Repeat Sex Offender in Utah

A Provo man who was arrested for multiple sexual charges against a young child turned out to be a repeat sex offender, registered both times in the state of Utah.

Sexual abuse of a child

Photo by: Victor

Photo by: Victor

56 year old Roger Lowell Falkner of Provo Utah was arrested after a young child came forward and told police Falkner had sexually abused her. When confronted with the charges, Falkner verified everything the little girl had told police and was booked into the Utah County Jail on multiple charges.

Repeat sex offender

This incident was not the first time Falkner had been charged with sexual offenses; in fact, Falkner was a convicted repeat sex offender in the state of Utah. According to Family Watchdog, his first conviction was in December of 1992 for second degree felony sexual abuse of a child. Nearly 13 years later in September of 2005, he was convicted of third degree attempted forcible sexual abuse. Now 12 years later he faces a first degree felony for sodomy on a child; three second degree felonies for sexual abuse of a child, dealing harmful material to a minor, and exploitation of a minor; he also faces a third degree felony for lewdness.

Recidivism rate of sex offenders

Repeat Sex Offender

Photo by: Ken Teegardin

Regrettably, there are times when a person convicted of a sex crime is not successfully rehabilitated and becomes a repeat sex offender with new sexual charges against them. Fortunately, a document put forth by the Utah Department of Corrections & Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice in 2010 portrays that repeat offenders, or recidivism, isn’t as common as people think. Although the number of sex offenders under the watch of the Department of Corrections has continued to increase over the years, most of those who are arrested after being released are arrested because of “technical violations of the conditions of parole, not new criminal behavior”.

Sex offender treatment programs

The Utah Department of Corrections notes that strict probation as well as the state of Utah’s sex offender program is to thank for the lower rate of repeat offenders. They shared the results of a study conducted over the course of up to 26 years of “388 offenders of a felony sex offense who were treated in the Bonneville Community Corrections Center program between 1979 and 1994, [including] both successful program completers and failures” and indicated that “83% of the offenders had no new criminal convictions during the entire follow-up period. “ The UDC document then went on to proclaim that “successful completers of treatment were significantly less likely to have any form of recidivism that those who failed- successful treatment completers had a 26% lower recidivism rate than non-completers. If the treatment programs are so successful, why would someone such as Roger Falkner continue on to be repeat sex offender?

Program funding

Photo by: Kevin Cortopassi

Photo by: Kevin Cortopassi

Sadly, for a program that has been proven to work to rehabilitate sex offenders, it has not received the funding needed to keep up with the demand. Regardless of inflation, the sex offender treatment program in Utah hasn’t seen an increase in funding for over twenty years. Instead, they have lost one of their major facilities to house inmates who are incarcerated for sexual offenses and awaiting the program. Now, those convicted of a sexual offense are dispersed among the prison population while they sit on waiting list pending treatment. Hopefully they will be able to receive the help they need before their time is served and they are back in the community. Although there has been no news of increased funding for the sex offender treatment programs, there are changes being made to fix the program so it is more effective for those inmates who are participating. Perhaps these changes will help reduce another person like Falkner from becoming a repeat sex offender and ruining a victim’s life as well as their own. For more information on charges for sexual offenses or for defense and treatment options for a repeat sex offender, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Do Sex Crimes Receive Too Harsh of Punishments in Utah?

Utah is known for being too tough on many crimes such as drugs, yet few question whether or not other offenses such as sex crimes are receiving harsh punishments as well.

Leniency for some, not for others

Photo by: eflon

Photo by: eflon

Utah is making strides to reduce the penalties for offenses such as drug possession, yet those arrested for sex crimes can usually expect to receive exceptionally harsh punishments with no public outcry for leniency. Sex offenders receive no mercy in court, and everyone seems happy to lock them up and throw away the key. Although sex crimes are very serious charges and should carry punishments, there are some things to consider before locking offenders away for life.

Prison population

One of the reasons House Bill 348 was signed was to help decrease the prison population by reducing the number of drug offenders taking up room. While those arrested for drug crimes have faced unfair punishments, the prison population won’t necessarily decrease with the drug offenders gone. Instead the prisons will be filled to capacity with those serving lengthy sentences for murder or sex crimes. According to the Utah Department of Corrections (UDC), “Nearly one-third of the inmates in Utah’s prison system are serving time for a sexual offense.” This number of sex offenders in prison has been increasing and will continue to do so until the prisons are at full capacity; then what?

Mandatory prison sentences for sex crimes

Photo by: Chris Potter

Photo by: Chris Potter

While everyone else is getting out early or having reduced sentences to start, those in prison for sex crimes will be there for an extended length of time. A person with no previous criminal record that is convicted of a sex crime will spend anywhere from 5 years to life in prison. Utah Code 76-3-406 adds regarding those charged with sex crimes ranging from aggravated sexual assault to rape, “probation shall not be granted, the execution or imposition of sentence shall not be suspended, the court shall not enter a judgment for a lower category of offense, and hospitalization shall not be ordered, the effect of which would in any way shorten the prison sentence for any person who commits a capital felony or a first degree felony [of various sex crimes]”. In other words, they can go to prison and stay there.

Lack of treatment programs

While many sex offenders wait out their lengthy prison sentences, most will not be able to partake in the much needed Sex Offender Treatment Program to help them “control urges and impulses” as the UDC aims to do to help rehabilitate them. While the State of Utah will dish out millions to house inmates imprisoned for sex crimes, they are not increasing funding for the sex offender programs that will help treat these inmates by giving them the therapeutic and behavioral support they need. In fact:

• According to a briefing by the Utah State Legislature in 2011, “the last new funding for prison sex offender treatment programming was in 1996” twenty years ago!

• At that time of that briefing, the Utah State legislature stated “the department of corrections [was] funded for approximately 250 sex offender treatment slots” but had nearly 2,000 offenders who were incarcerated for sex crimes. The number of sex offenders has increased in five years, with treatment remaining stagnant.

• While not outwardly stating so, sex offender treatment may in fact be decreasing or as UDC called “a demand coupled with a lack of resources”. In October of 2015, the Special Services Dormitory which housed inmates who were “awaiting or undergoing sex offender treatment” was closed because of staffing issues. The inmates were then absorbed back into the general inmate population with a lower chance of receiving treatment.

The one-third of Utah’s prison population that consists of those convicted of sex crimes are not getting the help they need to be rehabilitated when their far distant release date nears. They are practically set up to fail.

Low recidivism rate

Arrested for Sex Crimes

Photo by: Office of Public Affairs

Even with the odds against them, those mostly first time offenders convicted of sex crimes have a surprisingly low recidivism rate. The Sex Offender Treatment Report 2010 stated that 43% of sex offender parolees returned to jail within a year. 87% of those returning to jail did so because of “technical violations of the conditions of parole, not new criminal behavior.” Only 12.3% returned for committing another crime. While the recidivism rate for sex offenders is already low, graduation from a treatment program dropped that recidivism rate even lower. Those that graduation from a Sex Offender Treatment Program only had a recidivism rate of 19.5%; 26% lower than those who didn’t complete treatment. The majority of those returning were also rearrested for simple technical violations of their parole.

Treatment and parole most effective

While many Utah residents wish to see those convicted of sex crimes spend a lifetime in jail, there are other options such as treatment and parole that are proven to be more effective. By reducing penalties and sentencing while in turn increasing funding for the Sex Offender Treatment Program, taxpayers will end up saving millions in the long run and Utah prisons will not become overrun by those serving life sentences for first time sex crimes.

Halfway House Fugitives in Utah

There is a growing concern in Utah over multiple fugitives who have walked away from a halfway house in Salt Lake City Utah and violently reoffended within the last several months.

Roaming the streets

Photo by: Thomas Leuthard

Photo by: Thomas Leuthard

Between September 2015 and now, there have been three known violent fugitives from a halfway house in Salt Lake City called Fortitude Treatment Center. All three of these fugitives were in the headlines after behaving aggressively towards the public. One took the life of a Unified Police Department officer in January.

Loss of an officer

44 year old Officer Douglas Barney was shot and killed last month while pursuing a fugitive involved in a hit and run accident. Officer Barney received a fatal gunshot to the head while another officer was shot multiple times but miraculously survived. 31 year Old Cory Lee Henderson, the man that killed Officer Barney, disappeared from the Fortitude Treatment Center in Salt Lake City. Henderson had been missing from the halfway house for less than a month when he took the life of Officer Barney, father of three and cancer survivor.

More AWOL parolees

Photo by: Seniju

Photo by: Seniju

Henderson’s desertion of the treatment center came less than four months after another fugitive, Robert Richard Berger, left the Fortitude Treatment Center and burglarized and violently attacked and stabbed a Salt Lake City woman in her home before he was shot and killed. From the same halfway house as Henderson and Berger came yet one more violent reoffender, 29 year old Tommy Burnham, who is currently on the run for ramming a police car after a high speed chase that stretched through multiple cities in the Salt Lake Valley.

Late night search

These three reoffenders all had one thing in common: they all left the Fortitude Treatment Center and never returned. Following the most recent fugitive reoffender incident, an extensive early morning search was done of the halfway house. Of the over 100 offenders searched, the AP&P discovered 18 were either testing positive for drugs or violating their parole. There was also an community search by the AP&P that turned up nearly a dozen offenders who were also fugitives from the Fortitude Treatment Center. Most of these fugitives were returned to prison.

Halfway houses in Utah

Photo by: Craig Sunter

Photo by: Craig Sunter

The Utah Department of Corrections has five halfway houses known as community correctional centers throughout the northern half of Utah; three of these centers are for men and two for women. These halfway houses are to help offenders transition to life on the other side of the bars. According to the UDC website, “ These halfway houses are designed to help offenders who may not have a place to go when they leave prison, need additional treatment as they transition back into the community or are struggling and at risk of returning to jail or prison.” Regarding those who are struggling, the website also states that at least two of these centers, the Atherton Community Treatment Center for Women and the Fortitude Treatment Center for men, are specifically for offenders who have already violated their probation or parole.

Good Intentions

Although the UDC claims that in the Fortitude Treatment Center, “the offender is subject to tighter restrictions” and “agents actively monitor an offender”, there are apparently complications with this halfway house which holds over 300 offenders, nearly double the capacity of any other halfway house in Utah. While all these community correctional centers in Utah are wonderful for transitioning when run correctly, they are dangerous to the community when offenders slip through the cracks. Offenders, especially those prone to reoffend, should be monitored more cautiously and reported immediately if unable to locate. Unfortunately, glitches with halfway houses such as the Fortitude could potentially cause issues down the road such as closures for other halfway houses that currently run efficiently. This would be devastating for those offenders who would have benefited from the transitioning centers.