Nearly one-third of the incarcerated individuals in Utah's prison system are serving time for a sexual offense. The Department strives to treat persons who sexually offend (PSO’s) through effective treatment interventions based on their individual risk factors that brought them to the attention of the Courts and the Department of Corrections.
The Department's Sex Offense Treatment Program (SOTP) is primarily housed at the Utah State Prison in Draper. It is designed to last 15-24 months depending on the PSO’s identified risk factors and overall risk level. Upon incarceration, the PSO is assessed on their willingness to participate if the Board of Pardons and Parole orders sex offense-specific treatment. Their response to this treatability assessment determines where on the tracking list they fall. As of Spring 2021, PSO’s will receive an evaluation prior to their original hearing with the Board of Pardons and Parole and the intensity and comprehensiveness of this evaluation depends on their level of risk, but will include various measures that are evidence based for this population. The evaluation will specifically provide risk estimates to the Board of Pardons and Parole as well as treatment recommendations. These recommendations could include various forms of community-based treatment or treatment while incarcerated. These recommendations will take into account the PSO’s risk factors identified through the assessment process and may look different between PSO’s as it is a complex process. Once the Board sets a rehearing date and orders sex offense-specific treatment, the PSO will be enrolled no sooner than 24 months prior to their projected rehearing date, barring any exigent circumstances. This affords the PSO adequate time to be moved to the appropriate treatment building and enrolled.
SOTP is based on evidence-based practice principles centered on cognitive/behavioral therapy with a strong relapse-prevention component. We focus on the top 8 criminogenic risk factors for all PSO’s in addition to identifying the risk factors specific to sexual offending present for each individual PSO. All therapists providing treatment are licensed mental-health professionals with specialized training in sex offense-specific treatment or they are training under the direct supervision of a licensed mental health professional. PSO’s participating in treatment are expected to achieve satisfactory progress intellectually and emotionally, which is continuously evaluated during their treatment episode.
Progress is measured by observable changes — not simply completion of assignments or time spent in therapy. Progress is based on how hard the PSO works, how motivated they are, and their willingness to incorporate changes freely to show commitment toward rehabilitation without being defensive. PSO’s participate in group therapy once or twice a week, depending on the program, and also receive individual therapy to further understand the treatment concepts learned in group. They can complete workbooks and daily journals to demonstrate their internalization of the skills they learn. They are expected to engage in healthy interactions with peers and staff as they accept and display a commitment to change and seek to improve and excel in new approaches to healthy living. Clinical mental-health staff are also available to work with program participants as requested if the PSO’s needs fall outside the scope of the sex offense treatment program.
Behaviors are observed on housing units and by reviewing disciplinary actions or behavioral patterns. This helps staff distinguish a consistent, healthy lifestyle from a covert or dual lifestyle fraught with continued disrespect for rules and others. PSO’s participate in assessments to receive feedback regarding patterns of arousal, thinking, and general behavior. The general notion is to treat PSO’s with respect while holding them accountable. Staff seek out the most current literature and research into treatment practices to accurately assess risk and needs and help PSO’s make positive, lasting changes.
Therapy consists of:
- Group psychotherapy
- Psycho-educational classes
- Individual Therapy based on the PSO’s skill and risk level
Psycho-educational courses are available prior to and during program enrollment:
- Treatment orientation
- Pre-treatment program (6 phases made up of psychoeducational classes like thinking errors and victim empathy)
- Anger management (optional)
- Parenting (optional)
- Relapse prevention (required - core part of the current program)
- Human Sexuality (optional)
Primary areas of change include:
- General empathy
- Pro–social attitudes
- Adequate coping skills/styles
- Adequate social skills
- Positive self-esteem
- Control over impulses
- Emotional Regulation/Distress Tolerance
- Control over substance use
- Normative sexual views/interests
- Understanding risk factors
- Quality of self-management plans
- Quality of supports
- Quality of release plans
- Commitment to maintenance
Process for enrolling in the program:
Due to demand coupled with a lack of resources, the Department has to be selective and work only with PSO’s who are adequately committed to genuine change through a process of investment, observation, assessment and confrontation that helps them build accountability while developing respect for others — including themselves.
Again, all individuals sentenced to prison for a sex offense (whether a new commitment or a parole violator) receive a treatability assessment. The PSO’s name and results are then placed on the Department's Sex Offense Treatment Program tracking list. Their response dictates their placement on the tracking list. They can be placed in the SOTP at the Utah State Prison in Draper, in a treatment program at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison, or at the San Juan, Sanpete or Kane County Jails through the prison's Jail Contracting Program.
PSO’s are placed in treatment based on several factors:
- Amenability to treatment
- Level 3 privilege classification or higher
- Board of Pardons and Parole order indicating they want the PSO to be in treatment while incarcerated
- Availability of a treatment slot
- Priority classification from the Board of Pardons indicating the PSO would likely parole in the event of satisfactory treatment progress
Not every individual who has committed a sex offense will be eligible for treatment. Some reasons for exclusion include:
- No possibility of parole
- Poor motivation
- Violating institutional rules
- Lack of desire for treatment
- Disciplinary measures and write-ups
- Test results that suggest incompatibility with treatment
PSO’s eligible for treatment can lose their parole dates for:
- Failure to successfully participate
- Refusal to participate
- Removing one's self from treatment
- Being removed by staff from treatment