Sex offenders need special treatment. Sex offenders are not mentally ill. Substance abuse does not cause sex offenses. These were a few of the facts addressed Wednesday evening by Dr.
Richard Patterson, director of the newly created sex offender treatment program at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution at Torrington. Patterson, a Goshen County native, has worked with sex offenders at the state penitentiary at Rawlins and other Wyoming Department of Corrections facilities at Newcastle and Lusk, as well as in community treatment programs in Worland, Cheyenne and Torrington over the past 26 years.
He said it has been hard to get off the ground because of a lack of qualified mental health counselors in Wyoming. The Torrington site will also treat inmates from Lusk, Newcastle and Riverton, as well as occasional Rawlins cases. Inmates from the other facilities may be relocated to Torrington for treatment. As for sex offenders being misunderstood, Patterson said a lot of myth is connected to them.
They are not addicts. Substance abuse may lower their inhibitions, which leads to sex offenses. They are not mentally ill. In fact, Patterson said, most are less so than most of the inmates. And they do need a special kind of treatment.
Patterson said sex offenders fit into three categories. The lowest level are those who for the most part just need to grow up and mature.
These offenders are usually placed on probation and on parole with continued therapy. The highest level are the dangerous, such as sadistic or pedophiles. Although they get a lot of publicity, they are rare, and are locked up for a long time.
The focus is on the middle group. According to Patterson, the majority responds well to appropriate treatment. I have a family and so do you. We want to reduce the risk and keep our communities safe. Staff is direct and to the point, and strives to build trust and rapport.
Consequently, offenders are given polygraph tests, which give accurate and complete answers. He said the polygraphs are legal because they are done post-conviction. An assessment prior to diagnosis is necessary in order to get a clearer picture of the offender and required treatment. Patterson said the treatment is unique and designed for the individual offender.
Medication is not the answer, he said. Sex offenses are not clinical conditions, but are behavioral. Treatment continues when offenders are paroled or released, Patterson said. In some cases, they have to travel to other communities, or even other states, such as Utah or Montana.
They are released under community supervision and are subject to revocation. Subsequent offenses draw very heavy sentences, he said. Prison terms for sex offenders vary from state to state, and sentencing depends a lot on the judges, who do take sentencing seriously, Patterson said.
However, how well offenders do in treatment determines how long they are incarcerated. This is based on your assessment and milestones. Registration laws have pushed the numbers up, Patterson said. All of these issues are the reason for establishing the sex offender program at WMCI. Other services are not specialized, and probation and parole do not always give good results.
No matter where the treatment is provided, Patterson and the other members of the sex offender program staff have one goal — preventing further offenses.