SALT LAKE CITY — A new audit is criticizing the Utah Department of Corrections over its sex offender treatment program.
The audit hit state prison officials for poor management and oversight of the program, outdated treatment methods, and a backlog that keeps inmates in prison longer than they should because they’re waiting to get treatment. As of October 2016, 83 inmates were on the waiting list for treatment who should have already been enrolled in treatment.
“The treatment program is a one-size-fits-all program, with little variation based on individual needs or an inmate’s risk of recidivism,” the audit said.
The audit said sex offender treatment can reduce recidivism rates among inmates and increase public safety. It recommended the Utah Department of Corrections adopt newer methods for diagnosing and treating sex offenders sent to prison. Some inmates could be treated outside the prison (at their own cost) instead of extending their incarceration.
Speaking to the Utah State Legislature’s Audit Subcommittee, Corrections director Rollin Cook vowed changes were already being made. The person in charge of the Sex Offender Treatment Program had been relieved of duty, new processes were being implemented, and they were adapting to industry guidelines. A controversial test to measure “sexual arousal” in convicted sex offender was being phased out in favor of newer methods of analysis.
House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said he favored treatment for low-risk sex offenders outside prison, so long as public safety was protected.
“There’s times when you’re called on the carpet for things you didn’t do exactly right. And this is one of those times,” Cook told Rep. King. “My goal is to make sure we’re taking care of everybody, regardless of charge, regardless of reason. We failed in this particular area and moving forward, we’re going to fix it.”