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Sex offender investigation: Treatment programs

11-1-2013 Vermont:

Studies have shown the therapy can help lower recidivism rates but not everyone gets help.

COLCHESTER, Vt. —It’s a rare glimpse into a treatment program for sex offenders.

Studies have shown the therapy can help lower recidivism rates but not everyone gets help.

Sex offender treatment is only an option for Vermont inmates, and those who enroll end up being less than a quarter of the population.

But for those who choose, there is help. There are meetings and groups all over the state where convicted sex offenders can find support.

“It was like losing my child cause we were so close living together, you know,” Lucinda Milne said.

Not a day goes by for Milne without remembering her granddaughter, Brooke Bennett.

“Terrible. It's like a nightmare. A terrible, terrible nightmare that I haven't woke up to yet,” Milne said.

Milne's son-in-law is awaiting his final sentencing after being convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing his 12-year-old niece, Brooke, five years ago.

“I just couldn't believe that he did those things. You know? Tore my family apart,” Milne said.

Michael Jacques was a convicted sex offender when he killed Brooke, and like many others in Vermont he'd been through treatment, both while he was in prison and when he was released on probation.

When we asked Milne if she thought treatment could help someone like Jacques, she said, “I'm not sure. I'm not sure.”

According to a Vermont Department of Corrections study, those who go through treatment are less likely to reoffend. But convicted sex offenders cannot be forced into a program while they're incarcerated. Prison officials say that's because the program works best when offenders are committed to it similar to AA or drug rehab programs.

”If I’m in a situation where I may be tempted, I have the skills to think my way through it and get out of it. That's what we can offer in a treatment program,” Corrections commissioner Andy Pallito said.

That study is now more than 10 years old.

And according to more current information obtained by Newschannel Five, the number of sex offenders in Vermont prisons was between 450 and 550 each year from 2008 to 2012 but because of limited space only 78 of those can be in treatment at any given time. In an email to WPTZ the DOC noted there has not been a waitlist for quote "quite some time."

And because Vermont has no civil confinement law, which can keep high risk offenders in prison past their sentence, those without treatment are simply released when their sentence is up.

“Some people, I think, tend to judge people when they hear the word or when they find out you've come out of prison they tend to judge you on what you did and that's who they think you are.”

Two years after his release, this convicted sex offender still worries about the repercussions of identifying himself as a sex offender. He asked us to conceal his identity.

He went through treatment in prison and says he's continuing to make progress now that he's on the outside.

“It's accepting responsibility for what you've done, what you're capable of, that you did what you did, acknowledging it and not making any excuses.”

He attends a weekly faith-based meeting in Burlington for ex-cons. It's hosted by Pastor Pete Fiske from the Church at Prison.

“Nobody is born wanting to be a sex offender. It happens in their lives. They get messed up. And it's despicable and they know it,” Fiske said.

Fiske helps provide support to those he says society often rejects.

“If you have that you have to learn how to manage that, like in AA alcoholics learn how to manage their addictions,” Fiske said.

Still, some will never find faith in treatment. There's simply too much to overcome.

“I don't want somebody to buy the house that right over there and move in that's a sex offender. I don't care if he's married, got kids or not. I don't want him in my neighborhood. It would bring back too much. Too much,” Milne said. ..Source.. by Bridget Shanahan

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