By David Olinger
Colorado is overtreating many low-risk sex offenders in the mistaken belief that they cannot be cured, an independent consultant has found.
As a result, the state's Sex Offender Management Board is wasting significant amounts of public money on supervision in the community, according to a report from Central Coast Clinical and Forensic Psychology Services.
The report, released earlier this month, also concluded that Colorado's system for classifying some offenders as sexually violent predators is hopelessly flawed and in urgent need of replacement. That means Colorado could be classifying the wrong people as sexually violent predators.
The findings were met with approval from advocates of reform for sex-offender treatment but with skepticism from a victims' group.
The report's recommendations, if adopted, could dramatically change the supervision of sex offenders, many of whom are now monitored for life.
There were 1,412 sex offenders under intensive supervision on probation in the state as of June 30, and 767 of those were under lifetime supervision, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections.
The consultant's analysis of the board, an arm of the state Department of Public Safety, commended Colorado for developing a model treatment program in the 1990s and for the thought and dedication put into its guidelines for managing sex offenders.
At the same time, it reported that Colorado has adhered stubbornly to the idea that sex offenders cannot be cured and must be managed for life despite abundant research to the contrary.
The board's guidelines "communicate a view of sex offenders' risk," the report said, that they have "a disorder which cannot be cured," that all sex offenders pose a "dangerously high risk," and that "the danger can only be managed by constant vigilance." As a result, "expending special and expensive resources on managing low-risk offenders wastes public money," the report said.
Its criticisms echo a scathing report from the same consultant last year that sex-offender programs in Colorado prisons have created a treatment backlog that leaves some inmates waiting for years for therapy.
"I thought it was fantastic. We're thrilled," said Susan Walker, director of the Coalition for Sexual Offense Restoration.
"Finally, somebody besides us is saying that under the no-cure philosophy, the (sex-offender management board) has not been functioning under appropriate standards and guidelines."
Erin Jemison, executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sex Assault, participated in the consultant's round of focus groups and found it unbalanced.
"While there were some good suggestions that the board needs to look at," Jemison said, "I think they did not include victim and victim- advocate voices to the same extent that they included offender voices. I think that's reflected in the report."
The report cited multiple problems with the risk scale that Colorado uses to identify sexually violent predators and concluded the state has "no credible data" to justify its use.
"There is an urgent need," the report said, to replace its method for calling someone a predator "with an instrument that is soundly developed."
The report also criticized treatment programs for relying too much on polygraph examinations as a means of measuring an offender's success.
Chris Lobanov-Rostovsky, the program manager for the board, said it has been working already on some of the changes recommended in the report.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
CO - Audit criticizes Colorado's program for monitoring sex offenders