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State Sex Offender Treatment Programs: 50 - State Survey

2000 Colorado:

Trends in State Sex Offender Treatment Programs: August 2000

50-State Survey Conducted by the Colorado Department of Corrections

Summary of Findings

Treatment programs
Formal sex offender treatment programs are being conducted in 39 states, including a program in Wyoming that is in transition and programming in West Virginia that is under review for standardization across all state institutions. In addition, Maine is developing a three-year program projected to open in two years, and Idaho is in the early stages of considering a comprehensive treatment program for the high number of sex offenders in its institutions. Informal treatment has been conducted in Nevada for a number of years. (See Table 1.)

Sex offender populations
A total of 154,518 sex offenders were reported among the 43 states that provided the number of sex offenders incarcerated in their institutions. Sex offender populations range from 161 in North Dakota to 25,398 in Texas. Among the reporting states, sex offenders represented an average of 26% of the total incarcerated population. (See Table 1.)

Sex offender program capacity and duration
Program capacity among the reporting states ranges from 70 sex offenders in Vermont (with a total sex offender population of 362) to 1,100 in Michigan (with a total sex offender population of 9,756) and 1,200 in Pennsylvania (with a total sex offender population of 6,931). (See Table 1.)

Most institutional treatment programs have a duration of over 1 year. Of the 34 states that reported the duration of their programs, 28 offer 1 year or more of treatment. Of those programs, 19 conduct up to 3 years of treatment, and 8 conduct more than 3 years of treatment. North Dakota provides treatment for up to 5 years, and recent changes in the Arizona program also provide for treatment up to 5 years. In Massachusetts, inmates are eligible to begin treatment when they are within 6 years of their earliest projected release date; once in the program, an inmate remains active until release. (See Table 1.)

In statements of program philosophy, mission, or approach, the consensus of states offering treatment is that there is no “cure” for sexual offending behavior, but sex offenders can learn interventions to control their behavior. A number of programs are designed to provide external support and controls, in the form of planning and support for transition into the community as well as specialized supervision. Longer-range programs emphasize the importance of continued treatment in the community. Family education appears to be emerging as a critical element in transitional and post-release support.

The unanimous goal of treatment programs is public safety, although some programs place more emphasis than others on building self-esteem and a sense of empowerment as the foundation for offenders to find and exercise their own interventions.

Programs are also unanimous in using cognitive-behavioral group therapy, with relapse prevention as the focus of treatment. Twenty states—almost 50% of the programs—offer more intensive forms of this approach through therapeutic communities or residential programs, and 2 more states have therapeutic communities under development. (See Table 2.) The majority of statements of approach point to current research on treatment effectiveness for sex offenders, and a number of states incorporate training and staff development into their program design.

Program components
Programs described in materials provided by survey respondents represent a wide range in structure, sequence, complexity, and intensity. However, given the widespread use of cognitive-behavioral therapy and relapse prevention, the programs are structured on a number of common components (see Table 3, introduced by explanatory text under the heading “Institutional Program Structure” below):

· Assessment for treatment
· Orientation to treatment/prerequisite to treatment
· Education or psychoeducation
· Cognitive-behavioral group therapy
· Intensive treatment (group or residential)
· Transition into the community
· Aftercare

More information on program structure and staffing is provided in the “Findings” section below.

Legislation reported by survey respondents ranges from broad mandates for establishing a sex offender treatment program to specific mandates governing elements of treatment and management such as DNA testing, pharmacological treatment, and polygraph testing.

Sex offender treatment programs in 7 states were established by legislation: Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. In New Jersey, legislation passed between 1994 and 1998 increased the role of the Adult Diagnostic Treatment Center, a specialized institution opened in 1976 to treat sex offenders committed by the court system.

Legislation attached to surveys by Kentucky, Tennessee, and Colorado established advisory or standards boards for sex offender treatment and management. Review boards in Nevada and New Jersey were also established in legislation provided by those states. Other states noted the establishment of standards and/or review boards in response to survey questions (see “Advisory and Standards Boards/Entities” below).

Texas has a multidisciplinary team, created by state law, to review offenders eligible for civil commitment. Texas also has a risk assessment review committee, created by state law, to assess the risk sex offenders pose at the time of their release from prison. A Council on Sex Offender Treatment establishes treatment standards in the state and maintains a registry of sex offender providers.

A number of states also reported on laws governing registration and notification, which have similar provisions among the states. Seven states reported civil commitment laws, and 4 states reported legislation establishing lifetime supervision.

Program effectiveness
Only 14 states reported having an internal system for tracking program effectiveness. The most common time periods for tracking sex offenders after release are 3 years, 5 years, and 10 years. In 1988, Hawaii began tracking released sex offenders for their lifetime. A number of programs track sex offenders through parole, or until discharge.

Seven states provided results of recidivism studies: Alaska, Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Vermont. A number of other states reported current recidivism data.

In Arkansas, proposed legislation would extend probation, after parole is ended, to an indefinite period, which would allow the program to track sex offenders for a number of years. Other legislation would provide for specialized parole/probation officers who would follow sex offenders through their discharge date, up to life.

Survey Findings
Table 1 on the following page provides a checklist of states conducting sex offender programs, with the duration of each, in the context of the number of sex offenders incarcerated in each state. In turn, the number of incarcerated sex offenders provides perspective on the capacity of each program, in terms of the number of sex offenders who can be treated at one time.

Currently this study has been removed from the Internet, but we have kept a copy and it is stored in the "Files Area" of our Yahoo SO-News Group (Membership required).

This study Prepared for the Colorado Department of Corrections by Paula Wenger, consultant, Longmont, Colorado.

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