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She Broke Rules While Treating a Dangerous Sex Offender

Shannon Smith Sanders was allowed to resign
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 19, 2019 5:15 PM CST
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This June 16, 2010 file photo shows the exterior of the Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders (CCUSO) unit, that is part of the Cherokee Mental Health Institute in Cherokee, Iowa.   (AP Photo/Steve Pope, File)
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(Newser) – A psychologist in charge of treating Iowa’s most dangerous sex offenders violated policies by developing an improperly close relationship with a violent predator who became obsessed with her, the AP has learned. Shannon Smith Sanders, who directed the treatment program at the Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders in Cherokee, committed boundary violations and did special favors for the patient, according to a Sept. 16 termination letter obtained under Iowa’s open records law. Sanders, 38, shared secrets with the patient, did not apply the institution’s rules to him, and lied to protect him, the letter said. She also failed to report that the patient was having personal feelings for her, creating potential security problems for the institution.

It houses about 120 sexually violent predators who have been ordered by the courts to be locked up for treatment following completion of their prison terms. The letter did not identify the patient, but attorney Jason Dunn told the AP that it was his client, Jeffrey Goodwin, who has been locked up since committing a 1988 sexual assault in Keokuk. Dunn alleged that Sanders encouraged Goodwin, 55, to masturbate in front of her; that they watched pornography together at least once; and that they developed an "emotional affair" that included sexual discussions. Goodwin filed a complaint against Sanders in June after coming to believe that he was being manipulated by the psychologist, Dunn said. Sanders was permitted to resign after a three-month investigation into the complaint, documents show.

(Read more sex offenders stories.)

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