Nearly one-third of the inmates in Utah's prison system are serving time for a sexual offense. Though there is perhaps no greater crime against the person and against our community than a sexual-related offense, the Department strives to treat underlying issues and enable offenders to control urges and impulses. Since many offenders will one day be released back into our society, it behooves all of us for them to undergo as much effective treatment as possible.
The Department's Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) is housed at the Utah State Prison in Draper. It is designed to last 18-24 months. Upon being admitted into the program, an inmate will participate in a 30-day evaluation to determine treatment needs. Treatment may begin once the evaluations are completed and provided that the treatment team deems the inmate an appropriate candidate.
SOTP is based on best-practice principles centered on cognitive/behavioral therapy with a strong relapse-prevention component. All therapists providing treatment are mental-health professionals with specialized training in sex offender treatment. Inmates participating in treatment are expected to achieve satisfactory progress at both an intellectual and emotional level.
Progress is measured by observable changes — not simply completion of assignments or time spent in therapy. Progress is based on how hard the offender works, how motivated he or she is, and willingness to incorporate changes freely to show commitment toward rehabilitation without being defensive. Offenders participate in group therapy twice a week and also attend a weekly meeting to collaborate and process assignments, personal issues, program resistance, fear of opening up in treatment, processing change with peer and staff support, and establishing outside support systems prior to paroling. They complete workbooks, daily journals and are expected to engage in healthy interactions with peers and staff as they accept and display a commitment to change, improving and excelling in new approaches to healthy living. In addition to treatment resources, mental-health staff also are available to work with program participants as requested.
Behaviors are observed on housing units and by reviewing disciplinary actions or behavioral patterns. This helps staff distinguish a consistent, healthy lifestyle from a covert or dual lifestyle fraught with continued disrespect for rules and others. Offenders must participate in assessments and treatment reviews to receive feedback regarding patterns of arousal, thinking, and general behavior. The general notion is to treat offenders with respect while holding them accountable. Staff seek out the most current literature and research into treatment practices in effort to accurately assess risks and needs and make positive, lasting changes.
Therapy consists of:
• Group psychotherapy
• Psycho-educational classes
• Homework and therapeutic activities with other offenders in treatment
• Therapy based on the offender's skill level
Psycho-educational courses are available prior to and during program enrollment:
• Treatment orientation
• Anger management
• Relationship/communication skills
• Thinking errors/criminal thinking/cognitive restructuring
• Sex education
• Victim empathy
• Relapse prevention
Primary areas of change include:
• Acceptance of responsibility
• General empathy
• Empathy for victim(s)
• Pro–social attitudes
• Adequate coping skills/styles
• Adequate social skills
• Positive self-esteem
• Control over impulses
• Good emotional regulation
• Control over anger/aggression
• Control over substance abuse
• Normative sexual views/interests
• Understanding of risk factors
• Quality of self-management plans
• Quality of supports
• Quality of release plans
• Commitment to maintenance
Process for enrolling in the program:
Due to a demand coupled with a lack of resources, the Department has to be selective and work only with offenders who are adequately committed to genuine change through a process of investment, observation, assessment and confrontation that helps them build accountability while developing respect for everyone — including themselves.
All individuals sentenced to prison for a sex offense (whether a new commitment or a parole violator) receive a treatment assessment. The offender's name and results are then placed on the Department's Sex Offender Treatment Program tracking list. Those who pass the assessment are listed as eligible when their name comes up on the priority list. They can be placed in the SOTP program at the Utah State Prison in Draper or in a treatment program at the San Juan and Sanpete County Jails through the prison's Jail Contracting Program.
Offenders are placed in treatment based on several factors:
• Availability of a treatment slot
• Level 3 privilege classification or higher
• Amenability to treatment
• Priority classification from the Board of Pardons & Parole indicating the offender would likely parole in the event of satisfactory treatment progress
Not every offender who has committed a sex offense will be eligible for treatment. Some reasons for exclusion include:
• No possibility of parole
• Poor motivation
• Violating institutional rules
• Lack of desire for treatment
• Disciplinary measures and write-ups
• Test results that suggest incompatibility with treatment
Offenders eligible for treatment can lose their parole dates for:
• Failure to successfully participate
• Refusal to participate
• Removing one's self from treatment
• Being removed by staff from treatment