In Colorado, sex offenders are sentenced pursuant to the Lifetime Supervision Of Sex Offenders Act. A person convicted and sentenced to the Department Of Corrections under the Act receives what is called an indeterminate sentence. This means at the time they are sentenced, no date is set for their release. The person receives a minimum sentence with a set number of years and can be held “up to a maximum of the sex offender’s natural life.”
Almost 1800 people in Colorado have been sentenced this way from “x years to life.” In one of the more egregious cases a person sentenced ” two years to life” served over 18 years in the Department of Corrections. Currently, approximately 26% of the inmate population are classified S5 which indicates the person has a sex offense.
A person classified S5 is ordinarily referred to the Sex Offense Treatment And Monitoring Program but not until they are within four years of their parole eligibility date. People with long sentences do not get on the waiting list for treatment until near the end of their sentence, if ever. Parole eligibility actually means very little to these people as they cannot be released from prison until they successfully complete sex offender treatment.
In 2016 the Colorado State Auditor reported that nearly 2000 defendants were waiting on the Global Referral List for entry into the treatment program at a cost of $44 million per year at taxpayer expense and all were beyond their parole eligibility date with a projection that it would take eight years to address the backlog.
Over the six month period ending on July 31, 2019 the waiting list averaged approximately 1500 people with a monthly average of 186 people on the waiting list who were still in prison serving sentences and were beyond their parole eligibility date but were still on the waiting list to begin treatment.
One might question how the state can hold people in prison for the reason that they have not completed sex offender treatment and at the same time make the sex offender treatment unavailable? Interestingly, in June 2019 the Colorado Attorney General settled a federal lawsuit brought by an inmate incarcerated under the Lifetime Supervision Act who had not been given access to sex offender treatment until after his parole eligibility date for $50,000 even though the man was able to enroll in treatment while the lawsuit was pending.
If the state does not quickly address the problem there is a team of civil rights lawyer waiting to file suit on behalf of approximately 200 potential inmates that are past their parole eligibility date but have not been given treatment. This is a Due Process violation that has already been recognized by the federal district court in Denver. A similar outcome in 200 cases would cost the state $10 million.