HD5 - Need for Additional Institutional Programming for Sex Offenders at the Department of Corrections

    Executive Summary:
    House Joint Resolution 115, introduced by Delegate Terry G. Kilgore and passed during the 2006 Virginia General Assembly Session, directed the Virginia State Crime Commission to study and report on the need for additional institutional programming for sex offenders at the Department of Corrections (DOC). The Crime Commission was to examine the number of sex offenders housed at each correctional facility, the current availability of instructional staff at each facility, the required additional staff and accompanying costs for expanding the Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment (SORT) program, and the recidivism rate for sex offenders who have participated in the SORT program before their release from DOC.

    Studies have shown that convicted sex offenders tend to recidivate at high rates after their release from prison. Based on research that suggests that specialized sex offender treatment can reduce these rates of recidivism, thereby improving public safety, the Virginia DOC initiated a model treatment program for sex offenders. DOC also developed a program for training staff to implement this treatment model. Mental health practitioners who completed a minimum set of instruction and a minimum number of treatment hours were certified as Sex Offender Treatment Providers.

    The Department of Correction’s sex offender treatment program consists of four parts. First, inmates participate in a psycho educational program, referred to as the Sex Offender Awareness Program, that is designed to educate inmates with histories of sexual aggression to the impact of their abuse on others and why sexual aggression is harmful. The second part is the Sex Offender Treatment Group that is a more intensive program where therapy sessions are conducted in a group setting. The third part is the Sex Offender Residential Treatment (SORT) program. SORT provides comprehensive and intensive sex offender treatment to selected DOC inmates who are at higher risk for sexual recidivism and who are within approximately three years of release. Part four is the Sex Offender Community Containment that is designed to assist and supervise inmates upon their release from prison.

    The SORT program is conducted only at the Brunswick Correctional Center and has been in operation for about five years. Current staff includes six clinicians who counsel a maximum capacity of 78 inmates, for a total cost of $520,270. If the SORT program were to be expanded, the addition of one clinician and an additional thirteen inmates (ratio of counselors to inmates is 1:13) would cost $86,712. Institutional costs (food, security, etc.) should remain a constant figure, however, DOC is not able to estimate associated capital costs specifically for the expansion of the SORT program.

    Since DOC developed its treatment model there has been a reduction in funding for the program. As a result, the number of trained personnel available to deliver treatment services to sex offenders has been reduced and sex offender services in some institutions have been curtailed or eliminated.

    Today, approximately 9,000 of the 29,435 inmates housed by Virginia DOC are sex offenders. Of these, about 7% are eligible for the SORT program. At this time, the DOC Office of Research and Evaluation is conducting an evaluation to review the overall effectiveness of the SORT program, and the data is not yet available. Because of the small number of inmates who have participated in the program and the short period of time that has elapsed since their release (48 months) it is premature to reach conclusions regarding recidivism rates and the effectiveness of the SORT program.

    The Crime Commission does not intend to submit further reports for publication.