

Level/nature of staff expertise required

Kia Marama is staffed by psychologists, reintegration co-ordinators, and custodial staff.  Psychologists are responsible for assessing a man's suitability for the programme, delivering treatment, and monitoring an individual's therapeutic progress. Reintegration coordinators work with participants to identify a reintegration pathway, address potential barriers to transitioning into the community, and preparing for release.  Custodial staff support the unit to operate in accordance with the principles of a therapeutic community.  Kia Marama staff have access to a cultural supervisor who provides guidance in bicultural clinical practices and cultural processes.

Intensity/extent of engagement with target group(s)

Kia Marama is a closed programme that runs for approximately 36 weeks.  Group session are 3 hours in duration and and are held three to four times per week.  Each programme contains up to 10 men.  

In addition to treatment-related activities, residents are expected to engage in meaningful communal tasks, participate in community meetings, and take responsibility for the unit.  Some men may also engage in work within the unit or within the prison grounds (e.g., in the kitchen or garden). 

Description of intervention

The Child Sexual Offending Treatment Programme is a highly structured intensive treatment programme that aims to support men to develop the knowledge, tools, and resources necessary to manage their risk of future sexual offending.   During the programme men learn that their offending is the outcome of  linked steps of thoughts and behaviour.  It offers skills  and strategies for breaking these links, and provides opportunities for men to begin making positive life and behavioural changes throughout the end-to-end pathway of the programme.

The programme views sexual offending through a relapse prevention framework based on cognitive and behavioural principles. It is considered that this treatment framework provides a robust approach to treating men who are at higher risk of sexual reoffending by:

Providing a personalised framework for understanding his high risk emotions, thoughts, situations, relationships, and environments and the actions that will help to manage his risk of sexual offending over the long term.  


The programme consists of a four week assessment period that includes clinical interview and the administration of psychometrics designed to assess an individual's cognitive, emotional, and personality functioning; sexual functioning and characteristics; treatment and relevant clinical needs; and risk of sexual reoffending.  The individual's sexual offending risk factors and most likely offending pathways are formulated in order to ensure that treatment is relevant to their needs.


The programme is based on a best practice approach for group treatment for men who have sexually offended.  The modules involve the application of cognitive behavioural interventions designed to target specific factors and adhere to the principles of effective correctional intervention (i.e., the Risk, Needs, and Responsivity model; Andrews and Bonta, 2017).  

The first phase of the programme involves the development of insight into offence related patterns of thinking and behaviour that contributed to offending, while the second phase focuses on requisite skill development in order to manage future risk of re-offending. 


A 2012 study by Lucy Moore examined the criminal history and post-release outcomes for all men who had committed a sexual offence against a child and were released from a New Zealand prison between 1998 and 2010.  The study compared the outcomes for 428 men who had attended Kia Marama and 1,956 men who did not attend Kia Marama or a similar Special Treatment Unit.  Kia Marama attendees were followed up for an average of 6.36 years and individuals in the untreated control cohort were followed up for an average of 6.81 years.

The results showed that 7.2 percent of men who attended Kia Marama  were convicted of new sexual offences during the follow-up period compared to 10.0 percent of men from the untreated group.  This represented a 29.4 percent reduction in sexual re-offending for men who were treated at Kia Marama and was a statistically significant finding.  Results also showed that treatment at Kia Marama significantly reduced the rates of both violent re-offending (from 18.4 percent to 10.3 percent; a 49.3 percent reduction) and general re-offending (from 40.2 percent to 32.7 percent; a 27.6 percent reduction).


Andrews, D. & Bonta, J. (2017). The Psychology of Criminal Conduct (6th Ed.). New York: Routledge.

Hanson, R. K. & Bussière, M. T. (1998).  Predicting relapse: a meta-analysis of sexual offender recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 66(2), 348-362

Moore, L. (2012).  A comparison of offence history and post-release outcomes for sexual offenders against children who attended or did not attend the Kia Marama Special Treatment Unit.  Unpublished Masters Thesis, University of Canterbury, New Zealand. 

Bakker, L., Hudson, S., Wales, D., & Riley, D. (1998). And there was light: Evaluating the Kia Marama treatment programme for New Zealand sex offenders against children. Psychological Service Report, Department of Corrections. Wellington, New Zealand.

Hudson, S.M., Wales, D.S., & Ward, T. (1998). Kia Marama: A treatment program for child molesters in New Zealand. In W. Marshall, S.M. Hudson, T. Ward, & Y. Fernandez (Eds.), Sourcebook of treatment programs for sexual offenders (pp 17-28). New York: Plenum.

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