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PANEL URGES $2 MILLION TO TREAT SEX OFFENDERS

SHARE PANEL URGES $2 MILLION TO TREAT SEX OFFENDERS

The Utah Sentencing Commission has recommended a $2 million expansion of treatment for sex offenders in prison and for licensing of therapists.

The 27-member commission rejected a proposal that therapy be made mandatory for all convicted child molesters and rapists.Instead, it endorsed a plan for substantially increasing resources and available therapists for those who voluntarily seek treatment.

While the effectiveness of treating child molesters is unproven, many experts contend it can reduce repeat offenses by modifying behavior of some offenders.

The commission - composed of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and corrections and probation officials - recommended $1.95 million for therapy at the prison, including $200,000 for program evaluation.

While sex criminals make up approximately 25 percent of Utah's prison population, the Legislature has never appropriated money spec-ifically for their therapy. The $500,000 now used for sex-offender treatment comes out of the prison's general mental-health program.

The commission also recommended the state begin licensing therapists who specialize in sex-offender treatment. Currently, there are no state standards for those practicing in the area, leading to complaints of unorthodox or unproven techniques by some therapists.