TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The cost of civilly committing sexual predators for treatment in Kansas could double during the next 10 years if steps are not taken to improve the program, the state’s auditor said in a report released Tuesday.
The report estimates that the program’s cost will increase from $13.9 million in 2014 to between $26 million and $34 million in 2025 and its population will eventually double to more than 500 confined patients if policies do not change.
Offenders deemed to be sexual predators are committed to Larned State Hospital after they serve their criminal penalties and are released only after completing a seven-phase treatment plan. Since its inception in 1994, the number of patients in the program has grown to 258 and just three have been released, while 27 have died during their confinement, according to the state agency that runs the program.
Scott Frank, the lead legislative auditor, said that the program’s population is increasing by 10 to 15 patients per year and its facilities will reach maximum capacity in the next five years, because “the primary way that someone leaves the program is that they get old enough and then they pass away.”
“To put it really bluntly, if you’re going to put 10 to 15 people in, and that’s the only way that they’re going to get out, then the population has to grow to the point that 10 to 15 die a year,” Frank said.
The news comes as state lawmakers return from their annual spring recess Wednesday looking for ways to close roughly $422 million in budget shortfalls through cuts and tax increases, and legislators are increasingly concerned about the programs costs, said Sen. Jeff Longbine, an Emporia Republican.
“At some point over the next couple years the Legislature is going to have to make some really hard decisions about how we are going to continue this program,” he said.
The report also found deficiencies in the way patients are treated in comparison to similar programs in Iowa, Washington and Wisconsin, saying officials did not take sufficient records of patients’ progress and did not offer as much treatment to patients as the other states’ programs.
Seton Hall law professor Barbara Moses, who settled a lawsuit with the state of New Jersey over a lack of treatment its program 2012, said Kansas’ program is known as “one of the worst in the country” in terms of treatment quality and patient outcomes. The New Jersey settlement guaranteed offenders 20 hours of professional therapy and increased independent oversight.
The amount of clinical therapy Kansas patients received ranged from zero to three hours per week, according to the report, but Larned superintendent Tom Kinlen claimed most received four to six hours of group therapy and varying amounts of individual therapy depending on the patient.
Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for the Department of Aging and Disability Services, which runs the program, said the department has already implemented many of the report’s recommendations, and stressed that few leave it because they are deemed to be a high risk to offend.
“We have a very narrow front door, and a very narrow back door,” de Rocha said.
State Auditor Lynn Retz said Wisconsin, which has released 118 patients from its program since 1994, estimates that between 3 percent and 5 percent of those discharged end up returning to prison or treatment for additional offenses.
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