The number of sex offenders in Utah prisons has more than doubled in the 12 years since legislators last approved new money for treatment, according to a report headed to Capitol Hill this week.
The passage of new laws aimed at cracking down on sex offenders has put more people behind bars with stiffer sentences in recent years, but without increased funding Department of Corrections officials are struggling to provide adequate treatment for sex offenders, spokeswoman Angie Welling said.
"We're doing the best we can with what we have," she said Monday, two days before the report will be presented to the Judiciary Interim Committee. "Lack of funding over the years has stressed the treatment program."
During the 2008 session, Corrections officials asked for $1.27 million to cover the hiring of two full-time employees and other treatment resources. No new monies were allocated for sex offender treatment.
State lawmakers appropriated $410,000 for sex offender treatment in 1996. At that time, there were about 900 people incarcerated for sex offenses, according to the report. As of Aug. 15, that number had grown to 1,897.
"Growth in the incarcerated sex offender population has forced the sex offender treatment staff to dole out treatment services on a much more limited schedule," the Utah Commission on Crime and Juvenile Justice report reads.
About 17 percent of sex offenders who successfully complete treatment re-offended, according to the report. But as the waiting list for treatment has continued to grow, more offenders are not completing treatment, Welling said.
"They may not get the best treatment," she said. "We want to provide the full scope of treatment to as many offenders as possible to increase their chance of success and reduces the odds that they'll re-offend."In most cases, treatment is delayed, which can cause the Board of Pardons and Parole to keep an offender in prison longer than they might otherwise, Welling said. In rare cases, "it's possible an offender will not be treated before he or she is released," she said.
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