Monday, December 22, 2008

Economy Forces Cutting Sex Offender Treatment

Salt Lake Tribune(Utah) :Economy forces state to scrimp on treatment for young sex offenders.

An expected $3 million shortfall through 2010 means fewer juvenile sex offenders will be evaluated and treated as efforts to build a new center have been scrapped. More kids will be crowded together if a long-term lockup center is closed. And funds will be chopped from a slew of community programs including one that gives police a place to take arrested juveniles if their parents can't be found right away.
The budget downturn will force them to eliminate $600,000 pegged for the center and restart the process of finding land in a time when the number of young sex offenders is exploding.

In the mid- to late-1990s, an estimated 7 to 10 percent of the juvenile offender population was in for sex crimes. The number has now doubled to 20 percent, Maldonado said, and there are many more offenders among the nearly 10,000 kids taken in annually by the Department of Child and Family Services and the courts. In addition to losing the prospect of an assessment center, Valley Mental Health last year cut contracts providing mentally ill juvenile sex offenders much-needed psychiatric help. Without treatment alternatives, young offenders tend to land in lock-ups more often, he said.

As a clinical social worker, Butters said he once treated a 16-year-old boy who fit a fairly typical mold for young offenders -- exposure to pornography in pubescent stages and being slightly socially awkward or bored. The young man has since gone on to graduate from college, is married, has a child and plans to study law so he can help kids in similar situations.

"If you treat them, they probably won't do it again,"
Butters said
(Oh, really? I thought the standard myth is that sex offenders cannot be cured .. hmm...)
, citing studies that show treated kids re-offend less than 10 percent of the time. "We want them to get on with their lives rather than put a scarlet letter on their forehead."

(the scarlet letter is being branded on the foreheads of all sex offenders, not just juveniles)

Treatment for the most common young offenders involves individual and group visits to therapy programs, but one of the major components is simply preoccupying the kids.

Over the next two years, Juvenile Justice plans to eliminate $3.7 million from community programs, ranging from group homes to psychiatric hospital treatment. It will also eliminate $3 million from holding facilities, such as the Decker Lake Detention Center, which could force the department to cram twice as many juveniles into cells. Other proposed cuts include supervision and diversion programs for juveniles.

"We are very concerned about public safety first and foremost," Maldonado said. "We want to isolate sex offenders, and we spend time and energy in treating all of those kids and affording them opportunities for treatment."
(isolating sex offenders is the worst thing you can do; studies prove that sex offenders have a higher risk of re-offending when they are isolated from society)

Low funding means only 235 of the nearly 2,000 sex offenders imprisoned in August were receiving treatment as of November.