SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- With sex offender convictions steadily increasing, Utah Department of Corrections officials hope to see a budget increase from lawmakers that will pay for more sex offender treatment slots.
The department's $1.6 million treatment budget has not increased since 1997. The number of offenders, however, has grown from 900 in 1997 to 1,450 this year, said Ron Sanchez, clinical director of the Division of Institutional Operations' sex offender treatment program.
Some offenders are required by a judge to complete the program, and all must finish it if they want to be paroled.
"The need is getting critical," Sanchez said. "We feel like we have a responsibility to make sure people are getting the best treatment we can give them. We don't want people to be (paroled) who haven't had treatment."
In 2004, Sanchez and others asked the Legislature for an additional $1 million for treatment, but then-Gov. Olene Walker recommended just half that to her 2005 budget.
Lawmakers will review Walker's recommendation when the 2005 legislative session begins Jan. 17.
A study by Utah's Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice found that sex offenders released from prison between 1997 and 2000 who failed to complete treatment had an average 44.7 percent repeat-offender rate. Those who finished treatment programs had an average rate of just 18.9 percent.
Access to treatment is typically awarded first to those with the lowest felony-level offenses. But access to the 268 treatment slots can be delayed if an offender is being housed away from the prison's Draper site, which has 208 slots, or the San Juan and Washington County jails, which have 30 each.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)