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Archive for Monday, November 21, 2005

Sexual predator program under fire by lawmakers

Costly treatment is mandated despite little hope of rehabilitation

November 21, 2005

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— State officials are trying to come up with a strategy for dealing with what they call "the worst of the worst" criminal offenders - sexual predators.

A recent audit shows the number of offenders committed to the sexual predator treatment program has increased by 144 percent since 2001, and costs have increased 480 percent to approximately $7.8 million per year. The forecast is for continued exponential growth.

But lawmakers are questioning what, if anything, the state is getting from this investment.

"This is a group that may never change its perception of what is proper," state Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson, said recently of sexual predators.

Commitments increase

In 1994, the state adopted a law that allowed the commitment by the courts of sexual offenders to the sexual predator treatment program at Larned State Hospital. This was for offenders who had already completed their prison sentence but because they were deemed a continuing danger could be placed in the program under a civil commitment process.

The Kansas law, the first of its kind in the nation, was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997. From that point on, commitments increased rapidly to the 156 people in the program today.

The problem is, no one is "graduating" from the program. "The front door is open and the back door is closed," said Joe Lawhon, who issued the Legislative Post-Audit study on the program.

Because of age and physical disabilities, six people have died while in the program.

Only one had progressed to the transitional release phase: Leroy Hendricks, a 70-year-old man in a wheelchair who had spent 10 years in the program. But attempts to move him to Lawrence and then Leavenworth this year were met with howls of protest and eventual court action.

An appeal that would allow him to live in Leavenworth under round-the-clock supervision is now before the Kansas Supreme Court. Until the case is decided, Hendricks lives on the grounds of Osawatomie State Hospital.

New avenues needed

There are at least eight residents in the program who, because of significant physical or mental problems, cannot understand or respond to the treatment program, said Kansas Secretary of Social and Rehabilitation Services Gary Daniels.

"We do have an interest in opening up the back door a little, but not a lot," Daniels said.

As more of the resident population deteriorates because of age and physical problems, Daniels said, the state may have to provide specialized and closely supervised community placements.

Daniels and other experts say there is little hope of rehabilitating most of these offenders, but close monitoring is key to ensuring they don't reoffend.

That caused some lawmakers to wonder why the state was even paying the increasing costs of the program.

But Daniels said the availability of treatment for those who are designated sexual predators is what keeps the program constitutional and enables the state to hold the offenders in civil commitment after they have completed their prison terms.

Comments

Sigmund 9 years ago

Psychologist say sexual predators can never be cured. Politicians promise citizens that sexual predators will remain incarcerated until they are cured. Now the legistlature is suprised to find out that sexual predators are never going to be released and that it costs a lot of money? I'm shocked and stunned! Who could have predicted this? More important, who can we blame?

First, blame the psychologists, who claim to be able to cure anyone of anything. They are little more than witch doctors performing exorcisms of demons. Next, blame politicians who shameslessly play upon the fears of the citizens created, in no small part, by a sensationalistic media. To get elected politicians promise they will fix the problem if you only elect them to office.

Finally, blame the citizens for never questioning the motives the psychologists and the media in hypeing the problem, and for never wondering what the cost of the politicians proposed solution to the purported problem is, let alone how viable.

Who is to blame? We are.

KsTwister 9 years ago

I guess someone should be questioning which costs more,keeping them incarerated or covering court costs as they repeat the crimes??? For my money someone had better be thinking about the effects on the victims first.

badger 9 years ago

So, Sigmund, I'm confused, here.

In your first paragraph, you say, "Psychologist (sic) say sexual predators can never be cured. "

Then, in your second paragraph, you say, "First, blame the psychologists, who claim to be able to cure anyone of anything. They are little more than witch doctors performing exorcisms of demons."

So, are these psychologists who say sexual predators can't be cured some sort of rogue members of the community, out there spreading the truth about the witch doctors, or are they just the same ones who claim to cure everything, except wearing funny hats so you won't recognize them?

Some sexual predators can undergo treatment with drugs and talk therapy that keep them from being a danger to others (just as some paranoid schizophrenics can be functioning members of society with proper treatment, and some suicidal depressives can stop being a threat to themselves with proper treatment). Many can't. I'm pretty sure the average citizen lacks the skills to make that assessment. In fact, I'm not sure the court system has those skills. Some mental health professionals do, though, I'm sure, but not all.

If there was a man who, every time he got the opportunity, chased his mother around with a butcher knife and tried to hurt her, we'd institutionalize him as a danger to others - even though he hadn't actually killed her or committed a crime worthy of life imprisonment. I'm not sure why institutionalizing somoene who's just going to keep preying on children is such a taboo choice.

The raw deal is for people who end up on the sex offenders list who really aren't a threat to anyone, much less children. You end up on that list in some states, with you address and picture published, for things like public urination or being caught parking with your 16-year-old girlfriend on your 18th birthday (depending on statutory rape laws).

Jeffrey Watts 9 years ago

bankboy119 wrote:

"Boscoe, you fail to realize the whole discussion earlier is how psychologists cannot cure these peope. So, since they will not be cured by psychologists, harsher punishments are what need to be implemented. Lock them up for life. Don't let them out after they've had their second chance. Don't let them become repeat offenders. If you want to stick to letting some shrink try to cure them have at it. Then put your children in the same neighborhood as them after that. I'd rather put my children on the other side of the jail fence."

Are you a fool? The victims BECOME the criminals. This isn't like larceny, you can't use long jail times to serve as a deterrent. This is pathological behaviour - you can't correct it with fines or jail time.

I find it amazing that people have such a bizarre stance on this issue. Bankboy, the fact that you can't grasp the root of this issue - you think you can legislate it away - shows why it continues to be a problem.

Don't get me wrong - some of the offenders are sociopaths and are not able to be saved. However many of these offenders are just people with problems and they need help. I'm not saying they shouldn't be punished, but if you think throwing them in jail is going to solve the problem you're a fool.

Jeffrey Watts 9 years ago

Marion, you said:

"This is the only method through which the cycle of abuse will be broken and the only one through which children will be protected."

Yet you're advocating incarcerating and throwing the key away on people who have ALREADY committed their crime. How are you stopping the "cycle of abuse" if they've already abused? The reality is that your "lynch gang" mentality doesn't really do anything to improve the situation.

The reality is this: there will ALWAYS be sexual crimes against children. There is no way they will ever be completely stopped, as they have been happening for as long as we have recorded history. It's the height of naivete to think that we can stop those crimes simply by permanent incarceration of the offenders.

I would actually argue that your attitude is a large part of the problem. The reality is that a very large percentage of offenders were victims themselves. You even said so, when you talked about the "cycle of abuse". Victims become offenders. The children you're so eager to protect will grow up to be offenders themselves without help.

Instead of all this rhetoric about getting tough on the offenders, perhaps a better use of our time and money would be to help the victims, so that they won't BECOME offenders?

bankboy119 9 years ago

Harsher crimes would deter people.

badger 9 years ago

Are you advocating these harsher crimes, Bankboy? That's an interesting approach.

I don't think jail is the answer, really. I think that the desire to prey on children is a mental illness, and should be treated as such, even up to and including institutionalizing these people for life if necessary. Jail just packs them in without any sort of treatment, and in jail they're likely to become the victims of other predators, which just keeps that old cycle going when they have the chance to prey on someone weaker again. At least if they are in a mental health facility, even if they're confined there, they're getting some sort of treatment and psychological attention.

It would be a lot easier to treat the victims of child sexual abuse if we as a culture didn't have this knee-jerk lockdown response to any discussion of sex. I've spoken to victims of sexual abuse who say that the hardest part wasn't actually the initial telling of a parent or authority figure, but overcoming people's uncomfortable reactions, from friends to therapists to spouses, when they spoke openly about what had happened to them. Most of them said they felt more guilty and ashamed talking about it as adults than the original abuse ever made them feel, like people were pulling back and saying, "For the love of Mike, can't you just keep that sort of thing to yourself and let me keep pretending it never happens?"

whatdoyouthink 9 years ago

Badger,

It is a crime that is why they have to go to prison.

badger 9 years ago

What about after they've served their sentences? What about before they've committed a crime?

Is the only way of managing those who prey on our children that we can come up with: "Wait till they actually do something to hurt a kid, throw them in jail, let them out onto the streets once they've served their time, and try to watch them like hawks and tell all their neighbors they're disgusting perverts, so that when they do it again, we can throw them in jail again and let them out again, to continue this cycle until they die"?

Yeah, cause that system's really working.

bankboy119 9 years ago

No badger I really didn't proofread....it was suppose to be "Harsher PUNISHMENTS will deter people." Lol well now that I have shown how well I was paying attention I'm going to go...

Jeffrey Watts 9 years ago

bankboy119 said:

"Harsher PUNISHMENTS will deter people."

Bankboy, you fail to realize that most sexual predators are psychologically disturbed and commit their crimes due to psychological compulsion, often brought on by a troubled childhood in which they were abused themselves.

A harsher punishment will not stop them from committing the crimes, as they are pathological. Only therapy can, and only therapy can stop it from happening again.

Everyone is so eager to protect children, yet once those abused children grow up and abuse others they want to lynch them or put them away for life. It's tragic.

bankboy119 9 years ago

Boscoe, you fail to realize the whole discussion earlier is how psychologists cannot cure these peope. So, since they will not be cured by psychologists, harsher punishments are what need to be implemented. Lock them up for life. Don't let them out after they've had their second chance. Don't let them become repeat offenders. If you want to stick to letting some shrink try to cure them have at it. Then put your children in the same neighborhood as them after that. I'd rather put my children on the other side of the jail fence.

whatdoyouthink 9 years ago

Another thing. Maybe open the statue of limitaions to more than 5 years. A lot of people are sliding through the cracks on that one.

seraphn 9 years ago

Just a couple of things. if 8 of these guys have serious enough problems to not respond to treatment why are they there? Almost 8 million dollars to take care of 156 people, bullets are way cheaper than doctors.

compmd 9 years ago

for the "lock em up and throw away the key" or "bullets are cheaper" people, I would like you to think about the closing words of the pledge of allegiance: "with liberty and justice for all." advocating these concepts conflicts with liberty and justice. if you disagree with that, you might want to move to north korea.

Charles L Bloss Jr 9 years ago

People lose their right to liberty when they break the law and are found guilty. Justice is receiving a fair trial and either being found guilty or acquitted by a jury of their peers. Given that many experts say that sexual predators cannot be cured, if I had children I would not want them living nearby. Otherwise, if it was just me, I wouldn't be bothered by it unless they were loud, or created a nuisance in the neighborhood. Of course my neighbors might have children, so then I would oppose it to protect their children. Thank you, Lynn

badger 9 years ago

Lynn, are you suggesting that anyone who breaks the law loses all right to liberty for the rest of his life? That's a pretty flawed premise.

Unless we're prepared to make sexual offenses punishable by life imprisonment, we need a little better system, methinks.

Plus, no amount of harsher punishments will keep a sex offender from harming that first child. It's a form of mental illness, and there really is no option for convincing them not to do it by fear of being caught. They already know what happens to child molestors in prison, and if that doesn't stop them, no threat will.

So, all you out there with the locks and bars and healthy, well-developed senses of vengeance, how exactly are you going to protect that first victim? Or is that child's sacrifice an acceptable price when it provides a criminal excuse for getting that sex offender off the street?

newssleuth2814 9 years ago

I think that no matter what you do, you can't always prevent a sexual predator from taking a victim no more than you can promise that all those who are in prison are actually guilty and are not there by an accident in the justice system.

I can possibly see (and I'm really pushing to be fair) trying to rehabilitate a sexual offender once, but I think repeat offenders need to be sent to another country like Saudi Arabia or Singapore where they can be properly dealt with for their crimes.

Shame on those criminals who perform these vile sex acts, but shame on us if we continue to put up with it by giving these sick people short jail sentences and a slap on the wrist.

If we really mean business with dealing with these crimes, I say we show little tolerance for repeat offenders after they've already preyed on one innocent victim and we spend tax dollars trying to rehabilitate them.

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