Despite the considerable blanks, researchers agree that pedophiles most resemble alcoholics--that they will always have their addiction and thus will require lifelong monitoring of every facet of their lives. (Right down to how they relax at home. Heil says that among men who are attracted to young boys, Home Improvement seems to be the favorite television show. Men who direct their sexual attentions to girls, on the other hand, prefer Full House.)

Sexual crimes against children are yielding stronger and stronger penalties from courts and lawmakers, who are reacting to the public's frustration. "People don't really care about treatment for sexual offenders," complains Freeman-Longo. "They're so fed up. The general feeling is, `Treatment is too good for people like this.'"

In 1990, in response to a string of gruesome sex-assault/mutilations, the state of Washington passed what is widely considered the toughest laws against sex offenders. One of its provisions allows parole boards to extend an inmate's sentence indefinitely, even once his prison term is up, if they think he remains a hazard to the community.

The law has been challenged by, among others, the American Civil Liberties Union. The organization has argued that detaining someone in prison indefinitely based on actions he might take is unconstitutional--particularly with sex offenders, whose behavior is so difficult to predict in the first place and about whose condition so little is known.

Still, the law has been upheld by the Washington Supreme Court. And even some treatment experts concede frustration at unrepentant prisoners. "There are people I would stake my reputation on who will reoffend," says Heil. "They're scheduled to get out, and they're already planning their next offense, writing fantasies in letters. And there's nothing we can do."

The Colorado prison system has struck a middle ground. The state does have a Sexual Offender Treatment Program, which was established in 1985. But its $900,000 annual budget is pocket change, according to Heil, who says that fully one quarter of the state's inmates have committed some sort of sexual offense, even if that was not the crime for which they were convicted.

The result is a long waiting list for the SOTP. With his 64-year sentence, Spencer Day is scheduled to be placed on the program's 300-person waiting list in the year 2020. Because of limited resources, the program accepts inmates only if they are eligible for parole in eight years or less.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help