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.

  • Sam

    The artical is superficial and sensationalistic. First you imply that they are releasing too many patients. Then you imply it costs too much to keep them confined. Do your homework. Without Sand Ridge, these guys would be out on the streets and a danger to the public (mostly children and women). The Sex offender treatment they got in prison was not adequate, or they refused treatment in prison. Only the most dangerous offenders end up at Sand Ridge. Sure it costs a lot to keep them confined, but the law says there needs to be good care and treatment or it’s unconstitutional to keep them locked up after their prison sentence is over.

  • Fred

    This is bull, most of these people have been double jeopardized. They have did their time and now they have to do more time on top of it. Why not put these guys away for double their time to begin with if you are going to do them this way. I understand that some of the things that they have done is very horrible but how can you sentence them to more time they they already received. It would be like someone having to pay for a traffic ticket twice because they “feel” they are likely to do it again. If you let these guys out and they do it again it would be cheaper then going and spending twice as long and half of the time at this place which is very expensive.People need to be more aware of the surroundings their are bad people everywhere and most of them are at large, not locked up.

    • Tony

      Fred….I will limit what I say for many reasons. …HOWEVER…. your statement of ” if you let them out and they do it again it would be cheaper,………”…..are you effin kidding me??????? It’s a very controversial subject, sandridge….chapter 980…..etc…but…make that statement to your kids…your wife…or in the mirror after you are the victim……..THINK BEFORE YOU TALK/TYPE…..

  • Kari Stone

    This article is a good start, but has huge limitations, many caused by limits set by Sand Ridge, and some due to the broad range of people locked up there. I personally know someone who spent sixteen years in various Wisconsin facilities for sex offenders including Sand Ridge after completing his sentence of one year as a thirteen year old boy. His horrible offense? He played around consensually with a twelve year old girl without even having sex. While this is wrong, did he deserve all the years of “treatments” designed for adults who prey sexually on children, the abuse by staff, or the lost opportunities? Out the past seven years, he has not offended against anyone, has worked at the few jobs that would hire him, and lived with the severe PTSD that his experiences there directly caused. Wisconsin could have legally held him under the 980 law for the rest of his life. They are doing this right now to many, many men who’s sole crime is doing something similar only once as a child. This article says none of this, nor that less than 10% of one time child “offenders” are EVER released and all have experiences like my friend’s. The psychologists at and associated with centers like Sand Ridge attached a long list of psychiatric diagnoses to him, as they do all the rest, NONE of which he had on outside examination one month after finally winning an extended legal battle that resulted in his release and all of which he was diagnosed with up until that same day. I could go on, but then this would be much too long a reply.