February 2, 2014

Photos: Inside Sand Ridge, where the sexually violent are treated

About this series

The Center’s Nora Hertel teamed up with Gilman Halsted of Wisconsin Public Radio on “Rethinking Sex Offenders,” a three-day series examining Wisconsin’s changing methods of dealing with sexually violent persons. Find stories, audio, photos and data at this page: Project: Rethinking Sex Offenders.

Center reporter Nora Hertel and Wisconsin Public Radio reporter Gilman Halsted were the first journalists since 2007 to tour Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center, the Mauston facility that houses sex offenders who have been committed to the state. Below is a photographic tour shot and compiled by Hertel.

The facility houses about 350 men under Chapter 980, the 1994 sexually violent persons law. Staff members evaluate and treat the patients in group therapy sessions — unless they refuse treatment.

The state pays $404 a day — that’s $147,460 a year — to house each offender. The fiscal 2012 budget for Sand Ridge was $50.9 million.

The facility was built in 2001 and expanded its capacity in 2009, adding a wing to the building. But the population has not grown as expected: The state has updated the assessment models that determine which offenders are at risk of reoffending, so patients are now leaving the facility at a faster rate than when the law first passed 20 years ago. For this reason, 100 of the 500 beds in the facility are not staffed or occupied by patients.

In the slideshow, you will see room after room eerily devoid of people. Off-camera, patients walked some of the halls freely, but reporters’ access was limited. Officials granted access on the condition that the news organizations identify offenders to whom it facilitated access by first name only. Reporters could only photograph patients who were selected by Sand Ridge officials and who consented to photos. Patients they encountered along the way were not allowed to talk to them.