Understanding How Colorado Classifies, Supervises, and Treats Convicted Sex Offenders
What Crimes Designate Someone as a Sex Offender?
16-11.7-102(2)(a) C.R.S. defines a sex offender as anyone who is convicted/adjudicated of the following:
- a sex offense
- any criminal offense if that person had been previously convicted of a sex offense in either Colorado or any other jurisdiction, or if the person has a history of sex offenses
- any criminal offense in Colorado with an underlying factual basis involving a sex offense
The term sex offender also includes a juvenile who has committed a sexual offense.
Sex offense is defined in 16-11.7-102(3)(a) C.R.S. and includes 25 different felony and misdemeanor sex offense crime types including: sexual contact involving minors, use of force/coercion, familial sexual contact, positions of trust, exploitation/trafficking/child prostitution, and use of the internet for a sex crime (luring and child sexual abuse images), among others.
First Step After Conviction: Sex Offense-Specific Evaluations
Once a sex offender has entered a plea or has been convicted, the offender must undergo a sex offense-specific evaluation, which includes an evaluation for treatment, an evaluation for risk, and procedures required for monitoring of behavior to protect victims and potential victims. The primary purpose of this evaluation is to identify levels of risk and specific factors that require attention in treatment and supervision. The results are used in making recommendations to the Court regarding the supervision, treatment, and sentencing of an offender.
Court Sentencing Options
Sex offenders are sentenced to either probation, parole, community corrections, jail, or the Department of Corrections (prison). In the case of juvenile offenders, they can also be sentenced to the Division of Youth Services housed in the Department of Human Services. Offenders are required to receive treatment while under the supervision of these entities.
Depending upon their sentence, sex offenders will complete treatment and supervision through an approved treatment provider. These providers follow the standards and guidelines established by the Sex Offender Management Board. (SOMB).
The SOMB is a 25-member volunteer board that develops standards and guidelines for the assessment, evaluation, treatment and behavioral monitoring of adult sex offenders and juveniles who have committed sex offenses. The SOMB does not provide treatment to offenders, nor does it decide the fate of individual sex offenders, the purpose of the board is to prescribe clear best practices (standards and guidelines) for providers who treat and manage sex offenders so that they can be successful in reducing the risk of recidivism.
SOMB standards are designed to establish a basis for systematic management and treatment of sex offenders. The legislative mandate to the SOMB and the primary goals of the standards are the safety of the community and the protection of victims. The standards are not punitive, but rather preventative and palliative. They outline research-based best practices that are most likely to result in successfully rehabilitating the offender and preventing additional crimes. The SOMB consists of subcommittees that continuously review current research to ensure the standards and guidelines are updated to reflect proven methods. In addition, the standards support a coordinated approach in which a Community Supervision Team (CST) for adults, or a Multidiscplinary Team (MDT) for juveniles, provides an individualized treatment and supervision plan based on risk and need. The CST or MDT most commonly consist of a supervising officer, treatment provider, victim representative, polygraph examiner, and other adjunct professionals.
Finally, the SOMB approves service providers based on certain criteria including direct clinical experience with this population and receiving supervision from a currently listed provider. Any person who wishes to be placed on the SOMB Approved Provider List must submit an application to the SOMB.
General Treatment Provisions
A typical treatment plan includes the individual taking responsibility for the sexual offending behavior, developing victim empathy, learning how to utilize appropriate social skills, and managing the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors which lead to the sexual offending. An offenders progress through phases of treatment intensity conclude with a decreased intensity maintenance phase. In general, sex offenders are required to participate in group treatment. In addition, as part of their treatment and supervision, adult sex offenders must submit to polygraph testing at least twice annually, with increased frequency being an option for offenders who are higher risk. After completion of court-ordered treatment, the offender may still be subject to an after-care plan and his/her behavior will continue to be monitored to the end of his/her sentence.
Colorado Sex Offender Lifetime Supervision Act
In 1998, the General Assembly passed the Sex Offender Lifetime Supervision Act, which requires lifetime supervision for most class 2, 3, and 4 felony sex offenses. There are a number of sentencing options available to the Court under the Act:
- Probation for a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life for a class 4 felony, and a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of life for a class 2 or 3 felony. Intensive supervision probation (ISP) is required for all lifetime probationers until further order of the court.
- Department of Corrections for at least the minimum of the presumptive range of sentencing to a maximum of life.
The Colorado Department of Corrections is responsible for providing evaluation and sex offense-specific treatment to offenders who have been sentenced to the DOC and those who are on parole. Offenders in the Sex Offender Treatment and Monitoring Program (SOTMP) work toward meeting the Lifetime Supervision treatment progress criteria that correspond with their risk for sexual recidivism in order to meet parole board release criteria. The SOTMP provides treatment for an average of 450 offenders at a time.
Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Designation
An SVP is a sexually violent predator. Outlined below are the statutory criteria to classify an offender as an SVP:
- Offender must be 18 years old when the offense was committed, or less than 18 years old but tried as an adult,
- The conviction is for sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact, sexual assault on a child, sexual assault on a child by someone in a position of trust (convictions also include attempts, solicitations and conspiracies to any of the offenses previously outlined),
- The victim must have been a stranger to the offender or a person with whom the offender established or promoted a relationship primarily for the purpose of sexual victimization,
- Meet scoring criteria on the risk assessment instrument, or demonstrate significant psychopathy per testing.
When all of these criteria are met, the final decision as to whether the offender should be designated as an SVP is left with the Judge. However, if an offender commits a second listed felony offense, the risk assessment instrument automatically recommends to the Court a designation of SVP.
The SVP designation triggers special registration requirements (discussed in more detail in the section below) and community notification every time the person changes residences. Community notification occurs through a public website and either via a public meeting or electronic notification process.
Sex Offender Registry Requirements
Sex offenders are advised by the court at sentencing if they are required to register. If required to register, sex offenders must register with the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction in which they live. In addition, if a registrant moves away from one jurisdiction, they are required by law to register at the new address. Sex offender registration does not end automatically. A non-SVP offender may file a petition to terminate registration requirements beginning five, ten, or twenty years after the end of supervision depending upon the severity of the original crime of conviction, however, an SVP may never petition off the registry and must comply with registration requirements for the remainder of their life. Juveniles may petition the court to terminate registration requirements simultaneously with the conclusion of their supervision.