Sex offenders offered hope of redemption in new law

A bipartisan agreement designed by members of the Senate to give hope to sex offenders entering into state required treatment passed on 2nd reading Thursday. Likened to the entrance into the Hades of Dante’s Inferno by one member of the Senate, the existing law, until its sunset, asked the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board to treat sex crimes as a disease with “no known cure.” That section has now been removed and states sex offenses are often repetitive but in some cases are the result of a manageable condition.

“I think you could accurately say that the entrance to our current sex management treatment should have that … inscription “Abandon hope ye who enter here,” Rep. Pat Steadman, D-Denver said, “Because under current law…we had this no-known-cure provision, and it sort of said that these folks are hopeless. I think that that is wrong to ever inscribe hopelessness to anyone under state law.”

Sen. Kevin Lundeberg, R-Bethoud, said he agreed with the bipartisan amendment and bill as currently proposed.

“I will add one word and that word is mercy,” Lundberg said.

Lundberg commented that the father of a sex offender had explained the process that his son had been “drug through” and said the rigidity of the system was unacceptable.

Senate supporters of the amended version of the bill said that while sex offenses are often repetitive, the one word change to “often” repetitive makes Colorado law more accurate. They said that while in many cases sex offenses are a repetitive behavior that is hardwired into an offenders brain, there are occurrences where that is not the case. They said it was important to give patients in a therapy program hope that they might eventually find a way not to repeat their crime in order to facilitate treatment.

The changes in this year’s re-authorization of the sex offender management board comes after a firestorm of protests erupted last year when the bill saw a similar attempt to augment the no-known-cure provision.

The  sex offender management board was created to handle court appointed treatment designed to stop sex offenders from committing sex crimes in the future. It is responsible for the implementation of the treatment though the board is required to use the treatment philosophy prescribed by the Legislature.

The new language for the identification and evaluation of sex offenders states:

THE PROCEDURES SHALL PROVIDE FOR AN EVALUATION AND IDENTIFICATION OF THE ADULT SEX OFFENDER AND RECOMMEND MANAGEMENT, MONITORING, AND TREATMENT BASED UPON EXISTING RESEARCH DEMONSTRATING THAT SEXUALLY OFFENDING BEHAVIOR IS OFTEN REPETITIVE, AND THAT THERE IS CURRENTLY NO WAY TO ENSURE THAT ADULT SEX OFFENDERS WITH THE PROPENSITY TO COMMIT SEXUAL OFFENSES WILL NOT REOFFEND. BECAUSE THERE ARE ADULT SEX OFFENDERS WHO CAN LEARN TO MANAGE UNHEALTHY PATTERNS AND LEARN BEHAVIORS THAT CAN LESSEN THEIR RISK TO SOCIETY IN THE COURSE OF ONGOING TREATMENT,MANAGEMENT, AND MONITORING, THE BOARD SHALL DEVELOP A PROCEDURE FOR EVALUATING AND IDENTIFYING, ON A CASE-BY-CASE BASIS, RELIABLY LOWER-RISK SEX OFFENDERS.

The bill also includes a new provision that labels juveniles committing sex offenses as a “Juvenile who has committed a sexual offense” as opposed to the previous label “sex offender,” which is ascribed to adults.

“With this one word I hope we bring about a change in philosophy that our sex offender board uses as it approaches sex offender management treatment,” Steadman said. “So that we can offer hope and offer a path back into the community of not offending, of not being a public safety risk and of working your way through our public management treatment system.”

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Joseph Boven

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