We now have added "Informational Posts" which are tidbits of information that may come in handy at some point.

Most Colorado sex offenders don't get treated in prison

UPDATE 5-10: DOC disputes 9WTK sex offender investigation (See letter below)

5-7-2014 Colorado:

A six-month investigation by 9Wants to Know discovered most sex criminals were not allowed to attend specialized sex offender therapy programs while in prison.

The Colorado Department of Corrections is responsible for rehabilitating the 5,000 sex offenders currently behind bars, but the DOC strategic plan indicates just 103 actually completed the sex offender treatment program in the last state fiscal year.

Kellie Wasko, executive deputy director of corrections, says her department is trying to expand the size of the in-prison program, but she admits it's hard to find enough therapists. As of last month, more than 25 percent of program positions were vacant.

Until recently, corrections officials say they only allowed inmates sentenced under the state lifetime sentencing law to begin treatment in prison. Those offenders' sentences required them to stay in prison until they show satisfactory progress in treatment. Lifetime sex offenders make up one-third of the convicted sex criminals behind bars. The other two-thirds of offenders, inmates with traditional sentences, were specifically excluded.

Convicted child molester Donald Chapman, serving a traditional 32 year sentence for child molestation, told his parole hearing officer last month he needed treatment and "I can't seem to get treatment in here."

"I've been on a waiting list since the day I walked into this facility," inmate Donald Little said during his parole hearing. "I think my options for getting treatment would be much better on the outside."

If the inmates with traditional, determinate sentences reach their mandatory release dates, they must be paroled to the community, even if they haven't received treatment.

"What's to stop them from doing it again?" asked Kimberly Weeks, a sexual assault survivor who works in the criminal justice system. "They are not going to understand that these actions are not OK. They are just going to create more victims."

"Victims will tell you, if treatment is the way to help ensure this won't happen again to anyone else, then that's what they are most interested in," Erin Jemison said, executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Treatment programs likely improve public safety. According to a 2002 study, Colorado sex offenders who attended the prison therapy were more successful on parole and remained arrest-free longer. Wasko says sex offenders who don't receive treatment in prison, usually must receive it as part of their parole.

9Wants to Know how often sex criminals are being paroled without completing treatment and whether those people are more likely to prey on new victims. For six months, 9Wants to Know made repeated requests to the DOC for specific data about offenders paroled from January 2009 to September 2013. Public records custodians refused to release the information on specific inmates, saying it would violate their medical privacy rights.

Prison officials did provide limited information on treatment enrollment and parole releases. Based on those figures, 9Wants to Know determined seven percent of sex offender parole releases involve an inmate who completed treatment. Approximately 93 percent of the time, the sex offenders released received no treatment while behind bars.

When asked about the public safety repercussions, Wasko said, "We have had offenders who have released who have committed new offenses, but they are not sex offenses."

District attorneys in Colorado say they do have repeat sex offender cases. Leora Joseph, who oversees the 18th Judicial District Special Victims Unit, says "I can think of a number of cases over just the past year alone where individuals who were sentenced, were receiving treatment, reoffended on multiple children, or even just one child."

9Wants to Know also identified several repeat offenders.

Convicted sex offenders incarcerated in Colorado prisons as of 3/31/2014
3499 - Inmates with determinate (traditional) sentences
1736 - Inmates with Lifetime Supervision sentences
5235 Total Convicted Sex Offenders

Picture in Original

Convicted sex offenders released on parolee January 2009 – September 2013:
4,870 Releases of Inmates with determinate (traditional) sentences
349 Releases of Inmates with Lifetime Supervision sentences
5,219 Total Releases of Convicted Sex Offenders

Some national studies say sex offender recidivism for new sex crimes is three percent, but victim advocates say the rate is really much higher because many sex crimes go unreported.

"I don't think, in my case specifically, that this offender can be rehabilitated," Weeks said.

State officials admit to 9Wants to Know they don't keep track of any statistics about sex offenders who commit new sex crimes. They did say convicted sex offenders have lower overall recidivism rates than the general prison population. For all 2010 Colorado prison releases, 15.3 percent returned to prison within three years on a new crime. For sex offenders, 13.1 percent landed back in prison within three years on a new crime of any kind.

Parole Board Chairman Brandon Shaffer said, "Honestly, I think DOC is doing the very best that they can." Shaffer says he's never paroled someone expecting them to quickly return to prison.

When 9Wants to know asked Wasko if she would be concerned to live near a sex offender who hadn't finished treatment, she responded, "Not at all." ..Source.. by Melissa B Blasius, KUSA

DOC disputes 9WTK sex offender investigation

DENVER - Colorado Department of Corrections officials are taking issue with a 9Wants to Know investigation on sex offenders being released from prison and how often they are committing new sex crimes.

DOC Executive Director Rick Raemisch sent a letter Wednesday detailing what he calls factual errors and misrepresentations. DOC posted the letter on Facebook. 9NEWS decided we should also respond publicly.

Also on Wednesday, DOC supplied 9NEWS with statistics the 9Wants to Know team has requested prior to airing Monday's investigation.

Here are those statistics:

Sex offender treatment: Between January 2009 and September 2013, DOC says 19 percent of convicted sex offenders had received at least some sex offender treatment at the time of their initial release from prison.

Recidivism: For the 854 sex offenders released in 2010, eight returned to prison within three years for a new sex crime. That makes the recidivism rate just less than one percent.

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