Supervision of paroled sex offenders will become more intense this summer under a pilot program that requires the Utah Department of Corrections to delve more deeply into all aspects of their lives.
The Utah Legislature approved a bill this past session to contract with a third party to regularly assess how offenders are doing in a variety of areas, including physical health, housing, nutrition, spirituality and transportation.
Mark Gaskill, a Salt Lake marriage and family therapist who has counseled sex offenders, said parole officers do a good job, but gaps exist in supervision. Some of those issues, he said, could lead to re-offending.
"What we don't know is what's going on in that person's life day to day," he said. "By the time the parole officer sees something, it's too late."
Parole officers are taking a wait-and-see approach to the program.
"Our department was concerned about the validity and the usefulness," said Jeremy Shaw, Adult Probation and Parole supervisor in the sex crimes unit. "We don't really know a lot about the specific tool being pushed."
Gaskill, who intends to submit a proposal for the contract, uses an assessment tool that looks at 28 aspects of a person's life. He doesn't intend it to replace the job that parole agents do.
"It's just an adjunct to what's already happening," he said, adding it widens the scope and breadth of supervision. "Once sex offenders do their time and are released into the community, you don't want them to fail."
The bill was one of several lawmakers approved this past session.
• Utah's version of the "Adam Walsh Law" known as SONAR (Sex Offender Notification and Registration) extends time on the sex offender registry to 15 years, 25 years and life for third, second and first degree felonies, respectively. Offenders now must register every six months. Failing to register adds an extra year for each violation to the term. Offenders also report all changes in residence, work and school within three business days rather than five. They also must disclose not only residences and vehicles, including boats and recreational vehicles, they own, but those they use that are in someone else's name.
• The state's version of "Jessica's Law" increases the minimum prison term for rape, object rape and sodomy of a child to a mandatory 25-years-to-life in prison. It removes court authority to impose anything less and requires a mandatory 15-years-to-life for any plea deals.
• Registered sex offenders now must provide Corrections with personal e-mail information, including online names and passwords. They also must identify Web sites on which they are registered.
• The Utah Board of Education is required to permanently revoke licenses of teachers who commit a sexual offense against a minor or who engage in sexually explicit conduct with a student.• The crime of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old now includes the "taking of indecent liberties."