Controversial Colorado sex-offender bill advances
Friday, March 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm
A heated committee hearing over a proposal to extend a state sex-offender policy board ended in wide bi-partisan support. The bill rankled detractors in its details not its main purpose.
Aurora Democratic Rep. Su Ryden‘s HB 1364 would extend the stat’s sex offender management board by five years and removed language from the board’s current directive to treat sex offenders under the theory that there is “no known cure” for the condition.
That last part drew fire from a packed room of witnesses and members of the board itself, who maintained that the small tweak in language represented a step back from medical and psychological research that treats predatory sex-offenders as afflicted by a disease like alcoholism that must be managed because it can’t be cured.
The final vote was 9 to 2. Colorado Republican Reps Mark Waller and Bob Gardener voted against the bill. Republicans Steve King , of Grand Junction, and B.J. Nikkel, of Loveland, voted in favor. Democrats voted unanimously to pass the bill out of committee.
Members of the committee appeared particularly interested in data indicating that juvenile and adult offenders should be viewed differently and that incidences of sex-offender recidivism varied.
Members introduced related amendments aimed at outlining new paths of research for the Sex Offender Management Board in its work to develop a comprehensive approach to treatment.
The board agreed to a final amendment brought forward by Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Englewood, that would remove statutory language indicating there was “no known cure” for sex offenders. But the amendment included new language that made it clear the Board should recognize that “some adult sex offenders” are habituated to a pattern of criminal behavior and that there is no known cure for that group.
Kagan told the Colorado Independent that the distinction was crucial. Current legislation requires all adult sex offenders to be treated under the “no known cure” framework.
“The distinction is important because [the amended bill] acknowledges that there is a subset of individuals for whom the “no known cure” policy is not appropriate,” Kagan said.
The bill asks the Board to return a year from now with data on treatment. The Board would be expected to use that information to develop standards to guide groups handling sexual offender monitoring and treatment programs.
The bill will also include two terms, “adult sex offender” and “juvenile who has committed a sexual offense” to mark an important distinction between adult criminal behavior and the rise of youth crimes, like teenagers texting pornographic pictures of themselves or their friends, that may not fall into the category of predatory disease.
The bill now moves to the House Appropriations Committee.