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Colorado Criminal Sex Offender Laws – The Impact of Denial (of the Crime) in Colorado Sex Offender Cases and the Use of the Polygraph in Denier Cases

In other Colorado felony criminal cases – when a Defendant pleads guilty – the sentence does NOT require the convicted person to admit – other than pleading guilty to the commission of the crime – an ongoing admission – a continuing acceptance of that guilt.  If the Colorado sex offender refuses to admit the commission of the sex offender – exactly as the alleged victim describes it – he is “in denial” and in danger of a revocation of their probation and a near certain sentence to prison.

Understanding Denial in Colorado Sex Offender Cases

Colorado Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment, Assessment, Evaluation, Treatment and Behavioral Monitoring of Adult Sex Offenders

The Colorado SOMB standards address denial as follows:

Denial: is defined in the SOMB standards as follows:  In psychological terms denial means a defense mechanism used to protect the ego from anxiety-producing information. (See also Defense Mechanisms and Levels and Types of Denial in section 3.500.)

3.500 Managing Sex Offenders in Denial

3.510 Levels of Denial

The following is a description of different levels of denial as it relates to the conviction.

Level 1: Low Denial

This level consists of attitudes that reflect low or occasional avoidance of responsibility.

Most offenders present with Level 1 denial at one time or another. Offenders presenting with Level 1 denial are considered to be “admitters of fact.”

Level 2: Moderate to High Denial

This level consists of offenders who a) admit to some of the behavior involved in the offense, but justify its occurrence or minimize its importance, b) offenders who admit the facts of the offense, but deny the sexually abusive aspect of the offense, and/or c) offenders who do not admit committing the current sexual offense, but admit to engaging in less harmful sexual behaviors.

Level 3: Severe Denial

This level consists of offenders who deny committing the current offense and refuse to acknowledge responsibility for even remotely similar behaviors. Offenders may also appear excessively hostile or defensive. These types of denial are most resistant to change.

3. 520 Sex offenders who are in Level 3 Denial shall not be recommended for community based treatment and supervision.

Discussion: Secrecy, denial, and defensiveness are part of sex offenders’ pathology. Almost all offenders fluctuate in their level of accountability or minimization of the offenses. Although most are able to admit responsibility for the sexual offense relatively soon after conviction, some offenders do not. As denial impedes treatment engagement and progress, an offender’s continued denial of the sexual offense after conviction threatens community safety. Offender denial is highly distressing and emotionally damaging to victims.

3. 530 When a sex offender in severe denial is placed in the community, despite the requirements of 3.520, (e.g. on mandatory parole), a Denier Intervention shall specifically address the sex offender’s denial and defensiveness as it relates to preventing the sex offender from successfully participating in sex offender treatment. Denier Intervention  shall not exceed three months and shall be regarded as preparatory for offense-specific treatment.

Discussion: Although all offense-specific treatment programs usually begin by addressing minimization and defensiveness, Denier Intervention for those in Level 3 Denial, typically occurs separately from regular group therapy that is provided for offenders who have, at a minimum, admitted the crime of conviction.

Level 3 deniers are not considered amenable to offense specific treatment. They do not admit sex offenses and therefore do not acknowledge a need to work on issues that contribute to their offending behavior or re-offense plans. Since severe denial prevents therapists from obtaining critical information from the offender, they are unable to develop effective interventions to address the offending behavior. Further, including deniers in regular groups may disrupt the group’s focus on treatment tasks and encourage other offenders to deny their crimes and can increase their level of denial.

Denier Intervention for Level 3 Denial may include a variety of modalities specifically designed to reduce denial and resistance to treatment and supervision. During the time an offender is attending Denier Intervention, the CST should work closely together to ensure maximum containment, supervision and accountability measures are enforced for the offender. Intermediate sanctions should also be used during the course of Denier Intervention to reduce denial and encourage disclosure.

In addition to requiring the offender to undergo an instant offense polygraph regarding the offense of conviction, the CST shall also require the offender to undergo Maintenance polygraph testing to monitor current behavior and enable the CST to respond to concerns quickly.

3.540 Use of the polygraph is important in reducing an offender’s denial.

Deniers shall be deferred for an instant offense polygraph examination. Documentation is imperative for future revocation proceedings, in the event that an offender fails to make sufficient progress and is therefore terminated from Denier Intervention.

3.550 Offenders who are still in Level 3 Denial and are strongly resistant after this three (3) month phase of Denier Intervention shall be terminated from treatment and revocation proceedings should be initiated. Other sanctions and increased levels and types of supervision, such as home detention, electronic monitoring, etc., should be pursued if a revocation does not occur. In no case should a sex offender in continuing denial of the sexual offense remain indefinitely in Denier Intervention.

Discussion: It is important to support victim recovery and community safety by proceeding with revocations for those sex offenders whose continued denial or resistance make treatment ineffective.

3.560 Denier Intervention shall only be provided by treatment providers who also meet the requirements to provide sex offense-specific treatment, as defined in this document.

3.570 Progress in Denier Intervention is reflected by the offender’s decreased resistance to treatment, decreased defensiveness and denial, and increased accountability for offense behavior.

3.580 Treatment providers and community supervision teams must establish specific and measurable goals and tasks for offenders in denial. These measurable goals will establish whether offenders have reached the threshold of eligibility for referral to offense-specific treatment at the end of three months or earlier. It is especially important to document offenders’ accountability for their offenses.

“Denial is a central theme in the management of sex offenders”

Research done at the Colorado Department of Corrections on convicted and imprisoned sex offenders is as follows:

Offenders often refuse to admit their crimes or take responsibility for their unacceptable behaviors. According to the “research” denial can be described as a spectrum of behaviors that includes denial of the acts, denial of fantasy and planning, denial of responsibility for the acts, denial of the seriousness of behaviors, denial of internal guilt, and denial of the difficulty in changing abusive patterns.

Treatment providers in Colorado operate on the fundamental assumption that, before treatment can be effective, sex offenders must work through denial and admit to their sexual assaults and offending behaviors.

Further, regarding denial specifically, the SOMB Standards require offenders who remain in denial six months after the start of supervision to be terminated and returned to prison. Sex offenders who did not participate in prison treatment may have been denying their crime for many years. This entrenched denial may take longer than six months to crack. Those offenders who remain in denial and who committed crimes before mandatory parole was enacted are likely to return to prison and finish their sentences there, eventually returning to the community with no supervision.

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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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