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Critics seek reform of Colorado sex offense laws they say can do more harm than good

Lawmakers, researchers and even some victims seek reform of Colorado’s Sex Offense Management Board.

By ALEX BURNESS | aburness@denverpost.com | The Denver Post September 6, 2021

Close to 30 years ago, Mr. Bethurum was living in Wray, in his late 40s, when he groomed an underage family member and entered into what he wrongly thought of as a relationship.

He says he now understands now there is no such thing as a “relationship” between a child and an adult. He completed his prison sentence for sexual assault on a child, and today he lives in Cedaredge, a small town in western Colorado.

Bethurum has not reoffended. He’s been involved in his community as a photographer who helps put on veterans’ events and motorcyclist meetups. A local nonprofit earlier this year named him volunteer of the month. After that honor, he said, “Somebody ran my name and found out I was listed on the registry.”

“Now I can’t volunteer anymore,” he said. “All kinds of stuff is spread around town and half of it is not true. I’ve been ostracized in the community… They think of me as the worst of the worst.”

He said he can’t blame them for judging him that way — “What I did was terrible” — but many who work closely with people like Bethurum say that turning them into permanent pariahs is ultimately unhelpful to the cause of rehabilitating them and preventing future sexual violence.

The size of Colorado’s sex offense registry, now at roughly 20,000 people, is but one in a slew of reasons a growing chorus of lawyers, lawmakers, researchers, people on the registry itself, and even some victims of sexual abuse believe Colorado’s system of managing people who committed a sex offense in some cases does more harm than good.

That system is controlled mainly by the state’s powerful Sex Offense Management Board, or SOMB, a 25-member group that sets rules for evaluation, treatment and monitoring of people who committed a sex offense.

That board’s critics argue that this system can demoralize and endlessly punish people who genuinely want to be better, teaching them to see themselves as incurable monsters even decades after their offense — at the expense of more effective and humanizing therapies.

“It’s this rhetoric of ‘tough on crime,’” said Apryl Alexander, an associate professor at the University of Denver who has been a treatment provider in several different states for people who committed a sex offense.  “We do have to be tough on crime, I believe that. We have to make our communities safe. The issue is, are our communities safe? Is anything changing? The issue is that, on sexual violence, not much is changing.”

The set of people criticizing the SOMB is not a small one. Repeated state reports in the past decade, including a scathing report by the state auditor last year, have questioned the board’s transparency and resistance to evidence-based best practices.

The auditor found that board members were voting on policy matters to benefit their own firms, and the state has also been accused by its own watchdogs of wasteful spending — as much as $44 million annually, as of 2017 — and delays in getting people past their parole-eligibility date into treatment. Forty-seven people convicted of a sex offense got out of prison last year without receiving treatment, the state reported.

“Strong social support, community relationships, stable housing, good jobs — the person who’s got something to lose in their community tends to behave better,” said Laurie Rose Kepros, director of sexual litigation for the Office of the State Public Defender. “Instead what has happened with the SOMB is that even when they’ve gotten legislative reports, audits, they just keep saying, ‘Oh yeah, we did that, we fixed that.’ But they didn’t and they don’t.”

Source

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If the registry database does more harm than good? Then consider the harm done to the people by disobeying the constitutional prohibitions found in Article 1. It cannot be in the real interest of the people to ignore the Constitution. And yet it happened for the sake of the presumptive benevolent use in government database.

Well you do have to pick a pocket or two when on a panel overseeing treatment for registrants. Please sir, we want more. Fagan from Oliver Twist would be proud.

Funny DAs cry foul when true reform is being discussed and shouldn’t be rushed; however didn’t stomp their feet when restrictions on registrants were passed quickly.

My mom bought a house in Denver a couple years ago and I was thinking about moving out their but after doing a little research and speaking with the Denver police department it didn’t sound like a good idea.
The officer I spoke to was very aggressive and informed me that whatever my registration requirements are in California that Denver would mirror it, then he demanded my moms address, it was funny how worked up he got just because I called out there to asked a few questions, he also told me if I come out here I better contact him within 3 working days or I’d be arested, I laughed and hung up the phone.
After that I decided to stay and continue serving out my lifetime of punishment in California at least the weather’s good.
Even if I did leave California where would I go there’s no sanctuary for sex offenders, I guess I’m just trapped here in California
for the rest of my life.

Good luck

There are worse places. Trust me.
BTW – IMO the cops are going to dissuade you from coming into their jurisdiction no matter where you inquire with them. None of them are going to be warm over the phone and roll out the red carpet. I’d check with PFR community and get a feel for things. I frequently see such posts on this board.
Cheers.

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