FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION REGARDING SEXUAL OFFENSE ISSUES
(These are not meant to be legal or completely thorough answers. Please consult
a legal or other expert for precise and complete information).
Q. What is the SOMB?
A. The SOMB is The Sex Offender Management Board. It was brought into being in the 1990s by the Colorado Legislature. The Board was originally called the Sex Offender Treatment Board. The Board, by Colorado Statute, creates and updates Standards and Guidelines for the Monitoring, Treatment, Evaluation and Supervision of those who have committed a sexual offense. Members of the Board are statutorily appointed, and represent a variety of stakeholders.
Q. Do all states have an SOMB?
A. The answer is no. There are 5 or 6 other states that have an SOMB, and they share some characteristics with Colorado’s SOMB. Generally, there are not as many Standards and Guidelines or as developed a power structure in these other boards.
Q. Over whom does the Board have purview?
A. The Board has purview over Treatment Providers, Evaluators and Polygraphers. That means that these individuals can be grieved through the SOMB’s ARC Committee and/or through DORA (Department of Regulatory Agencies). Supervising officers (parole/probation) have separate oversight through either Judicial (probation) and the Colorado Department of Corrections (parole).
Q. When you are charged with a sexual offense, who helps you make a decision regarding whether to “take a plea” or go to a jury trial?
A. Hopefully you will employ either a paid defense attorney, or a Public Defender who will assist you in making that decision. While many who are charged believe that they are not guilty, the public has an unfortunately low opinion of those who have been charged with, or who have been convicted of, a sexual offense, and a jury trial can (but does not always) result in a worse sentence than you would have gotten via a plea. Again, expert legal assistance is crucial! If you have money to hire an attorney, look for someone who has experience defending people with a sexual offense charge.
Q. What is the difference between Determinate and Indeterminate Sentencing?
A. A Determinate Sentence assigns the defendant a set number of years to serve, frequently with a parole period following. An Indeterminate Sentence applies to specific sexual offenses and has a “bottom number”. It could be, for example, 2 – Life, 4 – Life, 10 – Life etc. The laws of Colorado require people with lifetime sentences to meet a number of specific criteria while they are in prison before they can get a favorable recommendation from their treatment team to take to the Parole Board. While treatment is not required in statute for people with determinate sentences, the Colorado Department of Corrections Sex Offender Treatment and Monitoring Program attempts to provide treatment to those with determinate sentences based on their risk level. Colorado’s version of Megan’s Law which just became law recently requires a 25 – Life Sentence for anyone who commits an offense against a child 12 or under.
Q. What is the difference between Parole and Probation?
A. Parole is a period of supervision after prison, and is overseen by the Colorado Department of Corrections. Probation is a period of supervision, usually taking place before a prison placement, and overseen by one of Colorado’s many judicial branches. Sometimes, people are required to serve parole and probation concurrently (at the same time) after prison.
Q. What are the Outside Evaluator Reports?
A. The Outside Evaluator Reports were mandated a few years ago by the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) of the Colorado Legislature. After many years of advocacy for those who had sexually offended by family members and friends, and others in the community such as public defenders and criminal defense bar attorneys, it was obvious that the Sex Offender Management Board was not “maturing” and changing with the prominent research literature of the day, or with ATSA (The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers) in terms of movement from a “no known cure” approach to the treatment of those who sexual offended, to a Risk, Need and Responsivity or similar approach embraced by much of the field. While much of the world realized for the past fifteen or so years that “one size does not fit all”, Colorado didn’t. These reports which you can view on the Articles and Publication Page of this website, pointed out the glaring errors in Colorado’s ongoing approach toward a confrontational, non-empathic treatment and supervision style. While the Board was not happy about the reports’ contents, the SOMB has moved forward with some recommended changes, and is working on others. The Colorado Department of Corrections did embrace the changes recommended in their report, and has made significant positive changes in their program.
Q. What is the Burns Case?
A. The Burns Case is a recent Tenth Circuit Court Case ruling that without “compelling evidence” of harm, the child of a person who had committed a sexual offense could not be kept from living with them. This case continues to cause a lot of frustration and turmoil from some parties on the SOMB, as Colorado has very strict standards regarding when and if a person with a sexual offense can see their child/children. For more information, look at the DJC/DPS/SOMB Website, and review the Standards and Guidelines in Section V.
Q. Is Colorado doing anything to fight registration of those with a sexual offense (or “registered citizens”)?
A. Because Colorado has had so many other challenges to fight, those of us who advocate for restoration for registered citizens are just beginning to pursue this battle. An SOMB Committee called Registration is looking at the possibility of a tier-based registration system based on risk, rather than a “one size fits all” approach which currently exists. This new approach would have to be embraced via statute through a bill at the Colorado Legislature. The highest of the tier levels could be utilized to take the place of the current Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) designation if the legislature saw fit to accept that change and put it into law.
A national organization called RSOL (Reform Sex Offender Laws) has a new campaign called LEO, which stands for Law Enforcement Only. In their view, a good starting place is to look at Law Enforcement only having access to registration information, not the public. There is, of course, strong reaction from the victim community and the D.A.’s when anything like this is suggested.
Colorado is more willing to consider the possibility of juveniles getting off registration than they are adults. Legal clinics through the Colorado Criminal Defense Institute help people evaluate where they are in the process, and set them up with defense bar attorneys if they are eligible to get off the registry.
Q. Why are families sometimes not allowed to house their loved one returning from prison?
A. At times, treatment and supervision entities feel that a family member or members may be a “secondary victim” of the person with the offense, or that family members will enable the person with the offense to continue sexual offending behavior. This is very hard for families, and may or may not be the case. At this point, there is nothing families can do to interfere with the decision made by supervision personnel and treatment personnel regarding where their loved one can live, and what communication they are allowed to have with them.
There are many more questions that need an answer for those who are just coming into this arena. If there are other questions you would like to see answered, or if you want to talk to someone about these types of issues, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 720 690 -7125. I am not an attorney, so do not assume that I am able to give you legal advice.