RD54 - Access to Sex Offender Treatment in Virginia Prisons – November 15, 2020

Executive Summary:

Pursuant to the budget language, the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security convened a workgroup with staff from the Secretariat of Public Safety and Homeland Security, the Secretariat of Health and Human Resources, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) and the Department of Corrections (DOC), which met quarterly (see Appendix A for workgroup membership). In between workgroup meetings, subcommittees met to discuss more specific topics, such as the sex offender treatment continuum across DOC and DBHDS, internal DOC processes affecting the provision of treatment and analysis of DOC and DBHDS datasets (see Appendix B for subcommittee membership).

The DOC has multiple levels of sex offender treatment available within the institutions with varying intensity according to risk for recidivism. Currently, 16 facilities of differing security levels and throughout every region are designated to provide sex offender treatment. This treatment can include the foundational psychoeducational program and therapeutic treatment, if needed for offenders of higher risk. The Sex Offender Residential Treatment (SORT) Program is the Department’s highest level of treatment. Located at Greensville Correctional Center, this program provides intensive sex offender-specific assessment and treatment for offenders at a medium to high-risk for sexual re-offense. Overall, the types of treatment offered by the DOC are similar to those provided in other states.

Sex offenders may be reviewed under the Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Act, §37.2-900. The DOC conducts the screening toward the end of an offender’s sentence. If adjudicated as SVP by a court, an offender may be committed to the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation (VCBR), a DBHDS inpatient facility.

The DOC hired a mental health services analyst to examine multiple DOC and DBHDS datasets. Offenders adjudicated as SVP between 2012 and 2018 were studied. While the numbers were too small to derive conclusive results, the available data indicated that participation in the SORT Program may mitigate an offender’s likelihood of being committed upon release. The workgroup also found that it would be beneficial to hire more specialized staff to screen offenders at the beginning of their incarceration and provide the appropriate level of treatment to all releasing offenders.


Short-term Strategies:

1. Screen sex offender risk at the beginning of their sentences in order to triage them to the appropriate level of treatment in a timely manner. This strategy would require funding and two FTEs.

2. Increase the number of certified sex offender treatment providers dedicated to the provision of sex offender services. This strategy would require funding and three FTEs for three regional mental health staff.

3. Support cognitive counseling and treatment programs for sex offenders. This strategy would require funding and 20 FTEs to include 10 cognitive counselors and 10 treatment officers dedicated to sex offender services.

4. Improve release planning for sex offenders. This strategy would require funding and one FTE to assist with release planning.

5. Continue needs assessment for specialized programming for lower functioning sex offenders incarcerated with the DOC.

Continuous and Longer-term Strategies:

1. Reduce mental health staff caseload ratios from 1:15 to 1:12, increase the ability to offer additional sex offender-specific and ancillary programming, and provide additional re-entry programming to SORT program participants to strengthen the efficacy of the SORT program. This strategy would require funding and six FTEs to include two mental health positions, two cognitive counselors, and two treatment officers.

2. Continue collaboration between DOC and DBHDS regarding sex offender treatment continuity as well as data sharing and analysis.

3. Perform staffing analysis for whether additional specialized probation and parole officers are needed to provide effective supervision of sex offenders released from custody.