Archive for Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lawmakers clash over sex offender policy

Costly program keeps inmates for treatment

March 23, 2008


Program's escalating price tag

The costs for the Sexual Predator Treatment Program:

Fiscal year 2003 - $2.4 million

Fiscal year 2004 - $4.5 million

Fiscal year 2005 - $7.8 million

Fiscal year 2006 - $9.5 million

Fiscal year 2007 - $11.5 million

Fiscal year 2008 (present) - $13.4 million

Source: Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services and Governor's Budget Report.

— Kansas' controversial program that indefinitely holds sexual offenders past their prison sentence continues to produce friction among lawmakers.

Last week, a move to require an audit of the program was defeated by legislators who said the request was a threat to public safety and jobs.

"The program works," said House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg. "It protects the public, and it provides economic development for Larned."

State Rep. Eber Phelps, D-Hays, said many of the employees of the Kansas Sexual Predator Treatment Program are from the Greensburg area and were set back from last year's tornado that devastated the town.

"I don't think we need to put them through this type of anguish and have them worry about whether they are going to have their job," he said.

But some lawmakers believe the program, which is on the grounds of Larned State Hospital, has shortfalls.

Program history

The program provides treatment for convicted sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences and have been civilly committed under the law because they have been deemed a continuing threat to the community. The law was prompted by the 1993 rape and murder of a Pittsburg State University student by a sex offender who had been released from prison seven months earlier.

The law was challenged up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which on a 5-4 vote ruled that the program was constitutional.

But the costs of the program continue to increase while some legislators are doubtful that the treatment received by the offenders is doing much good.

In recent weeks, lawmakers have approved $1.3 million in supplemental funding for staffing and operations at both the program at Larned State Hospital and transitional housing for patients at Osawatomie.

The proposed budget for the sexual predator treatment program for the present fiscal year is $13.4 million to treat 171 patients. That is five times more than the program cost in 2003.

State Rep. Bob Bethell, R-Alden, who chairs a budget subcommittee that oversees the program, said since the program's start in 1994, two have graduated through the various phases of treatment and been released.

That's not very effective, he said.

"Let's look at the program and see how we can actually affect the treatment of these folks," he said.

Mark Brull, who has been committed to the sexual predator program since 1999, said the program is a waste of taxpayer's money.

Brull said he would rather serve time in prison, which is about one-third the expense of the program.

He said the treatment program fails to advance patients toward re-entering the community, such as allowing patients to go to work under supervision. He said he is prohibited from talking about his current problems, but must constantly re-hash his past.

"All we do is sit here all day and talk about deviancy," he said.

'Backed-up system'

Tim Burch, another patient in the program, said the treatment has good things to offer but that there needs to be a better way to assess who should enter the program and who should graduate from it.

"You could put ankle bracelets on a lot of them and let them out so they could work, and everyone benefits," he said, referring to devices sometimes used to keep track of suspects and offenders.

"You have such a backed-up system," he said of the program. "The people who could benefit from the program can't get into it, and the people who shouldn't be in the program can't get out."

But Don Jordan, secretary of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, defends the program.

SRS, Jordan said, "has implemented a rigorous treatment and evaluation system to assure each person committed in this program remain in treatment until a court determines he is able to safely return home without posing a risk to his family, neighbors or community at large."


davidkennerly 10 years, 3 months ago

Oh, but don't you see, Bob (Bethell)? That's the SUCCESS part! These laws were enacted as a "work-around" to the Constitution, enabling government to imprison these guys (and they are almost always "guys") for the rest of their lives or, at least, until they are so old and infirm that they become too expensive for the State to keep. The whole IDEA is to EMPHASIZE TREATMENT as a way of justifying "civil" incarceration while laughing at those so gullible as to believe that treatment is their real aim! It's also about employing the marginal and unskilled of Greensburg and getting their votes, too. Get with the program, Bob!

davidkennerly 10 years, 3 months ago

"The program works," said House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg. "It protects the public, and it provides economic development for Larned."

State Rep. Eber Phelps, D-Hays, said "I don't think we need to put them (employees of State Facility) through this type of anguish and have them worry about whether they are going to have their job," he said.

Did these guys just say that? They actually admit to it? Incredible! Obviously, the economy of "Larned" and Greensburg and coveted government jobs for their constituents is more important than the Constitutional rights of the men locked up in an ersatz treatment program!

notajayhawk 10 years, 3 months ago

I also think it's shocking that "it provides economic development for Larned" is even a consideration.

Like most people, I abhor the type of crime this program is supposed to help prevent. But I agree with davidkennerly that this is a "work-around." If we want to lock up sexual predators forever, then pass a law that makes that the punishment. Look at the recidivism rate for virtually all other crimes. We don't put a drunk driver in jail for six months and then keep him indefinitely for "treatment" until we're confident they won't get drunk again. We don't even keep murderers beyond their legally imposed sentences until we think we've "cured" their violent tendencies (look at the guy who did the recent shotting outside Last Call). Pass a law that keeps them in prison (at a much lower cost) for the rest of their lives or let them go when their sentences are done.

Why do they fear an audit? Because there's no evidence that the program has had any benefit, perhaps? TWO "graduates" in fourteen years, and the rest being held indefinitely? That's just ridiculous.

emanon_snogard 10 years, 3 months ago

Maybe a couple of people from greensburg work directly for SPTP. I can't believe this was defended, by pointing out a nearby tragedy that sacrely has anything to do with this issue. Why not lock up drug and alcohol addicts in warehouses across kansas to support dying towns with the walmart virus.

myhomeworkbiz 10 years, 2 months ago

As the mother of a resident in the SPTP in Larned, I can tell you that all they do is warehouse people. They do nothing to rehabilitate the men who are placed in their care. My son was sentenced to 32 months in prison back in 1998. Ten years later he is still locked up for something he did as a minor. He has been reduced to level one so many times for merely attempting to stand up for his rights. He has been raped by staff, but the powers that be just merely turn their head and look the other way. You tell me how this is therapy! Oh, and they have just recently (yesterday) made a new rule that the residents can no longer have anything sent in to them. I use to be able to send my son hygiene products, "care" packages, and even Christmas gifts. But, no longer because they are worried that we will send in contraband. I have been sending things for years and not once have I sent contraband. Why would I start now??? My son made a stupid mistake when he was 17 years old. He is now 29 and has learned by his mistake as most young people do. But, each year when he receives his annual evaluation, the papers state that he is not a danger inside the facility, but he is a danger to society because he has committed a crime. I'm sorry but that will never change. This is why no one is getting out of the system. Someone needs to take a good look at what is going on in this place and close it down!

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