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STATE PANEL WANTS WOMEN TO COUNSEL SEX OFFENDERS

SHARE STATE PANEL WANTS WOMEN TO COUNSEL SEX OFFENDERS

A state task force has recommended sex offenders be treated by women therapists, that treatment programs be less negative and that more use be made of probation and electronic surveillance.

The Sex Offender Treatment Task Force said inmates' families called for use of women therapists to help male offenders improve their communication skills with women.The nine-member task force refused a national grant to hire an expert consultant.

The package of recommendations was put together by committee co-chairmen Sen. Haven Barlow, R-Layton, and Rep. Don Bush, R-Clearfield.

Barlow is a volunteer LDS Church counselor at the prison. Task force member Duayne Johnson and therapist Stan Richards, who advised the panel, also are LDS prison volunteers.

The committee concluded there is an overabundance of negativism in current treatment programs that should be replaced with more positive elements related to family values, identity and relationships.

Inmates should not be made to continually repeat details of their crime, which "would appear to keep deviant behaviors implanted in one's mind," it said.

A study should be conducted on the state's minimum mandatory sentencing laws for sex offenders because "it appears there may have been more disadvantage than advantage" to the system.

The task force said sex offenders are less likely than other inmates to recommit their crime.

It cited a study by the Utah Department of Corrections that found about 30 percent of sex offenders return to prison after parole, compared with 70 percent for all inmates.

However, Corrections Department spokesman Jesse Gallegos said, "They're touting this low recidivism rate (for sex offenders), but they need to focus on the fact those figures are based on (inmates) who successfully completed treatment.

"If they haven't completed treatment, then they fall back in line with the rest of the prison population," he said.

Supervising psychologist Ron Sanchez denied inmates are forced to endlessly recount details of their crimes.

"We don't believe they can progress in therapy until they work toward honesty and acceptance of what they've done," he said. "If they're lying about what they've done . . . in that sense we're repeating it to get them to accept responsibility."

The task force came under fire several months ago when Barlow, Bush and Johnson defended the inclusion of only one woman as a member. Barlow said sex offenses were a "man's problem."

One of the critics was Sen. Delpha Baird, R-Salt Lake City, who unsuccessfully requested membership on the panel.

Baird said Tuesday that the panel's recommendations lacked direction and specifics.

"Treatment to me is the bottom line for these people who are going to be put in the community," Baird said. "If the Legislature does not put any money in there to treat those people, I am absolutely opposed to it."