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Check Your State’s Sex Offender Treatment Board For Conflicts of Interest

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!


One thought on “Check Your State’s Sex Offender Treatment Board For Conflicts of Interest

  • The whole VASI/Visual Assessment of Sexual Interest screening ideology is based on some really non-sensical and outrageously unresearched testing “standards.” I took the thing several times and can tell you the whole premise and process is not even remotely scientific or valid.

    Example: The test Psychologist will have you look at these images and the idea is that you can look at an image, on a computer screen, and are given the option to hit the a key to move on to the next one, when you are done looking at any given picture. The “scoring” is based on a timer that is built into the software. The longer you look, the more you are consider attracted to that _type_ of image—person.

    Flaw no.1) A person would have to be extremely stupid or extremely troubled to sit in a testing environment and actually spend more time looking at the picture considered adverse to innocence; when they know it is a test. Even a simple bumpkin would know that the “test” is built to record your “visual reaction time” of how long you stare at the image.

    Flaw no. 2) I am going to make Mr. Able mad but I took this thing more than twice so I know what I am talking about. – As you are being instructed on how to take this part of the test, (looking at various image), the test giver will tell you to “…just look at these images then when you are done looking at it you may hit (this) key and then on the next screen you will see a score box. Continuing the instructions you are told to check a box on how aroused or not aroused you were by looking at this image. So even if you spent three seconds or more looking at at a key image—one that would be considered negatively—you would move to the next screen and select, maybe a 1, for least sexually aroused. If you were looking at the image for more than three seconds then that means you are lieing about the 1 and it doubles your danger to society scoring because you also lied about your feelings.

    Flaw no.3) For the same visual scoring test you are also told to take as long as you want to look through the images and then the instructor tells you that—several version of this part but usually like this—he/she must leave the office for about ten minutes and that they have a conference call or an important meeting. It don’t take a rocket scientist to figure out, after the second time, that they are giving you plenty of room to screw up and are hoping you feel safe to look at the negative images long[er]. In one test there was a hidden camera and the other a two way mirror. They are actually watching you to see if you touch yourself or do anything unusual.

    Flaw no.3) The situational images, all of the images, are very very old and not even remotely high quality or really situational enough to even consider what it is that you are looking at. All of the pictures look like they are from the 50s, maybe the 60s, and the variety of “beauty” or any baseline you could use to attain a visually interesting photograph of a person is just not anything one could consider sexual or not. Very poor photography and some of the people look like they were taken out of a Sears catalog. There is one that has a woman looking out a window and is supposed to make a peeping-tom stay on the page longer. And the other is a woman leaning on an open window of the drivers side of a car looking at a man (hooker situation) These are about the only ones that had any detail. All the others are simply a person with no background (studio shots) sitting on a chair or just standing. So not much “expertise” or planning was put into this part of the test.

    This is only one part of the testing. I really would not like to continue as I have given out too much information, to the public, already. Just be it that the whole sexual conduct realm of testing is way behind the times and if it will be acceptable in court hearing it must be renewed or new tests must come of age. I can vouche for the MSI testing. This Multiphasic Sexual Indicator testing is rather acurate and is customized for each individual and is taken over a period of time, typically before, during and after any treatment program. The score is adjusted to how well you are progressing, or not, in your rehabilitation. A much more realistic indicator of a persons current state.


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