SORTS Program Confines Sex Offenders in Seemingly Interminable Treatment
St. Peters, MO (Law Firm Newswire) March 7, 2014 – Sex offenders enterting treatment at Missouri state facilities face few prospects for release.
In 1999, the Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services (SORTS) program was established to confine previously convicted individuals who were deemed very likely to reoffend. Since its inception, 200 individuals, including several elderly patients, have entered the program.
At first, SORTS was restricted to the Southeast Missouri Mental Health Center in Farmington, Missouri, but with its growth — the program adds 20 patients every year — it has spread to space at the Fulton State Hospital. At $300 per day per patient, SORTS has cost Missouri taxpayers $25 million per year.
Most significantly, no one who has been admitted to SORTS has ever emerged from the program. Civil rights advocates and criminal defense attorneys are especially concerned by this last factor.
“There is a tendency for state lawyers to try to convince juries that the treatment regime is necessary to remain in place, even after treatment has been completed,” said Charlie James, a prominent Missouri criminal defense lawyer. “That creates the environment for patients to slip through the cracks in the system when they are no longer a danger to society.”
Prosecutors believe that the program is necessary to protect the vulnerable in society from sexual predators, but the process raises legal questions. The facility in Farmington is next to a prison, and the temporary exits of its residents are tightly controlled. Residents serve indefinitely until their risk to re-offend has been reassessed to a “tolerable” level — which some say will never occur.
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