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$1.5 MILLION SOUGHT FOR SEX OFFENDERS

Want the state prison's sex offender treatment program to work better, reform rapists and child molesters? Give it $1.5 million.

That's the word from corrections director Lane McCotter. He told a legislative committee this week that of the 750 people locked up for sex crimes, only one-third are in treatment. "We have only 31/2 therapists for all these people. We have long waiting lists for each step of our three-step program," said McCotter.The chances that the Legislature and Gov. Mike Leavitt will add $1.5 million to the treatment program is unlikely, legislative leaders said.

"I had a bill that would have given $1 million to the program," but it failed, chided former senator Delpha Baird, who lost her re-election bid in 1994. "If you want your children safe, your family safe, your communities safe, you will bite the bullet and do this - not pass it off another year," she said.

McCotter and Board of Pardons chairman Mike Sibbetts responded to the 18 specific recommendations made by a sex offender task force last year. McCotter's written responses showed the department was either already doing what the task force suggested, or he disagreed with the suggestions in the first place.

For example, the task force said much of the prison's treatment programs were "negative." No way, said McCotter. Maybe some inmates thought they were negative because the program demands that inmates admit and take responsibility for their crimes. Some offenders don't like that and, in fact, quit the program because they don't want to confess.

The task force also said it's of questionable value to make inmates often repeat in group therapy what they did to their victims. The task force even suggested that such lurid confessions could make other inmates have sexual fantasies about the crimes.

Wrong, said McCotter, and he challenged the task force to come up with any scholarly study that says group sessions don't work. Just the opposite, they do work, he said. And such sessions - with other inmates demanding the full truth from their colleagues - often leads inmates to confess and take responsibility for crimes prosecutors and therapists didn't know they committed.