The Colorado State Capitol on the first day of the legislative session in Denver on Jan. 13, 2021. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

For over 40 years, researchers have documented and detailed the intentional tactics that sex offenders often use to shift blame and avoid accountability for their choice to victimize children, women and men. This unique group of criminals thrives on deception and hiding in plain sight. 

According to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), for every 1,000 sex assaults, only 25 offenders will ever spend a day in jail. It is hard to catch a sexual predator and even harder to get one convicted and sent to prison.

When courageous survivors of these crimes come forward, and law enforcement and prosecutors overcome challenges to obtain convictions, the haunting specter remains – what happens when these offenders are released into the community

Notably, roughly 70% of those convicted of the most serious sex offenses in Colorado, including the rape of children, serve their sentences through community-based alternatives to incarceration – they are in your neighborhoods.

The responsibility to protect our communities through strict supervision and treatment standards is the province of the state’s Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB). The SOMB is expressly tasked with the “evaluation, identification, treatment, management and monitoring” of sex offenders with a legal mandate to “prevent offenders from reoffending and enhance the protection of victims and potential victims.” 

Currently, the SOMB has diverse membership and provides strong and effective measures to monitor and supervise offenders, though it needs to address some failures in how it operates.

This issue is in front of the legislature in the final weeks of the current session. House Bill 1320, which calls for continuing the board’s functions until 2027, is designed to implement the recommendations of the 2019 Sunset Review of the board by the Department of Regulatory Agencies.

In short, the legitimate scope of this bill is limited to keeping this board in place and to make the reasonable process improvements recommended by the DORA report.

But sex offenders and their advocates seek to use this bill as an opening to soften the supervision and treatment requirements placed upon these offenders by introducing a completely new version of the bill that will replace anything the public can find online until the date of a hearing on Tuesday, June 1, in the House Judiciary Committee.

If your legislators allow this effort to go beyond the purposefully, limited scope of what the bill is supposed to do, the new law will result in the watering down of the current safeguards in place that serve to protect the most vulnerable in our communities from re-offense by sex offenders. 

It will also increase the number of sex offenders released into your communities without completing the treatment that would reduce their likelihood to reoffend. 

Do not let this happen.

In Colorado, we provide sex offenders a path to rehabilitation and redemption. From a national perspective, this is a very progressive approach. An integral part of this opportunity requires that an offender admit their conduct to successfully engage in risk-reducing treatment. 

This simple concept of accountability for the harm done to survivors is inexplicably a topic of debate. This is just one of several fundamental pillars of accountability and responsible supervision standards the sex offender advocates are seeking to unwind.

What is being proposed by some in our state legislature is an affront to survivors of sexual assault and a threat to our communities. 

Contact your legislators today to prevent these changes from moving forward and ensure a safer and healthier Colorado for our children and neighbors.

Sterling Harris is chief deputy director of the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance. Jessica Dotter is sexual assault resource prosecutor for the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council. Tom Raynes is the executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.

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Special to The Colorado Sun