Sex Offender Treatment Programs in the Federal Bureau of Prisons

Sex Offender Treatment Programs in the Federal Bureau of Prisons

By Christopher Zoukis

The Federal Bureau of Prisons incarcerates over 14,500 sex offenders within its roughly 200 facilities. This equates to approximately eight percent of the federal prison population. Increasingly, those convicted of federal sexual offenses are being housed at Sex Offender Management Program (SOMP) facilities which have a larger sex offender population and offer treatment programs to this unique population.

The Bureau of Prisons offers three varieties of treatment programs for sex offenders: residential, non-residential, and adjunct. These treatment programs are only offered at SOMP facilities, which include:

-USP Tucson, Arizona (high)

-USP Marion, Illinois (medium)

-FCI Marianna, Florida (medium)

-FCI Petersburg, Virginia (medium)

-FCI Elkton, Ohio (low)

-FCI Englewood, Colorado (low)

-FCI Seagoville, Texas (low)

-FMC Devens, Massachusetts (administrative)

-FMC Carswell, Texas (administrative)

The most intensive treatment program is the Residential Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP-R), which is currently available at FMC Devens to those deemed to be high risk. This unit-based program utilizes the cognitive behavioral therapy model, which is the same model used in the Bureau of Prisons’ Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program (RDAP). SOTP-R lasts 12 to 18 months and requires participants to advance through several phases which collectively include 400 hours of programming delivered ten to twelve hours a week. According to FBOP Program Statement 5324.10, Sex Offender Treatment Programs, at section 3.1, the phases include the following elements:

-Phase I: This is the assessment phase where inmates are assessed through the use of commercial tests (e.g., MMPI-II), intensive psychosexual interviews, and history recording.

-Phase II: This is the core treatment phase where inmates participate in various process groups. This is the meat of the Residential Sex Offender Treatment Program.

-Phase III: This is the transition phase where inmates fulfill final staff objectives through specialized groups that focus on the specific needs of individual treatment participants.

The Non-Residential Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP-NR) is offered at most SOMP facilities. Only those designated low to moderate risk are allowed to participate in this treatment program. Generally speaking, the SOTP-NR utilizes the same phase approach as the residential program, though inmates are not housed in a specific treatment-focused housing unit. In Phase I, participants become acquainted with the program model and get used to the group setting and required disclosures. Phase II builds on Phase I and includes additional process groups. Phase III is the maintenance phase, which requires far fewer group sessions and generally lasts until the inmate is released from custody.

The Adjunct Non-Residential Sex Offender Treatment Program, which is authorized by PS 5324.10 at section 3.4.5, is highly localized. Some SOMP facilities offer this program, while others do not. Program offerings differ significantly at every SOMP institution. Generally, this program allows inmates with a significant amount of time remaining on their sentences to engage in sex offender treatment while they wait for SOTP-NR or SOTP-R eligibility. Also, inmates who are deemed to be too high risk for the SOTP-NR, but who are not interested in the SOTP-R, can take this program at their SOMP facility.

Participating in sex offender treatment programs in the Bureau of Prisons can be a good idea for those incarcerated for a sexual offense. The key, though, is to be very careful of what is disclosed to treatment staff and fellow inmates alike. The programs exist to help sex offenders get the help that they need, but they also provide an opportunity for Psychology Department staff to better evaluate participants for potential civil commitment. While this is not the programs’ intended purpose, it is an ancillary effect. As such, participants should be careful about what they disclose in both the groups and individual treatment settings. Note, however, that if an inmate is already deemed a high risk by Bureau of Prisons staff, then participating in and completing a sex offender treatment program could actually lower the risk of civil commitment significantly.

About the Author:

Christopher Zoukis is the author of the upcoming Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017, from which portions of this article were excerpted. His Prison Law Blog was recently named an American Bar Association Top 100 Blawg for lawyers. He can be found online at