- Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah prison officials are scrambling to reform the sex-offender treatment program after an audit found serious flaws in the system that treats nearly a third of the prison population.

New programs for Spanish-speakers and developmentally disabled inmates are being established, corrections authorities told lawmakers.

In addition, treatment will be offered seven days a week rather than five, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/2rAJslh).

The changes are designed to tackle a backlog that has left inmates waiting months for treatment when they would otherwise be eligible for parole, the state audit found.

The delays also drive up costs for taxpayers because the state prison population has a relatively high portion of sex offenders and most of them must complete treatment before they can be released.

About 114 inmates complete the treatment every year, with each inmate’s treatment taking about 18 months.

The audit released in April also found that staff don’t use the most current treatment practices or keep records about performance and progress.

The prison is stopping use of the penile plethysmograph - an outdated system designed to gauge sexual arousal - that is now considered intrusive and inaccurate.

Department of Corrections Executive Director Rollin Cook updated lawmakers on the reforms last week along with Victor Kersey, a program director tasked with reforming the system.

Kersey plans to start conducting regular internal audits of the programs’ effectiveness, something that was rare in the past.

“We need the chance to get this program right,” Cook said. “We need to get this system running, and moving in the right direction.”

Rep. Eric Hutchings, a Kearns Republican, said many inmates and their families have contacted him about the issue, so he’s glad to see reforms underway.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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