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A few weeks ago I wrote about registrants being used as what amounts to “uncompensated lab rats” for VASI/Visual Assessment of Sexual Interest screening in Tennessee. My concern was not only that registrants are being forced to take visual assessment screenings that many courts have already found to be “questionable” or nothing more than “Hogwarts Wizardry” in predicting reoffenses, but I was also concerned about exactly who, if anyone, was benefiting monetarily off of this test.
I found that Eric Sellers and Mike Adler were developers of the VASI and owners of HemispheresNeuro, a company in Johnson City,TN. I also found that that Mike Adler, was listed as SOTB/Sex Offender Treatment Board approved supervisor and that “James Michael Adler” is listed as SOTB/Community Provider and Board Member.
A conflict of interest, don’t you think? SOTB Board Member who owns the company that makes and administers the VASI test.
This week I see that Denver, Colorado seems to have run across the same kind of conflict of interest issue.
In fact, the Colorado House Judiciary Committee just passed Bill 1427 that would ban the state’s Sex Offender Management Board from profiting from the treatment requirements that the board is in charge of setting in place. Members of the board would be prohibited from entering into contracts with the state for sex offender management and treatment. The Bill now moves on to the Governor’s office.
In Colorado’s situation, the issue at hand was the fact that one of the two private polygraph companies that hold state contracts to provide registrant testing is “owned” by one of the board members, Jeff Jenks. This company apparently receives the largest share of public monies spent on the testing.
Of course Mr. Jenks didn’t think the fact that he was a board member and also the owner of the company that provides the polygraph testing was a conflict of interest. (Even though the board sets how often polygraphs are administered, often at a cost of $250 to each registrant). In fact, Mr. Jenks went so far as to say that his volunteer position on the Sex Offender Treatment Board actually costs him time and money! According to Mr. Jenks, his company did business with the state long before he became a board member. (So tell me, did the idea that this might be a conflict of interest never occur to Mr. Jenks?) Really, if it even looked like it could be an impropriety, shouldn’t Mr. Jenks have bowed out of either the contract or the board?
Unlike Tennessee’s Sex Offender Treatment Board which touts that it is an advocate for the victim, not the sex offender, Colorado’s treatment board is comprised of stakeholders who are involved in sex offender treatment, prosecution, defense, supervision and victim advocacy.
Opponents of the bill have their own ideas. Some believe that if the bill was passed it would cause difficulty in finding “qualified experts” to serve on the board, that no one else with any expertise in this field will come forward to volunteer (In board lingo I think that means, “if you replace me you’ll never find anyone as good as I am”). Some feel that the polygraph examiner seat is the target at hand and that somehow, without polygraphs, all offender accountability would be gone. Rubbish! We already know that polygraphs have long been in-admissible in courts because they just aren’t accurate.
The Judiciary Committee had apparently asked the board members to address the conflict of interest issue numerous times over the years, without result. And now I have to ask, was it OK for the board members to just ignore the Judiciary Committee’s concerns over the years? Why wasn’t something done “before” an investigative report had to be done?
It’s also noted by bill sponsor Representative Leslie Herod, that as the bill moved forward, it was found that there are multiple other providers who have contracts with the state for a variety of things and the dollars at stake are in the millions. So, the problem is BIGGER than we first thought? Imagine that.
So just as in Tennessee and Colorado, everyone of us needs to begin checking our own state’s sex offender board. Know who’s on your state’s board, do a little research, see if they privately hold any state contracts. Are they making money off of you or your family member who is a registrant?
If they are, that’s a conflict of interest and you need to get involved and help make the changes that we all need to see.
If you find some improprities, do what they did in Colorado, contact your local investigative news channel. Let them investigate. Do what they did in Tennessee, contact the Governor. Contact your state representative. Question things. Speak up.
This is our time and everyday we are uncovering more and more unethical and under-handed mismanagement in our state governments regarding registrants and their rights.
Together we will change this, state by state!