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Legal Issues and Court Cases:
                           affecting sex offenders
Hi Folks, how are you today?
It is our intent to create a respectful environment for understanding and healing, a Discussion-Safety-Zone for Related Topics, while maintaining our Visitors' Zones-of-Privacy, and to interact on a non-judgmental basis. Today far too many communities fail to create these safety-zones!

9-2004 Commentary:
New "Statistics" from Florida's "Civil Commitment" program again prove,
that "Sex Offenders" do not have a high recidivism rate!

On Sep't 6, 2004, a very astute reporter, Bill Cotterell, Political Editor of the Tallahaasee Democrat, in his article "Sex criminals face long wait: EVALUATING INMATES" reported certain facts about Florida's civil commitment detainees.

It appears that Florida's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), has reviewed the civil commitment hearings process, and found a significant delay before the actual hearing, warranting legislative action. A report detailing the flaws was issued in August of 2004. [10] The above news article outlines the facts of that report. The following seemingly unimportant comments are the focus of our Commentary:

Page 3 of that August 2004 report comments:
"The length of time that offenders are spending in detained status is significant. According to our analysis, detained offenders had spent an average of 916 days awaiting commitment proceedings.

Page 4 of that August 2004 report comments:
"However, we believe it is feasible and desirable to assess other aspects of the screening process, including the outcomes of the thousands of individuals screened for the program and determined ineligible who have since been incarcerated for sexually violent crimes and use this information to improve the screening process. Our analysis disclosed that 5% (577) of the 12,005 offenders who were released at various stages of the evaluation process and not found to meet the sexually violent predator criteria, subsequently were re-arrested for serious sex offenses, such as sexual assault and felony sex offenses against children, and 127, or 1% have been incarcerated for such crimes. These results suggest that the program may benefit from revisiting these cases to determine if systemic improvements would help to further identify individuals who present a threat to public safety." p4 of report.
Bringing these facts together, 916 days is 2.5-years, 12,005 offenders who just finished their prison sentence, each was held an average of 2.5-years beyond their sentence illegally. This is a crisis, a manifest injustice! Due process, as it relates to one's physical liberty, must have a reasonable time element to it, in Florida there is none; it is infinity!

While it is true that, the focus of the 2004 OPPAGA Report IS to reduce that time period, that was also the focus of the OPPAGA Report in 2000. [11] What has been done, originally the time frame was 45-days to complete the process, then the legislature increased the time to 180-days in 2002, and required DOC referral 18 months before the end of the inmates sentence. It still has not been met in 2004.

In society if anyone was to detain another person for 5-minutes they would be criminally charged with something akin to kidnapping. Why are their no rules for the state? Yes, the US Supreme court has ruled the "concept of Civil Commitment" constitutional, but it has never held "the indefinite holding of a person beyond their will," constitutional. Is it time for a Writ of Habeas Corpus?

While we are sure if that were raised in court, then the issue of public safety would be presented in an effort to override any such release of a sex offender. Alas, we do have a response: First, OPPAGA 2000 Report, pg-1, stated that only 6% of those assessed (then 2,808, with 4,377 referred) are actually found to met the criteria. [11] Their 2004 comment above shows 12,005 offenders were released because they did not meet the criteria. Next, 577 (5%) of them were later re-arrested and 127 (1%) were re-convicted of a sex crime. Recidivism issue:

FACT:.Of 9,691 sex offenders released from prison in 15 states, 5.3% were re-arrested and 3.5% were re-convicted of another sex offense within 3-years of release. (This is the second lowest recidivism rate of all crimes) The 9,691 offenders represented two-thirds of all sex offenders released nationwide. Source: US Dep't of Justice, 2003. [12]
The reality is, there is no more of a public safety issue for these folks, than there is for any offender being released anywhere in the nation. The courts and parole boards (if paroled) have spoken, it is time for these folks to go back to society.

Department of Justice (DoJ) Sex Offender Recidivism Study:
This DoJ 3-year followup study (published in November 2003) of 9,691 male sex offenders released in 15 states in 1994 is the largest study ever performed. It includes -all- sex offenders released from prison in 15 states, which are: California, Arizona, Maryland, North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Delaware, Minnesota, Oregon, Florida, New Jersey, Texas, Illinois, New York and Virginia and represents two-thirds of all sex offenders released nationwide in 1994. This study documents "recidivism" as measured by 1) Rates of REARREST; 2) Rates of RECONVICTION; -and- 3) Rates of REIMPRISONMENT during the 3-year followup period.

Clearly the DoJ study is today's standard to compare to. It represents two-thirds of all sex offenders released from prison, all kinds of sex offenders (rapists, child molesters, pedophiles, etc.) are represented within these offenders. An excellent cross sectional view.

US Supreme Court Recognizes Therapy to Rehabilitate Sex Offenders:
First in KANSAS v. HENDRICKS then in McKUNE, WARDEN, et al. v. LILE ,
"(a) The SATP (Sex Abuse Treatment Program) is supported by the legitimate penological objective of rehabilitation. The SATP lasts 18 months; involves substantial daily counseling; and helps inmates address sexual addiction, understand the thoughts, feelings, and behavior dynamics that precede their offenses, and develop relapse prevention skills. Pp. 4-7. Justices Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas" [Lile was about prison therapy],
and their progeny, the US Supreme court held that sex offender therapy is the method by which states rehabilitate sex offenders. All civil commitment schemes, commitment following sentences, would have been declared unconstitutional as further punishment, if states did not provide therapy for sex offenders. Therapy rehabilitates sex offenders!

Therapy While in Prison:
In 2000 the Colorado Department of Corrections prepared a 50-State Study of prison sex offender therapy programs, it shows, that of the 15 states within the DoJ study, three do not have a prison sex offender therapy program: California, Florida and Oregon. [13] In three states, while sex offenders are in prison serving their sentence, they are denied the opportunity to rehabilitate through a good sex offender therapy program!
The entire principle of sentencing someone to prison, excepting to death or a life sentence is, so that, the person may be rehabilitated before being released back into society.

When the state fails to provide the means (therapy is critical to sex offenders: US Supreme Court) the state thwarts the principle of sentencing, and clearly effects public safety.

Whether or not a sex offender would participate in the program is unimportant, first the program must be there, and in Florida there is none.

Experts have shown that treatment of sex offenders reduces recidivism. In 1999, Margaret A. Alexander conducted an analysis of nearly 11,000 sex offenders, and the results indicated that, 7.2% of the treated offenders were rearrested, while 17.6% of the untreated offenders were rearrested within 1-5 year followup. Likewise R.K.Hanson, in 2000 study, showed 10% of treated offenders reoffended while 17% of the untreated offenders reoffended.

Colorado showed 12 of the 15 states within the DoJ study provided treatment to their inmates, and even combining the 3 states that provided no treatment produced a net 3.5% recidivism rate. One can only wonder how much lower it could have been, with treatment in all states.

Interestingly, the issue of "Civil Commitment Detainees and recidivism," in a slightly different context, came up recently in another state, California, which also has no therapy for folks while in prison. see New "Recidivism Statistics" from California's "Civil Commitment" program again prove, that "Sex Offenders" do not have a high recidivism rate! 2004 July. eAdvocate

It appears that the civil commitment process, in Florida (and California) is further punishment, especially since the state failed to provide therapy during the offenders' prison sentences. Remembering that the judge did sentence folks to prison, in part, for rehabilitation and the state failed to provide the means.

Finally, while OPPAGA shows 12,005 folks in total were held, OPPAGA also reported in 2000 (last page) that 77 of them were juveniles, who knows how many since then?

10: OPPAGA Progress Report August 2004 Report No. 04-63, Sexually Violent Predator Program Is Reducing Backlog, But Still Not Timely Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability an office of the Florida Legislature. The Sexually Violent Predator Program is not meeting statutory deadlines for processing cases. Legal delays often result in offenders spending extended periods of detention while awaiting the outcome of the commitment process. Because commitment processes have not been completed prior to the end of prison terms, the state has spent $15 million to detain persons who were later released rather than committed. However, the program is reducing the backlog of persons waiting to complete the commitment process. A small portion (5%) of offenders screened out by the commitment process and released have been subsequently arrested for new sex crimes; the program should revisit these cases to determine if any systemic improvements can be made in the assessment and commitment process. The program has strengthened experience and education requirements for private evaluators who conduct the clinical and annual sexually violent predator evaluations, as we recommended.

11: February 2000 Report No. 99-36 The Sexually Violent Predator Program's Assessment Process Continues to Evolve by Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability an office of the Florida Legislature

12: Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994." Pub: 11/2003 US Department of Justice.

13: State Sex Offender Treatment Programs: 50 State Survey, (495 pg PDF file) Prepared by Paula Wenger, Consultant for the Colorado Department of Corrections (released November 2000). Formal sex offender treatment programs are being conducted in 39 states. There were 154,518 sex offenders incarcerated in 43 states that provided statistics, among those states sex offenders represented 26% of the total prison population. Thirty four states provided the duration of their programs: 28 offer 1+ years, of those, 19 are 3-year programs, and 8 are over 3 years long. States were unanimous in using cognitive behavioral treatment with relapse prevention as the focus. The states without any prison sex offender therapy program are: Alabama, California, Delaware, Dist. of Columbia, Florida, Idaho (under consideration), Maine, Mississippi, Nevada (informal one running), Oregon, West Virginia (under review), and Wyoming (in transition).

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