CLEVELAND – As the women found dead in and around the home of accused rapist/murderer Anthony Sowell’s home on Imperial Avenue have been identified and laid to rest by their loved ones, many people – particularly women – are left wondering if there are any more men capable of committing such crimes wandering the streets and, if so, how many?
To gain some insight, let’s consider a few already known facts in this case.
One, the accused has a history of rape as he served 15 years in prison after a victim escaped then reported him. Secondly, he was a registered sex offender.
Third, we know he received no treatment while in prison or upon release.
Now, when you examine the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department registry of sex offenders, you’ll find that 2,406 sexual offenders ranging between the three-tiered types of offenses are listed in Cleveland alone. Even Beachwood has 10 while Pepper Pike has one.
Sex offenses include everything from soliciting for sex to rape and, of course, having sex with minors. Tier 1, the lowest, is anything other than a Tier II or Tier III offense.
However, the real questions become: Are there any organizations or support groups to assist men plagued with these kinds of issues as well as what kind of treatment do they receive while in prison? Also, is anyone looking at why people commit such crimes and how to prevent them from recurring?
David Berenson, director of sex offender services for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation, deals with the institutional programs and providing general information.
During a phone interview with the Call & Post, he explained that the sheriff’s registry is a very straightforward law in that each tier has a list of specific offenses, according to the Ohio Revised Code, for which a sex offender has to register.
For example, rape is a Tier III offense. It could a statutory rape, or a highly violent rape. On the other hand, importuning is a Tier I offense.
“If the offense is rape, that person will register as a Tier III offender,” said Berenson.
He also explained the prison system has two types of treatment: a general and a more comprehensive sex offender program, while making it clear that he refers to males when speaking since the majority of sex offense convictions are attributed to men.
“We have about 9,900 sex offenders incarcerated and 9,750 are male,” he said.
Berenson went on to explain that, when an offender enters the system, they go through the reception process, a unit called the sex offender risk reduction center (SORRC), in Madison Correctional Institution in London, Ohio.
There, the offender receives a risk assessment, which is used nationwide as well as wherever sex offender treatment is provided. After that, offenders are classified into four categories of risk: high, medium high, medium-high, and low.
If an offender scores medium-high or high, the system do a very complete assessment on him and he is identified to go through the comprehensive sex offender education program within three years of his release from the prison system.
“It’s mandatory. They have to go through it,” Berenson said of the 24 sessions, psycho-education form of treatment. “We are basically imparting information about the dynamics of sexual assault, the personality dynamics of sexual assault, and a strong emphasis on victim awareness and victim empathy.”
One of their hopes is to encourage offenders to reach the point where they take ownership of the crime then go on to a more complete sex offender program. “All offenders who score in the medium to high range to sexual re-offend have to go through the mandatory program,” Berenson added.
With the general sex offender program, the timeframe is 12 to 18 months and the offender has to first admit to the offense then choose to enter.
“It’s not something we can mandate them into,” said Berenson. “It’s [what] one would conventionally think of as a sex offender program. It involves a group with a real emphasis on changing the way an offender thinks. In the field, we call it a cognitive-behavioral approach to treatment.”
Generally, it takes 12 to 15 months to complete but Berenson’s seen offenders finish in as little as nine, he said. At the same time, both of these programs, as describe, are constantly being revised since implemented in 2002 or 2003, according to Berenson.
When asked how many sex offenders is released from prison each year, Berenson revealed that he don’t have that figure. He also said he don’t have, as of yet, an outcome study to assess typical results in respects to these two programs.
Additionally, if the offenders successfully complete the mandatory comprehensive program while incarcerated, it is not required that he continue in treatment upon release unless behavioral issues arise. While, in addition to adhering to parole regulations, offenders are only required to register with the sheriff’s department of their residing county.
Berenson didn’t have any information on recidivism rates since these programs were implemented but could discuss general sex offender recidivism.
“Sex offenses is relatively low,” he said, using the basis of a 10-year study of sex offenders who were released in 1989 with an 11 percent recidivism rate. “When we looked at recidivism rates over the last 3 or 4 years, it’s more like 5 to 6 percent. It’s pretty low for sex offenses and that’s replicated nationally,” he said.
He said much of the data on sex offenders, available on Ohio, is replicated across the country while the current numbers have remained constant for at least the past five years.
Dr. Tiffanie Munford-Dent, president of the Ohio Chapter of The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA), said there are a number of sexual offenders treatment providers throughout the state of Ohio but there has to be a willingness to receive these services for treatment to be effective.
“Sex offender treatment decreases the likelihood of additional victims,” she said before talking about how the kind of treatment available depends on the offender. It can include individual, group, and family treatment in addition to community supervision.
She emphasized that being listed on the sexual offender registry is not treatment, as well.
ATSA works to change the attitudes and distorting thinking of the offenders.
According to Munford-Dent, research has shown treatment decreases the likelihood of re-offending since the higher the risk, the more likely they are to re-offend. However, if an offender has served their time, there is no requirement for treatment, she said, although there have been changes in parole requirements over the years.
Courts as well as child protective services refer clients to ATSA while again there are on-going services in the prisons and through parole departments. But, funding for all external counseling services have been cut over recent years.
ASTA receives no support from state.
Additionally, she made it clear that ATSA are not advocates for sex offenders as opposed to a coalition attempting to reduce the occurrences of sexual assaults.
“We don’t want any more victims,” said Munford-Dent. ..Source..Rhonda Crowder, Call & Post