Special Sexual Offender Sentencing Alternative (SSOSA)
Most suspects who are charged with sexually abusing children plead guilty. [i] By pleading guilty, suspects basically admit what they did. That takes away the need for a jury trial. The main advantage to victims and other witnesses is that they will not have to testify.
One of the main reasons sexual offenders plead guilty is to get a chance to get into the SSOSA program. SSOSA stands for Special Sexual Offender Sentencing Alternative. The Child and Victim Advocate or the Deputy Prosecutor will talk with you about SSOSA, but here are a few basic facts.
- Most defendants who are charged with a sexual offense for the first time are possible candidates for a SSOSA. Those charged with First or Second Degree Rapes (which are different than Rape of a Child) are not eligible.
- All sex offenders who receive SSOSAs have to complete a sexual deviancy evaluation by a therapist certified by the state to do that work. Then they must be accepted into treatment. The evaluator must assure the court that they believe the suspect is at low risk to re-offend during their treatment time, and that they will get better from the treatment.
- When accepted into the SSOSA program, offenders participate in treatment for about three years and are under the supervision of the Department of Corrections. They have suspended sentences that fall within what is called the normal range. They may also serve a jail sentence of up to six months.
- Sex offenders who receive SSOSAs live in their community, except for any jail sentences they serve. They participate in treatment and can hold a job or go to school. This allows them to keep up some of their responsibilities.
- They have many specific rules set by the Court and by their Correction Officers. These rules include not having any contact with their victims. They usually cannot have contact with any other children without supervision, and sometimes not at all.
- When sex offenders who are on SSOSA programs break rules or court orders, they may be reprimanded, be returned to jail for a period of time, or be sent to prison to serve out their full sentences. The decisions are made by Judges who listen to recommendations of the therapist, the Department of Corrections, and the Prosecutor’s Office.
- When sex offenders in the SSOSA program are brought in for hearings about rule infractions, victims can be notified if they wish, and can attend the hearings. If they wish, this office will ask the Judge to let them make a statement in court.
- Victims or victim’s family members can join with the Prosecutors in making SSOSA recommendations when they agree with them. They may also disagree and make some other recommendation, such as for prison terms. Deputy Prosecutors or Child Advocates will tell them how to make their own recommendations to the Judges.
An eight-year study of SSOSAs showed that sexual offenders who received and successfully completed this sentence are less likely than other convicted sexual offenders to be arrested again for a new sexual offense. They are also less likely to be arrested again for other crimes.[ii]
[i] Many suspects enter a Stipulated Trial rather than Plead Guilty. Like a guilty plea, it eliminates the need for a jury trial and assures victims and witnesses that they do not have to testify. The advantage of a Stipulated Trial over a Guilty Plea for the defendant is that he or she does not have to go to jail during the evaluation period.
[ii] Song, Lin with Milloy, Cheryl and Schram, Donna, “The Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative: A follow-up study of Recidivism”, November 1993.