My path to formal Sex Offender Treatment (SOTP-Non Residential)
When I was sentenced in January 2013, the presiding judge stated his reasoning and announced my sentence. There was no mention, no mandates or recommendations, of alcohol and drug treatment (RDAP) or SOTP. After I prodded my attorney and he inquired, the judge added a recommendation for alcohol treatment. I found it curious that the stated reasoning and the sentence imposed implied to me a need for treatment and there was no recommendation or mandate. I was utilizing my time productively to work on my own “independent study” with books that my support network researched and had sent to me to help me get a head start on treatment.
Subsequently, I initially entered BOP custody at a facility that was incompatible with my offense category. I spent 5 months in the SHU there, in Administrative Segregation, awaiting transfer. I was unable to continue my independent study due to incoming mail prohibitions, and the weekly book cart selection didn’t include self-help books. My determination for treatment was undaunted, though. It was at the initial facility that a BOP Psychologist met with me and conducted a diagnostic evaluation which established my Borderline Personality Disorder and Major Depression diagnoses.
In July 2013, I was transferred to USP Marion, a two-fold Godsend for its proximity to my home and support network, and its designation as one of the BOP’s SOTP facilities.
Psychology Dept. staff conducted an intake screening soon after my arrival and I expressed my interest in SOTP. I was told that I wasn’t “…eligible because my projected release date (PRD)…(was) too far away…” and priority was given to people who were within 5 years of release. That stoked my curiosity from the sentencing hearing and prompted added determination for my treatment “campaign”. Counseling/therapy was available, though, and offered, so I accepted that opportunity. I resolved that “no” and “ineligible” were unacceptable, so I adopted a strategy of relentless and persistent pursuit of treatment. That strategy entailed repeatedly reminding the Psychology Dept. staff of my desire for treatment and applying myself intently in the other programs I participated in to let my efforts to learn and grow demonstrate my sincerity and dedication to positive change.
I also underwent a Psychological Evaluation here that matched the initial evaluation diagnosis and assessment of “low risk of recidivism”, along with notes about abandonment issues, suicidal ideation, and anxiety. That marked three Psychological Evaluations in less than 18 months, prior to any formal treatment or therapy/counseling, that assessed me as a low risk of recidivism – one private sector Psychologist, and two BOP Psychologists whose evaluations and risk assessments concurred on my low risk of recidivism and likely benefit from rehabilitation/treatment.
I began individual therapy/counseling in early 2014 and Dialectical Behavior Therapy group (DBT) in February 2015. Regularly scheduled program commitments afforded me interactions with Psychology Department staff. I capitalized on the opportunities, when timing and circumstances were appropriate, to re-express my commitment and desire for acceptance into SOTP-NR. I was clear and direct – there was no “backup plan”, no “treatment or bust” thinking. I wanted treatment and I was willing to earn an opportunity by way of my work ethic, attitude, and determination.
I submitted formal requests to the Psychology Dept. Chief, Dr. P., and to the head of the SOTP program, Dr. C. Both denied my requests because my projected release was too far away. I also submitted requests to them for the more intensive Residential SOTP (SOTP-R). Those requests were denied because, as it was explained to me by Dr. C., my risk level, Low, did not fit the eligibility criteria for SOTP-R, which is specialized for those whose risk level is assessed as High, and placement in SOTP-R would be “over-treatment” for me and that would be less effective for my assessed risk level. So SOTP-R was a no-go.
I learned that there was a Pre-Treatment group that functioned as an “introduction” to formal SOTP-NR and expressed my interest in and willingness to participate in that. My persistence paid off. The Pre-Treatment facilitator, Mrs. D., called me in and asked if I would be interested in joining the Pre-Treatment as an “anchor”, someone who would be a steady presence in the group as others joined and progressed to the formal treatment program. I emphatically accepted and thanked her for the opportunity.
Over the next 3-1/2 years, I committed myself 100% to Pre-Treatment and applied myself as if it was the formal treatment program. Throughout that time I was simultaneously in therapy/counseling, although my Primary Care Provider changed a few times until I was assigned to Dr. W., who was coincidentally the facilitator of SOTP-NR. Also, I continued my ongoing “campaign” to get into formal SOTP-NR.
In November 2018, at a regular session with Dr. W., she informed me that new guidance had been passed down from the Regional Office about eligibility for SOTP-NR this allowed the Psychology Dept. to set aside projected release dates and identify people for SOTP-NR placement. She said this new guidance had been brought up at a weekly Psych. Dept. staff meeting and multiple staff members raised their hands and said I would jump at that. Dr. W. then asked me if I wanted to enroll in formal SOTP-NR, and tears rolled down my face as I told her, “Absolutely.”
In November 2018, I began formal SOTP-NR and completed it in November 2019. Upon completion of the formal SOTP-NR, each person undergoes a review of their treatment progress and participation and is offered the opportunity to continue treatment in the Follow-Up Group. I was again emphatic about accepting a Follow-Up Group placement and reiterated my desire to continue treatment work indefinitely. Dr. W. also told me that my “…treatment participation was exceptional.”
Today, I am still in the Follow-Up Group, continuing treatment. I am still in therapy/counseling, where my improvement has warranted a downgraded Care Level and subsequent reduced need for the frequency of sessions. And I am still seeking more treatment opportunities here. I’ve made it known, just as I did before, that I am receptive and willing to participate in any pilot programs that might come along and any self-guided/independent study opportunities that might arise.
In February of this year, I was one of a few Follow-Up Group members chosen to participate in a Mentoring/Peer Support Program to help a group that was entering Phase 2 of SOTP-NR. I seized on the opportunity when it came up, as it aligned directly with my long-term goals of helping others and service to others. And, I saw it as an opportunity to “refresh” my own learning in formal SOTP-NR. That ended in May when that group completed formal SOTP-NR and has now joined the Follow-Up group. I wound up learning some new things and seeing some perspectives that I hadn’t realized before, and I’m grateful to have gotten that opportunity.
My release plan includes my intention to continue treatment indefinitely post-release. I learned so much in each treatment opportunity, and I’m not bashful about my sense of pride in myself that I did not give up on my treatment goals. Since my arrest, I’ve had a lot of feelings that a lot of people gave up on me, and I had NO MANDATE, NO OBLIGATION OR REQUIREMENT to pursue and participate in treatment but I CHOSE TO PURSUE IT, and I completed it with a glowing review. The sense of pride that I accomplished something, and BETTERED myself in spite of the feelings of being thrown away, helps me reflect and refer to when hurdles appear in my path to accomplishing other goals and remind me that I can overcome hurdles because I’ve seen me do it. If others choose to give up on me, that’s their choice. I’m not giving up on me, that’s MY choice.