Susan Walker . . . As the mother of a son convicted of sexual assault and sentenced under Colorado’s 1998 Lifetime Act, it is clear to me why Boulder District Judge Patrick Butler chose two years of jail with work release and 20 years’ probation instead of prison for Austin James Wilkerson.
Wilkerson, a former University of Colorado student, was convicted earlier this year of sexually assaulting a drunken woman he was pretending to care for.
A recent Denver Post editorial rightly pointed out that “a judge facing an offender like Wilkerson fears that should he sentence him to prison, the young man could remain there far longer than his sentence — even for life.” While the Colorado Department of Corrections has made gains in its quest to keep up with treatment needs, there is still a huge wait list.
Jail with work release and sex offender intensive supervised probation for 20 years is not a light sentence. It includes two years of jail incarceration, and provides the toughest probation experience anywhere for any crime. The containment model utilized by the state’s Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) offers no wiggle room. A supervising officer, a sex-offense-specific therapist, and a polygrapher make up the team that ensures the person under supervision plays by the rules or faces revocation and prison. Many do not make it because of revocation, natural death or suicide.
The tools of the probation trade include safety plans, polygraphs, sanctions for not keeping up with treatment and supervision costs, ankle bracelets and regular urine checks for presence of drugs and alcohol and more. They also include plethysmographs.
A plethysmograph is an instrument Judge John Kane recently compared to “such pseudoscientific practices as phrenology and physiogamy.” Men must drop their pants and a wire is hooked to their penis while they are read blatantly suggestive words and shown deviant pictures, all in an effort to see what material causes an erection.
(Please read full opinion in the Denver Post)
Susan Walker is director of the Coalition for Sexual Offense Restoration in Denver, Colorado, a state affiliate of RSOL.