Missouri’s treatment program for convicted sex offenders grows

As the number of sexual predators rises, officials seek millions for their care.

02/24/2013 11:43 PM

05/16/2014 9:15 PM

The number of people held in Missouri as sexually violent predators is shooting up, leading mental health officials to seek millions of additional dollars for their care.

In the upcoming year alone, Gov. Jay Nixon recommends more than $2.6 million for nearly 60 additional positions within the Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services program at the Southeast Missouri Mental Health Center in Farmington and at the Fulton State Hospital.

A Missouri law that took effect in 1999 permits certain sex offenders to be civilly committed as a “sexually violent predator” after completing their criminal sentences.

In 2008, the number of people committed or detained while awaiting a civil commitment decision was 152. That grew to 212 people four years later, which included 34 detained in jails while the civil commitment process was pending.

Officials project that the count will rise to 234 people, with 31 people in jails, during the current 2013 fiscal year. In 2015, it is estimated to be 274 people, with 31 in jails. At the current growth rate, the department estimates it would run out of high-security space around 2018.

Missouri’s current operating budget includes partial-year funding for a third 25-person unit at the Fulton State Hospital. Nixon’s budget proposal for next year would fully fund the expansion ward at Fulton and would provide 10 months of funding to open 25 new beds in Farmington.

Treatment is designed to help patients accept responsibility for sexual offenses and their consequences, gain control of deviant sexual urges and behavior, cope with emotions that can create risk for re-offending and plan for functional use of leisure time.

Among those who have been committed, nine transferred back to prison and seven people have died. Two people have been granted conditional release without discharge, which allows the resident to leave the facility for scheduled activities and appointments with an escort and electronic monitoring.

The growth in the sex offender program has become part of mental health officials’ pitch for building a new high-security facility at the Fulton State Hospital.

The hospital admitted its first patients in 1851 and is the oldest public mental health facility west of the Mississippi River. Officials want to replace antiquated space at the hospital with a new $211 million facility.

Lawmakers and Nixon this year have been working on a proposal to issue several hundred million dollars in bonds for improvements and construction at college campuses, state facilities and state parks. The Mental Health Department hopes a new 300-bed facility will be part of the bonding strategy and could ease the need for a new $70 million facility to house sex offenders.

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