Colorado Sex Crime Attorney Blog

You Do the Math: Prison Cost Far Outweighs Cost of Treatment

Posted by Kyle B. Sawyer | Jun 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

Prison costs outweigh the costs of treatment in Colorado. Read more in our blog.

As criminal defense attorneys in Denver, Adams, and Jefferson County and all across Colorado, we work daily with people who have been charged with sex offenses. We fight hard to get them justice in the courtroom, and we often succeed. The prison system is flawed, however. Sex offenders are not treated the same as others charged with crimes, and taxpayers are paying the price. If we had a correct view of sex offenders and treated them appropriately, we could simultaneously save millions of dollars (something our state desperately needs) and help sex offenders reintegrate back into society. Our judges and District Attorneys are running scared and enforcing unjust laws which harm citizens and taxpayers. Let's take a look at how the cost of prison far outweighs the cost of treatment.

Overtreatment of Sex Offenders Creates a Backlog

The Colorado Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) believes that sex offenders have a “disorder which cannot be cured,” and they provide treatment with this mindset. They operate under the idea that “all sex offenders pose a dangerously high risk,” and the only way to mediate the danger is by “constant vigilance,” which often involves imprisonment in DOC. Labeling all sex offenders in Arapahoe, El Paso, and Douglas County like this is not only unjust, it is expensive. Early this year, the Central Coast Clinical and Forensic Psychology Services, Inc., did an audit of the Department of Correction's Sex Offender Treatment and Monitoring Program. They concluded that DOC's Sex Offender Treatment and Monitoring Program (SOTMP) has stubbornly adhered to this flawed view of sex offenders, thinking they need to be under lifetime supervision. The audit gives abundant research to the contrary. By treating low-risk sex offenders the same as high-risk offenders, there are many resulting problems. One of which is that there aren't enough therapists to meet the treatment demands in prison.

[pullquote align=”center” textalign=”center” width=”70%”]DOC's sex offender treatment program stubbornly adheres to a flawed view of sex offenders.[/pullquote]

The Demand for Treatment Exceeds the Supply of Therapists

Long waiting lines in prison and longer sentences result when there aren't enough therapists to provide treatment. The audit issued a scathing rebuke, and said that the demand for treatment greatly exceeds the number of therapists available to provide treatment. Here is a bit more detail:

  • At the time of the report, there were 3,959 sex offenders incarcerated in DOC who were unable to participate in treatment. According to the audit, the majority of sex offenders “don't have the opportunity to complete the required treatment program” by the time they reach their parole eligibility date. This means they are detained well beyond their minimum sentence.

Let's Do the Math:

Let's do the math real quick here: It costs taxpayers $30,374 to house an inmate in DOC for a year. The average sex offender therapists make roughly $70,000 per year. Let's say one therapist can provide treatment for groups of 10 inmates, 2 times a week, in 2 hour sessions. Let's say they handle five groups of ten, allowing them to work with 50 inmates per week (with time left over for individual counseling). Hiring more therapists would save taxpayers millions of dollars. In this example, once inmates start to complete treatment and parole out, each therapist will save taxpayers nearly one and a half million dollars annually (50 inmate's housing costs are $1,518,700, minus the cost of one therapist, which is $70,000, equals a savings of $1,448,700). According to the Denver Post, who wrote an article about the audit, more than 1,300 sex offenders who have passed their parole dates (because they can't get treatment), are costing taxpayers more than $30 million a year.

Let's Do the Math:

Cost to House 50 Inmates in DOC for 1 Year


Cost of 1 Therapist to Treat 50 Inmates for 1 Year


This Equals a Savings of:

$1,448,700 Per Year

Why Do Lawmakers Operate Under Such a Flawed System?

In an article in the Denver Post, the editorial board criticized the audit's findings that DOC is at fault. They say that the legislature should “accept responsibility” and “find the money to remedy” the underfunding. Their reasoning is that the cost to house an inmate in prison ($31,000) is inexpensive compared to the cost of a residential program after prison. They looked at Minnesota and Texas, who offer residential programs for sex offender treatment. They say that legislators should fund DOC's request for more money for treatment programs. They are missing part of the picture. The audit didn't state that DOC should simply release sex offenders into the community. It pointed out that DOC's sex offender treatment program is over labeling and over treating non-violent, low-risk sex offenders who don't need as much treatment. As usual, people are sensitive to the subject of sex offenders and when and if they should reintegrate into society. We need to stop being afraid and focus on the truth – that Colorado isn't evaluating the sex offender risk properly and is spending millions of dollars in unnecessary taxpayer money. You can see the math.

[pullquote align=”center” textalign=”center” width=”100%”]Colorado isn't evaluating the risk and is spending millions of dollars in unnecessary taxpayer money. You can see the math.[/pullquote] Request a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one has been charged with a sexual offense, be smart, exercise your right to remain silent, and contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the O'Malley Law Office for a free consultation at 303-830-0880. Together, we can protect your future.

Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN /

About the Author

Kyle B. Sawyer

I have a passion for defending others in criminal cases. I am able to empathize with my clients and understand their emotions and fears. I have a unique perspective on the criminal justice system and I understand what it feels like to be wrongly accused of a crime.


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