April 11, 2015

Tracking non-compliant sex offender tricky

See back story: High-risk sex offender released in Burlington, homeless and Police: Richard Laws released into Burlington

UPDATE 4-11/12/14: Convicted sex offender, Richard Laws, re-arrested (Cited for driving on suspended license) and Convicted sex offender Richard Laws rearrested, released again 4-12: ACLU: Posters weaken Laws’ reintegration chances and 4-14: Family: Protect us from Richard Laws
4-10-15 Vermont:

Laws refused treatment that would have reprogrammed sex behavior

WATERBURY, Vt. —The whereabouts of Richard Laws, the untreated, homeless sex offender are being monitored closely. He's said to have visited Burlington, Barre and possibly Winooski since he was released.

"The more often we can receive updates the more accurate the information is," said Jeffrey Wallin, the director of the Vermont Crime Information Center.

Laws, labeled "high risk" and deemed "non-compliant" on Vermont's Sex Offender Registry, refused rehabilitative treatment in prison.

Tom Powell is a psychologist and the former clinical director for the state's Department of Corrections. He says the treatment available to sex offenders serving time is invasive, but virtually reprograms their behavior around sexuality.

"You can come out of one of those groups pretty beat up if you've gone in and not made an effort," Powell said.

Laws served his maximum sentence, but could have served less time if he participated in the therapeutic programming. His refusal to do so is a major factor of his high risk title.

But Powell said the likelihood Laws will re-offend is not much greater than someone who did get treatment.

"Sexual recidivism is actually a low rate re-offense. The average is about 15 percent across all populations treated and untreated, and people who have actually gone through treatment recidivated at a 5 percent or less rate over a follow-up period," Powell said.

Highly emotional cases like the kidnapping, sexual assault and death of Brooke Bennett, carried out by Michael Jacques in 2008, are part of the reason Powell said the state is extra cautious about sex offender reform.

"The hesitancy to take chances, and the desire for surety comes directly from the trauma that case imposed on Vermont's psyche," Powell said.

In actuality, Laws is one of almost 20 homeless sex offenders the registry said are currently living in the state.

"It is a fair amount of work for the registry to stay on top of those individuals and gather that information but we do it everyday, every business day and make sure that the covering agency has all the information the covering agency needs particularly if the individual doesn't check in," Powell said. ..Source.. by Hannah McDonald

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