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Prison Delays Parole For Inmates As They Await Sex Offender Treatment, Audit Finds

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A state audit has uncovered some problems with the Utah Department of Corrections Sex Offender Treatment Program. The review found that inefficiencies and outdated programming have led to delayed paroles and an increase in costs to the state.

State Representative Jim Dunnigan requested the audit late last year after talking with former prison inmates and family members of current inmates who were being denied a parole date because they hadn’t completed the required Sex Offender Treatment Program. The problem was the program had a lengthy waitlist. About a third of inmates in the Utah State Prison are convicted sex offenders.

Brian Dean managed the audit. He said he worked closely with the Department of Corrections. 

“We knew that they were looking at some issues but I don’t think they had an understanding of the breadth of the problems,” Dean said.

Dean said state prison officials use an outdated treatment model. It’s a one-size-fits-all program that doesn’t consider offenders with disabilities. And it treats all offenders the same regardless of the severity of their crimes. 

“There’s actually significant amount of studies out there that show that treating the individuals the same way can actually be adverse,” Dean said. “A low-risk sex offender could be potentially prone to maybe commit a more egregious offense.”

The audit recommends the department adopt a new program and allow some low-risk offenders to receive treatment outside the prison.

Rollin Cook is executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections. He said changes are underway.  

“The reality is that 95 percent of the people we supervise are coming back into our communities,” Cook said. “Just like all the efforts we’ve made in regards to substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment. We want to make sure that we’re improving their likelihood of success on the outside and that they’re not going to commit more crimes.”

The Department appointed a new Institutional Programming Division director last year who specializes in sex offender treatment. Cook says an internal audit of the program soon followed.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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