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Legislature Wants To Reshape Thinking

February 2, 1989

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Mild electrical shocks and ammonia vapors could be used in efforts to reshape the thinking of some sex offenders under two measures approved Thursday by the state House.

The House voted 96-0 for a joint resolution calling for the Department of Corrections to institute a program aimed at curing convicted sex offenders of deviant urges.

The House then voted unanimously for a bill requiring the program to be installed at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center. Both measures now go to the Senate.

The program, still being formulated by the Corrections Department, could use aversion therapy, group counseling or other components, said spokesman Jerry Massie.

Massie said Corrections officials hope to have the program in place in the next six months.

He said legislative approval is not required, but Corrections officials hope the Legislature will appropriate funds for the program. No funding was included in the measures passed Thursday.

Rep. Jeff Hamilton, author of the joint resolution, said the recidivism rate for sex offenders is about 80 percent where no treatment program is offered, but it drops to from 5 percent to 33 percent after participation in a program.

″In one study, it was shown that 53 offenders committed over 25,000 offenses. Consequently, if there is even a 50 percent (cure), you reduce victimization by some 12,000,″ he said.

Participation in the program would be voluntary, and Hamilton estimated it could be implemented at a cost of $500,000 or less.

Eleven states now have treatment programs for sex offenders, and Massie said Corrections officials have reviewed nine or 10 of them.

An Oregon program uses aversion therapy, including mild electric shocks and ammonia fumes, to correct inmates when they fall into deviant ways of thinking.

″These are proven methods of treatment that have been around a lot longer than most people realize,″ said Robert Freeman-Longo, the developer of Oregon’s program and a consultant to the Oklahoma Corrections Department.

″It’s not ‘Clockwork Orange’ treatment,″ he said, referring to a movie in which aversion therapy was used to reshape a violent inmate’s thinking.

But Massie said too much emphasis has been placed on the aversion therapy aspect of the program. ″That’s just one component,″ he said.

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