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SORTS Program Designed to Provide Treatment for Sex Offenders in Missouri

Fulton State Hospital
Biggs Forensic Center - Part of the Fulton State Hospital, which houses 75 SORTS patients/Credit: Julie Smith/News Tribune

This is part one of a two part series on Missouri's sex offender civil commitment program.  Christina Turner talks to people with close ties to the SORTS program and its patients.

Christopher Cross is the legal guardian of a mentally disabled sex offender.  He says one of the ways the state gets people into the SORTS program is by forcing sex offenders like his ward to confess guilt to allegations.

"The state doesn't care what the evidence is.  The state doesn't investigate anything.  They just see that an allegation is made and that, as a result of that,  the offender has to confess guilt," he said.

According to Cross, Missouri courts say it's therapeutically beneficial to confess to allegations because it gets guilt off the offender's chest.

"Just because the state slaps a label on a program as being therapeutic does not mean it is therapeutic.  It just means that's what the state is saying it is to make it look like it's consitutionally correct," he said.

He says confessions could be used against his ward if a civil commitment hearing comes after prison.

Marty Martin Foreman runs Fulton State Hospital where 75 of the 199 SORTS patients are being held.  She says several patients contesting their placement in SORTS have not participated in treatment to avoid appearing guilty.

"For some they were involved in appeals and things like that and, upon advice of an attorney, the attorneys did not believe it was in their best interest to be engaged," she said.

Martin Foreman says patients' progress is guaged by their participation in things like group psychotherapy, recreational therapy and work therapy.

Former lieutenant governor Kenneth Rothman says you can't be too careful when dealing with violent sex offenders.

"We have to have a balance.  Yeah, we owe these people  some help if we can give it to 'em, but we really owe the people who would be innocent victims if they were released," he said.

But in 2012, a MO Supreme Court judge said that, of the five categories of felony offenders in Missouri's correctional population, sex offenders have the lowest rates of recidivism.