Washington DOC SOTAP
The Sex Offender Treatment and Assessment Program (SOTAP) started in 1989 at the Twin Rivers Unit (TRU) in the Monroe Correctional Complex as part of DOC’s mission to improve public safety. In 2004, the program was expanded to the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW), Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) near Spokane, Washington in 2009 and again is expected to occur at the Special Offender Unit at the Monroe Correctional Complex in 2016. Expansion of SOTAP at SOU is responsive to an increasing number of offenders with serious mental illness who are in need of access to sexual deviancy treatment. At any given time, there are approximately 250 clients actively participating in the SOTAP between the four sites. The program provides prison based treatment to approximately 400-600 clients annually. The TRU, SOU and AHCC programs are for adult male sex offenders, and each have the capacity to treat approximately 180 offenders at a time while the program at WCCW provides treatment for 10-25 women at a time. Prior to 2012, the majority of SOTAP participants scored in the low to low/moderate range for sexual re-offense. This was due to a variety of factors to include prior practices and policy which had been supported by research but have since been revised.
Since 2013, the SOTAP has instituted policy and procedure changes to assess, screen, and engage higher risk offenders with a goal of increasing entrance and retention in treatment. This is in accordance with best practices in the field and adhering to the Risk Need Responsivity (RNR) model. This model outlines practices to provide treatment to the higher risk offenders, targeting criminogenic needs, and delivering treatment through a cognitive behavioral approach.
Washington Department of Corrections (WA DOC) defines recidivism as “any felony offense committed by an offender within 36 months of release from prison which results in a readmission to prison.” In 2015, WA DOC is able to examine recidivism rates of offenders completing the SOTAP and being released from prison as recently as 2012. Results indicate all sex offenders released from WA DOC prisons had a recidivism rate of 18.2 percent and sex offenders who did not complete SOTAP had a recidivism rate of 21.5 percent, while sex offenders who completed SOTAP recidivated at a rate of 6.5 percent. It is believed that the rates of recidivism among sexual offenders who complete the SOTAP may increase due to the selection of higher risk candidates beginning in 2013. The DOC will continue to monitor trends and make changes to the program accordingly. In general, the single largest felony sex offense bringing sex offenders back to prison (86 percent) is for failing to register. An estimated 95 percent of the sex offenders sentenced to prison eventually return to the community.
Sex offender treatment is part of the Department’s commitment to improving public safety. In a comprehensive effort, the Department provides programming through the RNR model and customizes interventions to address the specific criminogenic needs of individual offenders. Other examples of the comprehensive programming outside of the SOTAP include, education, employment training, chemical dependency treatment and cognitive behavioral interventions.
The three primary goals for the Sex Offender Treatment Program are:
- Help the offender learn to reduce and manage their risk to reoffend.
- Provide information to aid DOC and the community to monitor and manage offenders more effectively.
- Remain accountable to the people of Washington State by routinely evaluating and aligning SOTAP with evidence based practices.
A key pillar of the treatment, SOTAP clients can learn to avoid sexual aggression as well as learn and apply the skills they need to live responsibly in the community. Self-Regulation is an important element of treatment which affords the participant opportunities to learn about and practice interventions to more effectively and pro-socially meet their needs. Treatment begins with comprehensive assessments which include psychological tests, clinical interviews designed to define treatment goals, and strategies for each offender. Working collaboratively with their therapist, offenders learn what lead to past offenses and then work to develop pro-social attitudes, thinking, and skills needed to reduce the likelihood of re-offending and increase pro-social living.
Program participants receive individual and group therapy. Group sessions generally have 12 to 14 members and meet six hours per week during the institutional phase of treatment. Additionally, clients have monthly individual sessions with their therapist. Participants who complete the institutional phase are expected to participate in aftercare treatment in the community which typically lasts from 6-12 months depending on individual risk factors, compliance with supervision and treatment progress.
The goals of group therapy include:
- Help the offender gain insight and understanding of their individual pathway which led to sexually offending.
- Develop, implement, and monitor both cognitive and behavioral interventions to recognize and intervene on their specific dynamic risk factors.
- Teach relapse prevention and skills necessary for the offender to reduce, and control risk.
- Help the offender learn the attitudes, thinking skills, and behaviors necessary to live pro-socially.
- Help the offender prepare to use their new skills and knowledge in the community.
Additional specialty groups address sexual deviancy, life skills, self-regulation skills, co-occurring needs such as sexual deviancy, and chemical dependency, and other topics.
Offenders admitted to the sex offender treatment programs must meet the following criteria:
- The offender must have been convicted of a sex offense for his or her current or a previous term of incarceration.
- He or she must be eligible for release at some future date.
- He or she must acknowledge/recall having committed at least one sex offense.
- He or she must agree to attend SOTAP and follow treatment rules and expectations.
Treatment priority is given to higher risk offenders. Sentence structure, court ordered treatment, and release date dictate additional prioritization practices. The program is approximately 9-12 months in duration and typically occurs in the last 12-18 months of the participant’s incarceration.
Offenders can be terminated from treatment for assaults and fighting, sexual behavior that cannot be managed through formal interventions, intentionally violating confidentiality, failing to make progress in treatment, being placed in a higher security category than that allowable by the treatment facility such as maximum, engaging in behaviors that are disruptive to the operation of the program and/or institution, or using illicit substances.
Many higher risk sex offenders don’t volunteer to participate in treatment on their own. Beginning in 2014, the SOTAP instituted the practice of completing face to face screenings with all sex offenders coming in through the Reception and Diagnostic Center in Shelton, Washington. Through the use of motivational interviewing techniques and the development of a therapeutic rapport, the SOTAP has seen a dramatic increase in the rates of higher risk sex offenders volunteering to participate in the treatment program. Due to the increase in higher risk offenders volunteering to participate in the program, the SOTAP has not had sufficient capacity to allocate treatment resources to lower risk offenders.