Arrested Development

A Denver therapist wants to lock up sexual predators -- forever. But patients say the treatment is just making them bitter.

When the young man stopped by his apartment several days later, he told Rosberg that he was seventeen years old. "I almost died," Rosberg says. "I thought he was 23 or 24. It wasn't the sex thing that bothered me; it was that I'd bought beer for him. After that, I tried to disassociate myself from him."

But in August, the seventeen-year-old and a friend stopped by Rosberg's apartment, acting odd and looking around. A few days later, someone broke into Rosberg's home and stole his turntable and speakers; he now believes the two young men were casing his place. Rosberg reported the burglary to the Aurora Police Department and then called and warned the boy that the cops would be contacting him and anyone else who'd been in his apartment in the last month. "He got all pissed off, and I never heard from him again," Rosberg says.

But it wasn't the last he heard from authorities. When Rosberg called the police to check on the status of the burglary investigation, a detective asked him to come down to the station. When Rosberg got there, the detective didn't want to discuss the break-in; she wanted to talk about the seventeen-year-old. He'd told police that Rosberg sexually assaulted him.

Greig Veeder believes containment is therapy for sex offenders.
Anthony Camera
Greig Veeder believes containment is therapy for sex offenders.
John Murphy doesn't hook his clients up to a "peter meter."
Anthony Camera
John Murphy doesn't hook his clients up to a "peter meter."

Rosberg heard nothing more about that accusation until March 2000, when he was served with court papers. A second incident from the summer of 1999 had finally caught up with him as well. That same July, Rosberg had befriended another young man, one who was fishing in a pond near his Aurora apartment building. The boy brought some of his friends to Rosberg's apartment, and, Rosberg claims, they took wine coolers out of his refrigerator while he was showering. He took away the alcohol, he says, but the kids found something else: porn on Rosberg's Internet television.

After they left his apartment, one of the teens was caught shoplifting at a Target store; when a security guard smelled alcohol on his breath and asked how he'd gotten it, out came the story about Rosberg, the wine coolers and the Web TV.

The then-44-year-old Rosberg was charged with five counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one count of promoting obscenity to a minor. The seventeen-year-old changed his story twice, so police did not pursue any sex-related charges in that case, Rosberg says. In December 2000, Rosberg pleaded guilty to the obscenity charge and to one of the delinquency charges; he was sentenced in March 2001 to ninety days in jail and ten years of intense supervised probation. His probation officer recommended treatment, and the judge agreed. So after Rosberg got out of jail, he was sent to Teaching Humane Existence, where he was expected to remain for the extent of his probation.

Even though Rosberg hadn't been charged with a sex crime for the 1999 incidents, the circumstances of the case -- and the fact that he was already on the sex-offender registry -- were reason enough for him to be assigned treatment.

In July 2001, Rosberg went to his first group therapy session at T.H.E. And that, he says, is when he really started serving time.


Upon admittance to T.H.E., Rosberg was immediately placed in the medium-containment program, which mandated twice-weekly group therapy and individual sessions every two weeks. He didn't have the freedom of the low-containment offenders, who have to attend therapy only once a week, or the constraints of the maximum-containment offenders, who must live with other sex offenders in what are called Shared Living Arrangements (SLAs).

On Tuesdays, the ten men in Rosberg's group met to discuss the "tools" they could use to prevent themselves from reoffending. The room where they met, in T.H.E.'s former offices on South Bellaire Street, was a drab space with bare walls, furnished only with chairs and a dry-erase board. "You'd go up to the board and write down your critical issues, and if there was time left after talking about your critical issues, you'd talk about the tools," Rosberg remembers. "People would write down serious things they were dealing with, like depression, but they were hardly ever acknowledged by the therapists. Those issues would stay up there for weeks. One guy talked about masturbation all the time. I didn't want to hear that. How is that supposed to help me? Most of the time we'd talk about issues in the SLAs, like who's fighting who, and who owes who money."

On Thursdays, Rosberg's group session was open to general discussion, but he says he didn't get much out of it. "You're competing with nine other guys for your issues," he says of the hour-and-a-half sessions.

"Tom," a T.H.E. client, shares Rosberg's views on the therapy sessions. But he's mostly concerned with T.H.E. lumping all sex offenders together in the program. Tom was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman and can't understand why he's in group therapy with men who have sodomized little boys. "The treatment plan is formulaic. The same thing is used for everyone," he says, adding that his was a one-time offense. "I am not a predator. I believe I belong in therapy, but I don't believe I belong in a program like this."

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