Sex Offender Facility Committed to Change and Rehabilitation

By Lester, Thomas L. | Corrections Today, April 1995 | Go to article overview

Sex Offender Facility Committed to Change and Rehabilitation


Lester, Thomas L., Corrections Today


The Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI), Oregon's newest medium security prison, is a unique facility. SRCI is a megaprison that will eventually house 3,000 inmates. Currently, 648 beds have been constructed, with 360 beds funded for operation. What makes this prison unique is that 98 percent of its population are sex offenders. (The remaining 2 percent comprise inmates transferred for gang management purposes and inmates who have the skills needed for maintaining the physical plant.)

The Origins of a Sex Offender Prison

SRCI opened in 1991 as a traditional prison receiving a mixed general population of inmates. At that time, sex offenders represented only 18 to 20 percent of the inmate population.

Oregon's Department of Corrections and Mental Health and Developmental Disability Services Division, through an interagency agreement, have developed a comprehensive approach to treating sex offenders while they are on probation, incarcerated or on parole/post-prison supervision to ensure that sex offenders:

* are assessed to identify risk factors and specific treatment needs;

* receive treatment related to their needs in an appropriate setting;

* are aware of the complete spectrum of treatment/supervision options;

* participate in transitional services during release from institutional treatment programs;

* are provided follow-up treatment in community-based settings;

* are supervised in the community by specially trained parole officers; and

* have their treatment and supervision evaluated.

This approach is built on the philosophy of the Oregon Department of Corrections and sex offender treatment providers. A report by the sex offender treatment program planning committee illustrates this philosophy, stating that "sex offenders are completely responsible for their behaviors and that treatment must continue to focus on the offender taking responsibility for his/her behavior." The report goes on to say that "sex offending behavior is learned and therefore can be changed." This approach is not focused on curing the sex offender, but rather on providing sex offenders both internal (e.g., treatment) and external (e.g., lifetime registration, community notification, polygraphs) controls to manage their own behavior and to provide timely interventions when necessary.

An important element of Oregon's comprehensive approach is the formation of the Sex Offender Supervision Network, initiated by parole and probation officers supervising sex offenders throughout the state who recognized the need to meet and address common concerns related to sex offender supervision and treatment. The Sex Offender Supervision Network has developed into a major voice in advocating a clear, consistent and accountable system for the supervision and treatment of sex offenders statewide. The network, through the formation of standing committees, regularly reviews and makes recommendations in the following areas: staff training, treatment, legislation, case management, parole, classification and future directions. (The Oregon Sex Offender Treatment and Supervision model was recently presented at the 13th Annual Research and Treatment Conference of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers in San Francisco.)

One facet of Oregon's comprehensive approach is the requirement that sex offenders complete a two-week sex offender orientation class. SRCI was chosen as the site for the orientation class because treatment providers were located near the prison.

Attendance is mandatory for the class because most sex offenders do not accept the fact that they have a problem and they also fear retribution by other inmates. Inmates who do not participate in the orientation class may receive a major misconduct report and lose 10 percent of their earned time, which would lengthen their stay in prison. (To date, no inmate has chosen this option.)

The orientation class addresses the following areas:

* criminal thinking as it relates to the orientation process;

* history of sex offender treatment;

* motivation for making an informed consent regarding acceptance/refusal of treatment;

* sex offender treatment methods and models;

* specific treatment options available in the Oregon system; and

* post-prison treatment options and obligations. …

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Sex Offender Facility Committed to Change and Rehabilitation
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