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Some question expansion of state's sex-offender facility

The state is about to expand its secure treatment facility for sex offenders, and some wonder if it's worth it.

The Sand Ridge facility in Mauston is scheduled to double its capacity to 600 beds by 2011, at a cost of $37.5 million.

Almost 375 sex offenders have had indefinite treatment since 1994, after serving in prison.

But only 12 people have earned permanent releases from Sand Ridge.

Director Steve Watters tells the Wisconsin State Journal he has many patients who suffer from a lack of concentration.

They're not required to be in treatment and 84 percent get about six hours a week. That's three times more than what they used to get.

A board of experts which oversees the facility recommended the longer treatment time.

Watters says the typical Sand Ridge patient is white, middle-aged and never married. They're men, typically with long histories of sex offenses.

One of every five have some sort of mental disability, and histories of drug and alcohol abuse are common.

Sharon Patrick, a social worker who serves on the Sand Ridge steering committee, says most patients are over-socialized.

She believes they'd be better off contributing to a community under strong supervision.

But David Thornton, treatment director, says the center can help make big improvements for patients who really want to make them.