Can a sex offender's medical treatments keep kids safe? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Can a sex offender's medical treatments keep kids safe?

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HYDE PARK, Vt. -

Many Hyde Park parents aren't pleased that convicted sex offender Timothy Szad chose their town to start his life after prison. Corrections says the 53-year-old is likely to reoffend and would target 12-year-old boys.

"So, how can I honestly feel they're safe out on that playground?" dad Mark Dvorak said Wednesday.

Szad served his max sentence for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a Vermont boy. Now, Hyde Park law enforcement is trying to be frank with concerned citizens.

"He currently is taking, and he told me to use the term Depo-Provera shots, which are a male castration, a form of male castration," Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux said Wednesday.

"For cases where people are fearful of what they might do, by based on what they have done in the past, sometimes it's seen as a reasonable suggestion," said Tom Powell, a forensic psychologist.

Powell has worked extensively with incarcerated sex offenders. He calls these monthly injections a "deep-end option" for high-risk offenders. The treatment is not widely used in Vermont, but he says other states that have civil confinement use it routinely.

In men, anti-androgen medications like Depo-Provera are commonly used to treat prostate cancer and those undergoing gender reassignment. But for sexual offenders, the medication reduces male testosterone, weakening sexual desires.

Hyde Park parents were skeptical, but Powell says the medication is effective as long as it's combined with a broader treatment program.

"It would be a mistake to overly rely upon it because while it does take care of some of the physiological aspects, problematic aspects of sex offending, it does not deal with any of the mental aspects of it," Powell said.

Although Szad is a free man, he has voluntarily decided to check in with law enforcement on a daily basis and subject himself to treatment. Signs, Powell says, that should make the community feel a bit safer.

"It does demonstrate intent on the part of the person who's taking it, to not offend," Powell said. "This is a sign for me of a person who's really trying to get it right."

The treatment is typically covered by insurance. Police say Szad has state coverage. Taxpayers footing the bill did not sit well with many residents, but Powell says it's important to consider the alternative.

"If it's a question of spending a little bit of money on some medication to make somebody safer or locking them up to the tune of $40,000 per year, no contest," Powell said.

Powell estimates there are only about 10 doctors in the state willing to prescribe and administer this treatment. Szad is seeing a physician in southern Vermont, but Hyde Park leaders are working to find him medical care closer to home.

There are more than 1,400 sex offenders in the state. And as for the rate of recidivism, Powell says only 10 to 15 percent of sex offenders actually re-offend. Of those who do, two-thirds commit non-sexual crimes.

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