By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog
OSAWATOMIE — The Kansas Sexual Predator Treatment Program could face another audit, even though the Larned State Hospital program and the state Department of Corrections have yet to address at least one issue found by auditors some seven years ago.
Recent scrutiny of some state lawmakers has placed the Larned program back into the spotlight after a pair of legislative committees asked the state conduct a second performance audit.
Republicans Carolyn McGinn, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and Marc Rhoades, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, expressed concern over the expanding population of sexual predators living at Larned, saying low release rates suggest the program isn’t effective in rehabilitating offenders.
But a 2005 audit of the Larned SPTP highlighted the apparent lack of faith officials have in the state’s other sex-offender treatment program, orchestrated by the DOC. At the time, auditors said just more than half of the 156 individuals in the Larned program had gone through some kind of previous program while serving out their prison sentences.
“Program ofﬁcials told us that completion of the treatment program in prison generally has no impact on — and shouldn’t be used as an indicator of — how well a resident will progress in the Sexual Predator Treatment Program,” the audit said.
The DOC program is contracted to the Lenexa-based company Clinical Associates, which uses a mix of evidence-based therapy techniques to decrease an offender’s risk to the community and increase pro-social behavior. While SPTP therapy methods aren’t much different, the sticking point is the level of expectation.
“To complete the prison program, an offender only has to demonstrate a desire to change,” the audit stated. “To complete the Sexual Predator Treatment Program, residents have to demonstrate that they have changed and can control their thought processes.”
Information on the number of people now in the Larned program who have completed the DOC program was not immediately available.
Jeremy Barclay, DOC communications director, defended the department’s process and said the program works, but some offenders are more difficult to reach than others.
“Ours is, as you put it, doing its job. The difference there is you’re talking about individuals who are assessed to have a clinically longer need of treatment than what we’re setup to provide,” Barclay said, noting that it takes about four to nine months to complete the program.
“You’re looking at a longer term issue than the treatment we’re providing,” he said.
Statistically, Barclay said only 3.5 percent of released Kansas sex offenders will commit another offense.
While the Larned program is designed to take about seven years to complete, only three individuals have been released since the program began in 1994. The rest either fail to move through each step of the program, or they refuse to participate. Convicted sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences can be civilly committed to the program if a judge deems them a continuing threat to the community, but they cannot be forced to undergo treatment.
Cliff Voelker, director of the Larned program, declined to comment on the matter, and instead directed Kansas Watchdog to Angela de Rocha, communications director for the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services.
Rocha said her department didn’t keep track of Larned offenders who have also completed the DOC program, but acknowledged that there are many such individuals involved in the SPTP. She noted that this doesn’t mean the DOC program is ineffective, but declined to comment further on another agency’s program.
Rocha added that, at this time, the system can’t be changed to avoid duplicate treatment; sex offenders must be processed through the DOC and its own treatment program before transitioning to Larned.
Since 2005, funding of the Larned SPTP has increased by about $5.2 million, to $12.7 million total. In that same time period, funding for DOC sex offender programs has increased by $274,400 to about $1.7 million.
— Edited by John Trump at [email protected]