Intensive Parole and Probation Workshop On Managing Sexual Offenders
The Maryland Division of Parole and Probation (DPP) recently completed intensive three-day sexual offender management training and workshops. The conference brought together approximately 130 agents and supervisors who direct DPP’s COMET initiative: the Collaborative Offender Management/Enforced Treatment teams. These teams are responsible for the management of every sexual offender under DPP supervision in the State of Maryland. Members of the Sex Offender Registry (another DPSCS agency), the Governor’s legislative affairs officer, and outside experts in the field of sexual offender management also attended the conference.
Legislation passed during the 2006 Emergency Legislative Session mandated collaborative containment teams for the management of sexual offenders, and authorized conditions allowing the use of polygraph examinations, computer monitoring, and electronic tracking for sexual offenders. Within months of this mandate, COMET teams with offender-to-agent reduced caseloads of 30-to-one had been intensively trained throughout Maryland; their training included sex offender laws and relevant agency policies, sexual abuse incidence and prevalence, victimology, treatment domains, relapse prevention, and many other subject areas.
Under the O’Malley Administration, Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS)---and particularly its Division of Parole and Probation--- has been at the forefront in the development and implementation of effective strategies for the management and treatment of sexual offenders. Currently, DPP supervises more than 2,300 sexual offenders statewide, and is also responsible for the more than 1,000 sexual offenders who have been sentenced but not yet released to supervision. Also, the Maryland Sex Offender Registry currently lists 6,097 men and women. (Not all sexual offenders are required to register, and not all are under DPP supervision.)
The O’Malley Administration secured the passage of lifetime registration legislation for certain offenders during 2010, as well as brought MD into compliance with Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which includes making the registration requirements retroactive and re-classifying the sex offense categories. This recent conference aimed to bring all COMET agents together to examine the latest supervision techniques and learn the new sex offender laws.
DPP uses a special risk instrument specifically designed to assess sexual offenders to examine every single sexual offender in its system, and initially places all offenders under the highest level of supervision, which includes daily telephone contacts, weekly face-to-face meetings, mandatory treatment referrals based upon risk assessment, and at least monthly verification of compliance with all terms of supervision and Registry requirements. Offenders are moved to lower supervision levels only on the basis of consistent successful compliance and satisfactory risk assessment scores.
During the eighteen-month period between July 2008 and December 2009, an average of greater than 90% of all sex offender cases closed each month by DPP were closed with either a satisfactory status or by an offender’s supervision being revoked due to a technical violation. Of those who did incur subsequent arrests during that period, less than one third of one percent were charged with new sexual offenses.
The management of sexual offenders in Maryland now includes:
Clinical Polygraph Exams
These increase the accountability of sexual offenders for past behaviors, ensure compliance with current supervision, and serve as a deterrent.
Software may be installed on an offender’s computer allowing an agent to monitor or restrict access to particular activities and locations. This allows more accurate risk assessment and potentially prevents victimization. Agency policy requires computer monitoring for any sexual offender release from the Division of Correction who is a child sexual offender required to register with the Md. Sex Offender Registry.
GPS tracking may be used around-the-clock by DPP as required. Curfews may be established and monitored; agents may set geographic exclusions and boundaries; alerts are generated when an offender violates the rules.