Sex Offender Outpatient Program: “The Longer People are Institutionalized the More Complicated their Return to Society Becomes”
The below article is about Nebraska Sex Offender
therapy program funding, but there is so much more in the article.
the difficulties of retaining employment because co-workers and employers can’t
look past the public label of “Sex Offender” and instead at the person in front
of them who is not only qualified for the job but is a human being.
lawmakers won’t spend one-dime on programs that assist Sex Offenders in a
successful reentry or to thwart any future crime (sexual or not) but when it
comes to locking them up (in prison or civil commitment) or creating another
Registry requirement that carries a Felony punishment, the Politicians will
spend any amount because they can
tout it in the future campaign materials as “I’mTough on Sexual
the public label which was claimed to keep society safer because they have a
right to know who has been convicted of a sex crime actually makes a successful
existence impossible. Just like all the books, studies and reports have
concluded public registries do more harm than good.
have just added it to the In the News page (a new 2015 page
will be created soon), but I decided it deserved a spot as a post.
Sex offender outpatient program a
small cost in big system, January 17, 2015
years Caesar lived in an institution -- either prison or treatment center --
after being convicted of raping a woman in her apartment.
options were limited. Someone else cooked his meals, told him when to get
up, when to eat, when he could have visitors.
the past year, he’s lived in Lincoln
-- first in a halfway house, now in his own apartment.
to learn how to cook dinner, how to shop for food, how to buy his own clothes
and wash them.
to learn to manage in a society that moved from typewriters to computers while
he was behind bars.
been easy for Caesar, whose real name isn't being used here.
fired from two jobs after others discovered he was on the sex offender list. He
was hit by a car while riding his bike. He doesn’t always have money to
purchase minutes for his cellphone -- the phone on which he's still trying to
figure out how to set up voicemail.
Caesar isn't whining. This is his reality as an ex-con with the sex offender
wants people to understand that one of the things keeping him sane, giving him
hope, helping him manage his frustration and his behavior is a therapy program
offered by Lincoln
psychologist Mary Paine.
53, remembers the long walk home after he lost that first job, a good job.
It was a cold night. He was angry, so angry. Losing his job was so unfair.
past bars, but he didn’t go in because drinking is one of the things that got
him in trouble.
on walking. And he kept reminding himself of Paine’s advice: “There is nothing
so bad we can’t fix, as long as you don’t re-offend.”
50 men, the Sexual Trauma/Offense Prevention Program, or STOP, is a protective
shield that tries to help keep them from re-offending or from acting out in the
first place, and thus keeps them out of prison and keeps the public safe.
outpatient program that offers group and individual therapy based on individual
needs faces problems this summer unless state government steps in
with additional funding.
program is one of the least expensive parts of the system the state has set up
for sex offenders.
now, 1,120 sex offenders are in Nebraska
prisons or state institutions and another 450 are supervised under parole and
probation programs at a cost of more than $58.5 million.
Treatment at regional centers
have changed and legislators have focused on sex offenders, more people are
being kept in prison for longer or in the state's regional centers' sex
offender treatment programs.
than 18 percent of Nebraska
inmates have a sex offense as their most serious crime. It's the biggest
category of offenses, with drugs coming in second at 12.9 percent.
addition, the state run regional centers, which historically cared for people
with serious mental illness, have been converted to sex offender treatment
programs. In fact more than half the adults at Lincoln
regional centers are sex offenders deemed too dangerous to return to the
community without treatment.
year, mental health boards commit a dozen or more people about to get out of
prison to the NorfolkRegionalCenter
because they have served their sentences, but are considered dangerous sex
men are in the Norfolk
center's program, at a cost of about $15.8 million last fiscal year. Norfolk’s entire mission
is sex offender treatment and the men generally stay there for several years.
have finished the Norfolk program, people move
to the next step, a sex offender program at the LincolnRegionalCenter, which can house
85 people and in November had 78 patients, including three women. The
cost was about $9.9 million last fiscal year.
people in the Lincoln
center's treatment program are ready to move out on their own, the local mental
health board sometimes requires outpatient treatment.
these people stay in Lincoln
and use Paine’s program.
A public safety net
like Paine’s provide transition for the client and a safety net for the public,
said Shannon Black, a psychologist with the LincolnRegionalCenter program.
program helps clients adjust to life outside an institution.
example, if someone loses a job and is trying to make ends meet, the added
stress of not having a job could result in a crime being committed again.
"We want to make sure they have the support, have someone who can talk
with them," Black said.
like STOP are also a safety net for the public.
understands the risk factors, recognizes when someone is starting to
demonstrate high-risk behavior, and she's willing to go back to the mental
health board and have someone committed as an inpatient, Black said.
Where the money comes from
STOP program also includes people on probation and parole who have
been convicted of sex offenses and are being supervised in the community.
convicted of less serious sex offenses, including failure to comply with sex
offender registration, are often given probation rather than prison sentences.
convicted of sex offenses and nearing the end of their sentences are sometimes
released to the parole program and finish their sentences living in the
dollars pick up the costs of sex offenders in prison and in the regional
centers. But there’s not always dedicated funding for sex
offenders when they move into local communities.
state picks up therapy costs for 25 people each year who come
from the LincolnRegionalCenter
to the STOP program.
first time this year, the probation system also has money to pay for outpatient
treatment like Paine’s program for people on probation.
is no money for people with low or no income who are on parole, no longer being
supervised by the justice system, who have moved from other states or who want
to make sure they don’t commit a crime in the first place.
LancasterCounty picked up those unfunded STOP
program therapy costs, but that ended when the county privatized mental health
services for very low-income residents and turned them over to Lutheran Family
Services in 2013.
Not all sex offenders are mentally
offender is a legal status, not a mental health diagnosis, so funding can get
person with a sex offense conviction is mentally ill.
be totally sane, without a diagnosable mental health disorder, and be a sex
offender,” said Scot Adams, director of behavioral health at the Nebraska
Department of Health and Human Services.
state and federal funding for people with mental illness but no funding
mechanism for sex offenders, he said.
money for outpatient programs like Paine’s can be difficult.
wants to pay for this,” said Dean Settle, retired director of the LancasterCountyMentalHealthCenter.
"Even if people do have a mental health diagnosis, many elected leaders
don’t want to spend a dime on sex offender therapy."
guesses that about half of the people with sex offense convictions who could
benefit from therapy do not have mental health diagnoses.
programs like Paine’s are cheap compared to inpatient options: $6,000
per client annually for STOP, $33,525 average per inmate cost
in prison, $194,545 per patient for the NorfolkRegionalCenter.
program and others like it are a public safety matter, said Settle. Local
public officials need to be aware of that and fund it at the local level or
make sure the state is addressing it, he said.
Research shows therapy can help
can work for people convicted of sex offenses, according to professionals in
you can treat sex offenders,” said Adams.
have the impression of once a sex offender, always a sex offender, said Black.
just doesn’t hold that to be true,” she said.
circumstances, Paine said, the recidivism rate is low.
people to make them better functioning individuals as a whole and to stop the
sexual offending behavior," she said.
into what works should provide guidelines for treatment and sentencing,
sentences are not always necessary and they make the readjustment after release
more complicated, Paine said.
longer people are institutionalized the more complicated their return to
society becomes, she said.
don’t have a problem with putting individuals away, but that is something we
need to do much more thoughtfully so it achieves the goals we are
Chance at life
a victim as well as a victimizer. He’s learning through counseling with Paine
how to heal those childhood wounds and said his childhood is no excuse for the
crime he committed, the harm he caused.
It is an
explanation, he said, “but it doesn’t absolve me of doing what is right.”
program also helps Caesar deal with the stresses many ex-cons have
readjusting. And her program helps him avoid the behavior that led to that rape
decades ago, behavior he does not intend to repeat.
sorts through a small stack of papers from his therapy, and spreads a large
sheet of newsprint, several feet square, on the floor of his apartment.
he’s printed the phases of the assault cycle -- trigger event,
negative thinking -- phases he would likely go through before committing a
don’t know what is happening, then you can’t stop it," he said.
knowledge gives him a chance to intervene.
lonely, but he doesn’t try to hit on women.
money in his pocket, but he doesn’t go to bars.
bored, but rather than wallow in it he cooks up black-eyed peas and cabbage
like his mama used to make.
angry because there seems to be no way to keep a job, find friends, fit
in, because he is branded with the sex offender label.
puts on his music, cleans his house, behaves like a responsible adult.
of what he has learned with Paine.
Paine gave me a real chance at life," he said.