The Bottom Line: Free to Reoffend
MILWAUKEE-- There are laws in Wisconsin that are designed to protect you and your family. One of them says a judge can order a convicted sex offender to get professional treatment and counseling once they are released from prison.
CBS 58 has learned that's not happening. Some convicted sex offenders who are living in Milwaukee County neighborhoods are not getting the post prison treatment judges believe they need, because of enormous delays in the system.
\"I can understand a delay in terms of getting someone treatment in 45 days or 60 days, but delays of six months or nine months are completely unacceptable,\" said Milwaukee County Judge David Borowski.
On June 7, 2013, Judge Borowski was presiding over a series of Probation Review Hearings. It was then, when he realized that three out of four convicted sex offenders in his courtroom were not receiving the treatment he mandated them to get months earlier.
“If they're not getting their treatment, that increases their risk to the community, it increases their risk of reoffending,\" said Judge Borowski.
That's exactly what happened with defendant Jason Abercrombie. He's a 32-year old man from Milwaukee, who plead guilty to exposing himself to a 14-year old girl. He served a 60 day sentence before being placed on probation. Judge Borowski ordered him to receive treatment right away, but for some reason, he had to wait four and a half months before he was referred to the treatment program. While he was waiting, Milwaukee Police say he reoffended. This time, they say Abercrombie sexually assaulted a 3-year old girl.
\"Obviously someone who's on a probation needs to be watched by the department of corrections, that's what we trust they are doing as a judge,\" said Borowski.
So why are there delays? Judge Borowski says the Department of Corrections, or DOC, is to blame. \"It's obviously the DOC's responsibility to follow through on that and the DOC is obviously not doing their job.\"
We asked the Department of Corrections about the reported delays. They preferred not to speak on camera, but a public affairs representative from the department offered some answers via e-mail.
In the e-mail, the DOC admits there was a \"backlog in getting offenders into group.\" They also added that the problem has been corrected by “modifying their intake and assessment procedures, to align with best practices in correctional programs.”
The response from the DOC doesn't explain why the delays happened in the first place.
Heather Hlavka, an Assistant Professor at Marquette University, learned about the delays in treatment while attending the probation review hearings as part of a research project.
\"It's an issue of public safety. The public assumes that they're getting treatment if they're sentenced to treatment,\" said Hlavka.
During those hearings, Hlavka also found out there's only one agency that offers the treatment services for sex offenders in Milwaukee County. That agency, is Henger Enterprises, based out of Milwaukee.
\"I was rather shocked that there's only one provider. There are hundreds of referrals, 300, 400, 500 referrals a year for probation for sexually based offenses,” said Judge Borowski.
Henger Enterprises is also the only agency to bid on the contract, which is worth nearly $400,000.
CBS 58's Sandra Torres spoke with Joe Henger, the owner of Henger Enterprises over the phone. Henger did not want to speak on camera, but did admit there were delays and said he recently signed a new contract with the DOC that is allowing him to fix the problem.
Over the phone, he said, “it was a little glitch, not even, a learning curve of the new process and it's taken care of.\"
Henger also wanted to assure CBS 58 that over the past 12 years since he's had the contract with the DOC, recidivism rates have gone down in Milwaukee County. Meaning, fewer offenders are reoffending after going through his program. However, we have not seen any documents from the DOC or Henger Enterprises to prove that.
Henger insists the delays are now being taken care of and from recent court transcripts, it appears the delays are getting better.
There is still the question of who is going to hold the DOC and Henger Enterprises accountable and make sure these delays don't happen again. After making calls to other state agencies, we didn't get an answer.
Bottom line: The last defense in making sure sex offenders are getting this treatment is Judge Borowski. He began requiring probation review hearing for convicted sex offenders one year ago. If it wasn't for these hearings, these delay issues would have never come to light.