Monday, March 18, 2013

VA - Protecting public from sex offenders

Original Article


Privatization of sex-offender treatment programs might not head everyone’s list of significant issues, but it’s highly important to civil libertarians.

Indeed, the very practice of keeping sex offenders behind bars after their criminal sentences have been served is an issue fraught with civil rights and constitutional questions. After someone has “paid his debt to society,” isn’t he free to go about his lawful business?

Yes…and no.

Because recidivism among sex offenders is high, states have found another way to keep offenders off the streets, called “civil commitment.” Once an offender has served his criminal sentence, he can be brought before a civil court to determine whether he remains a threat to society. If the court says yes, the offender is sent to a secured rehabilitation facility.
- If you are defining recidivism as any new crime, then yes it may be high due to the draconian nature of the laws and ex-offenders being arrested for technicalities, but if you are talking about re-offense of another sex crime, that statistic is low and there are many studies out there to prove that, if you'd look.

The practice protects society from offenders who likely would commit additional crimes. But because there is so much public fear about sex offenders, pushing prosecutors and courts into action, it also risks targeting those who are not a threat. And it blurs lines between criminal and civil authority, as well as between justice and injustice.
- Well the fear is due to the media, politicians and other organizations who exploit fear, children and ex-offenders for their own personal gain. Due you believe everything you read on the Internet? I sure hope not.

Courts have held that the practice is constitutional if continued incarceration is for treatment and not for punishment.
- So, in the state of Virginia, how many have been committed and how many have been released?  It seems that would be one thing you would have looked into.

It was the punishment issue that caused Virginia to reject a proposal to transfer Virginia’s treatment facility from public to private management.

Rather like the first private proposal to take over operation of Virginia’s public port, two bids to take over the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation came to the state unsolicited.

One bid was rejected because officials decided that the private prisons operator focused too much on incarceration and not enough on treatment (“Va. won’t privatize sex offender treatment program,” The Daily Progress, March 16). This was precisely the concern that civil libertarians had raised when the privatization issue first surfaced.

The second bid was rejected because it was too costly, proposing to charge $2.4 million a year more than Virginia spends to run the facility itself. Public management is more efficient that private enterprise in this case.

Across the nation, meanwhile, incarcerating sex offenders for treatment has become a huge expense. States began these programs when their economies were thriving. But a combination of economic decline and mission creep — the tendency to remand more and more offenders to these programs under relaxed standards — has rendered the programs more expensive than anticipated. Yet leaders fear the political backlash that eliminating or reducing them would cause.
- Of course, they don't have the balls to defend the Constitution and people's rights due to the mass hysteria they have helped spread.

So far, Virginia seems to have avoided this particular hazard. But it is worth noting that the danger of escalating costs exists — especially if Virginia falls prey to the temptation of increasing civil commitments due to political pressure rather than impartial justice.


kikipt said...

It's interesting that the same voices that howl about high taxes don't mind the government shelling out millions for such questionable programs - as long as it's not THEIR taxes paying for it. Next we will hear about how the "offenders" themselves should be paying for it, regardless of the fact that we have rendered them incapable of finding employment or housing. Is there anyone with a brain in government anywhere in this country?

Mark said...

kikipt You are correct! Well said. And believe me, the state will find the cheapest bidder to privatize which will mean the new provider will provide "minimal" treatment. In short, just enough to keep it constitutional so as to not get sued for maintaining a penal colony instead of "treatment facility.. Do I know where I speak from? Just look at the Massachusetts Treatment Center which originally housed a total of 180 single rooms over 20 years ago; now it holds over 500 in the same building - run exclusively by the department of correction totally under prison conditions and the private "treatment" provider is FHS. Most of whom are women "therapists." (that is another subject) offer "treatment." And there, many of the men just languish their lives away. Now, I suspect if the department of corrections has not yet done so, they are now, or will very shortly go the state senate and cry for ANOTHER BUILDING to ease "treatment" conditions of over crowding to the tune of around 96-100 cool million. And of course this will mean "additional" staff such as guards, medical personnel and so forth. See how it all falls in place because of a sex offender???? So at least for me, the Virginia story herein is a major yawn; and they will get what they want to protect "our" children and the tax payers will foot the bill too. And, "render unto Ceaser what is Ceaser's. . . ."