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     Civil Commitment:      Concerns      In Society      In Commitment
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-- Civil Commitment of Sex Offenders Following Their Sentence --
-- CONCERNS (Position, Discussion and Artticles) --

Our Position and Stance on Civil Commitment
Simply put Before-During-After civil commitment! For our discussion we must break down the stages because there are different rights and hearings attribable to each stage. We will also assign names (Detainee-Committee-Releasee) to folks descriptive of the stage they are in. This will also help because different states either assign no name, making understanding of what is happening a problem, or use different names for those stages. We strive for consistency.

Before Commitment: This being the stage before actual commitment and during the initial commitment hearing. The person is usually still in prison, or is being held in a county jail awaiting hearing, or is being held in a special place at the commitment facility. For our discussions we call these folks "detainees."

During Commitment: This is the stage after the initial commitment hearing, and the person is now being held in a "treatment" facility technically receiving treatment. For our discussions we call these folks "committees."

After Commitment: This is probably the most interesting stage, this is from the point that a "release from commitment hearing (which orders release)" is held, and through release back into society. For our discussions we call these folks "releasees."

We have organized our information into two sections: In Society -and- In Commitment! Within each of these sections you will find that we have cataloged news articles and following them significant court cases.

In Society: Information organized in this section pertains to "Before Commitment" and "After Commitment." Our use of the term "In Society" only signifies that these folks are not yet LEGALLY COMMITTED to a civil commitment facility. We realize that they may still be in a prison, or held in a county jail, or at a commitment facility in a special place. We have also heard of some folks being in society awaiting their "Initial Commitment Hearing" but have not been able to confirm this.

In Commitment: Information organized in this section pertains to the "During Commitment" folks. These folks are being held in a treatment facility, technically receiving treatment. We do realize that there are many who have refused treatment and are simply being warehoused awaiting their "release from commitment hearing (which orders release)."

This is a work in progress and we are adding to it daily, so please bear with us!
Many folks have submitted articles and cases which we have yet to organize.
We thank them immensely!

Juvenile "Civil Commitment"

Just recently one state, Pennsylvania, has introduced a "Juvenile Civil Commitment" law. Until the facts surrounding this law develops we will keep that information below only.

» 7-26-03 Pennsylvania: JUVENILE Civil Commitment Law! Keep dangerous juvenile sex offenders in custody after 21: The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has passed legislation designed to help ensure that juvenile sex offenders are not released while they remain a danger to the community. Senate Bill 521 had already cleared the Senate and now heads to the governor's desk to be signed into law. We urge the governor to sign it. (EDITORIAL Public Opinion)

» 6-18-03 Pennsylvania: JUVENILE Civil Commitment Law!The Pennsylvania Senate is taking action to close a loophole for violent sexual predators. It would require juveniles, who are listed as violent sex offenders to remain detained for up to 10 years after they turn 21. The offenders would be subject to annual reviews before they are released. Brightbill said his measure now goes to the House, where it's expected to receive easy passage. Brightbill said if Gov. Ed Rendell signs it, Pennsylvania would be the only state in the nation with this kind of law. (WGAL CLICK to read current bill version!

--- General News Articles About Civil Commitment ---
---- Florida ----
» 12-25 Florida: Pacts Give Sex Offenders, Prosecutors An Option! TAMPA - In an effort to avoid potential pitfalls in the Jimmy Ryce Act, state attorneys in a few Florida counties, including Hillsborough, have been signing civil- court contracts with sex offenders. .. Rather than allowing that often-unconditional release, prosecutors have started a program where offenders can sign a contract stipulating conditions of release. The contracts allow offenders to return to society without a jury's approval. The contracts also provide the prosecutors a way to keep tabs on offenders after they leave the treatment center.

Experts like Leo Cotter, who has a doctorate in counseling, say legislators erred when they drafted the Ryce Act in 1999. Florida is one of 14 states that have civil commitment laws for sexual offenders. Under Florida's act, Cotter said, the release process becomes ``the battle of the experts.'' One side's doctors say the sexual offender is rehabilitated. The other side's doctors says he's not.

Because the contracts were formed through individual circuit courts out of necessity and not through the Legislature as part of the Ryce Act, not all Florida counties offer them. For example, a commitment center resident who was arrested in Hillsborough County might be offered a contract for release. A resident who was arrested in Pinellas County would not. (THOMAS W. KRAUSE)
» 12-18 Florida: Center described as substandard prison: Treatment center has walls! ARCADIA -- The word "hope" is a relative term to the 431 residents locked up in Florida Civil Commitment Center for sexually violent predators.

The center is located in a compound that in the past has served as a World War I training base, a mental hospital and a maximum security state prison. It is located amid a vast cow pasture 10 miles east of Arcadia. The Department of Children and Families created it to carry out Florida's 1998 Jimmy Ryce Act. The act calls for the agency to screen all sex offenders in prisons to identify those who have mental or personality disorders that make them likely to re-offend if released.

The Legislature, in the preamble to the civil commitment law, recognized that rehabilitation was unlikely to occur "in the prison setting." At the civil commitment center, however, a prison setting is unmistakable. (GREG MARTIN, Staff Writer )
» 12-17 Florida: More sex detainees (civil commitment) could be released, experts say: System drives the problem underground! Those who assume sexual offenders can't rehabilitate themselves in their communities are wrong, say at least two psychological counselors who have been treating sex offenders since the 1980s.

"I wouldn't have been doing this for the past 25 years if I didn't believe you can," said Ben Taylor, a licensed psychological counselor from Jacksonville who specializes in sex offenders. But, society's drive to lock away sex offenders as if they are subhuman "drives the problem underground," said Don Sweeney, a licensed psychological counselor in Tampa.

Offenders don't seek help and families don't turn in members who are committing incest for fear they will be incarcerated indefinitely, he said. Sweeney has been running twice-weekly group therapy sessions for sex offenders since 1982. He said, to his knowledge, only about 1 percent of his clients commit more sex crimes.

'Social experiment': Sweeney, however, sees the Jimmy Ryce Act as a "social experiment" to see if a problem can be solved by locking up offenders. "Is it fair to punish, criminalize and torture people who are sick?" he asked. "Just locking them up isn't the answer." (GREG MARTIN, Staff Writer)
*** CATCH-22 ***
» CC » 12-7 Florida: Docs 'saddened' over jailing of releasee: Case shows program (Civil Commitment) failing, Cauley says! The case of Hershel Meadows, who was jailed on parole violation one week after a jury set him free from a sexual predator detention center, illustrates a major flaw in the system: There's no way out. That's according to at least two sex offender counselors who formerly worked at Florida Civil Commitment Center near Arcadia.

Dr. Dean Cauley, a psychologist, and Ben Taylor, a psychological counselor, said they were saddened by Meadows' arrest Tuesday. They also cited a lack of incentives for detainees to participate in the treatment program at the Florida Civil Commitment Center in DeSoto County.

Meadows was arrested on a warrant for violation of parole, according to Kim Fluharty, general counsel for the parole commission. The warrant dates back to April, when Meadows' parole officer cited him for failing to complete a sex offender treatment program as required by the conditions of his parole from prison.

Meadows was released from prison in August 1999 after serving a 10-year sentence on two counts of attempted lewd acts on a child under 12. However, Meadows argues he's been locked up in the civil commitment center ever since under Florida's Jimmy Ryce Act. (Effectively he was doing his parole as a civil commitment patient)

Meadows declined to participate in the center's treatment program. He contends he's not a violent predator, so the sexual predator treatment program would have been inappropriate. Also, if he participated, any disclosures or polygraph tests would be submitted to the state prosecutor seeking to have him committed, he pointed out. Currently, out of 431 detainees, only 154 are undergoing treatment. (by GREG MARTIN, Staff Writer)
Someone should study the Americans with Disabilities Act. While that Act excludes sex offenders per se, it includes ANYONE who is being discriminated against based upon a PERCEIVED DISABILITY. Sex Offenders are PERCEIVED to have a mental abnormality and/or personality disorder pursuant to law!

» CC » 12-7 Florida: Defense lawyers targeting tests used to detain molesters! WEST PALM BEACH -- The supreme courts of the United States and Florida have already ruled that Florida's Jimmy Ryce Act and other "sexual predator" statutes are constitutional. With constitutionality no longer arguable, defense lawyers are now attacking the tests used by psychologists and psychiatrists to predict whether a person will commit another sex crime..

Experts labeled them "junk science" last month in the trial of Hershel Meadows, a West Palm Beach man who successfully fought the state's effort to hold him indefinitely in a "civil commitment" center. Meadows, who spent four years there waiting for a trial on whether he should be committed, walked out of the Palm Beach County Courthouse a free man on Nov. 26.

Illustrating the Catch-22 nature of the Ryce Act, Meadows was rearrested this week when he went to Tallahassee to check on his parole status. Meadows was charged with violating conditions of his release from prison by not signing up for treatment as a violent sexual predator while he was in the center, even though a Palm Beach County jury said he wasn't a violent sexual predator.

Tests are no better than "mere chance" at predicting the likelihood of a sex offender committing another crime, forensic psychologist Terence Campbell of Detroit testified at Meadows' trial. Neither the tests nor clinical exams are statistically as reliable as simply using the base rate of recidivism, Campbell said. "If the base rate of recidivism (for sex offenders) is 12 percent," he said, "and if you simply concluded that none of them would ever do it again, you would be right 88 percent of the time."

D'Errico used one of the half-dozen tests criticized by other experts at the trial, the Rapid Risk Assessment of Sex Offender Recidivism. "You give those tests just to screen the guy," D'Errico said in an interview. "They're some help, like if you get a really, really high score, they're better than chance. But if you get a score in the mid-range or low, they're not really telling you anything. "He got a 3, which is a medium-range, so it's not really much help. If it's anything less than a 5, it's a crapshoot." (by Mary McLachlin, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer)
» CC »11-27-03 Florida: Sex offender fights extension of plea deal under Ryce Act! A deal is a deal, says convicted sex offender Larry Riddle. He was sentenced to 10 years of prison and five years of probation in a plea agreement with prosecutors. In exchange, Riddle pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct on a child under 16, which occurred in 1993. Riddle, 37, served his time and was about to be released from prison when prosecutors announced they were going to try to get him committed under the Jimmy Ryce Act, which gives prosecutors broad discretion to ask a judge and jury to lock up convicted sex offenders if experts agree they may offend again. The Ryce law was enacted while Riddle was in prison.

Broward Circuit Judge Stanton Kaplan, who has a reputation for being tough but fair, agreed with Riddle and released him on probation under the original terms of the deal. But on Wednesday, an appeals court sided with prosecutors. The Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach ruled that prosecutors can proceed with civil commitment proceedings against Riddle, who is free. His last address is in Davie.

Riddle just wants prosecutors to stick to the terms of the agreement they made in court, said his attorney, Ian Seldin, an assistant public defender in Palm Beach County. "Our argument is that contract law applies to plea agreements. You can't undo the deal," Seldin said.

The Florida Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments next week on two similar cases. (by Paula McMahon, Staff Writer)

» CC » 5-14-04 Florida: Sex offenders who made plea deals with prosecutors can still be locked up for treatment under the Jimmy Ryce Act after they have served their time, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday! The state's highest court rejected challenges from defendants who argued that a deal is a deal and that the terms of their plea agreements should not be changed after prosecutors and judges have signed off on them.

Lawyers for the defendants argued that prosecutors were violating the terms of their plea bargains by seeking to confine them indefinitely after they have served their agreed prison sentences. Under the Ryce Act, which became effective on Jan. 1, 1999, prosecutors can go to civil court and ask a judge and jury to commit convicted sex offenders who are found to be sexually violent predators at risk of re-offending. If they are committed, they can be held for an indefinite period. Inmates in the detention centers are supposed to get treatment, but several lawyers say that a shortage of state funds has prevented their clients from getting the promised treatment.

The ruling in the cases of two defendants, Morris Harris and Donald Gentes, has statewide implications. Both men pleaded no contest to lewd and lascivious assault years before the Ryce Act became law. But before they were released from prison to start serving terms of probation, prosecutors began proceedings to lock them up for treatment. The court ruled that the plea agreement in the criminal case was an event separate from the state's decision to later seek civil commitment. "[Because] Harris and Gentes executed their plea agreements before the Ryce Act was enacted, neither party could have contemplated the possibility of involuntary civil commitment," the court wrote.

Local attorneys who represent offenders affected by the ruling said they were disappointed. "I think it flies in the face of a negotiated plea offer," said Jayme Cassidy, an assistant public defender in Broward who handles Ryce Act cases. "Who can believe what the state says in the future when it makes plea agreements when we have now learned that those terms can later change?" (Paula McMahon)....more....
To read the complete court decision: Florida -v- Harris & Gentes, Florida Supreme Court cases: SC02-2172 SC02-2440 (19 pg PDF file).

» CC »11-27-03 Florida: State's bid to commit man as sexual predator fails! WEST PALM BEACH -- Hershel Meadows arrived at the Palm Beach County Courthouse Wednesday morning as a prisoner and left at the end of the day a free man -- for the first time in 12 years. After an eight-day trial, a circuit court jury took less than two hours to decide the state had not proved Meadows was a violent sexual predator who was likely to strike again if let out of a detention center for sex criminals. Circuit Judge Lucy Chernow Brown ordered him released immediately.

Defense attorney Jack Fleischman brought in experts who attacked the psychological testing and clinical interview process used to determine who should be labeled a violent sexual predator and said the state is relying on "junk science." "The jury agreed with us that the science doesn't back up what the statute calls for," Fleischman said. (by Mary McLachlin)
» CC » 11-11-03 Florida: JIMMY RYCE ACT: State's sex predator law goes too far, some argue! A three-judge panel in West Palm Beach is considering whether the state's law on sexual predators should allow prosecutors to commit someone to treatment, even if he is in prison for an offense that is not sex-related.

WEST PALM BEACH - Robert Tabor is a repeat violent criminal. Even his lawyer says ``he's not the person you want for a next-door neighbor.'' But the manner prosecutors have used to lock Tabor up indefinitely has raised a troubling question: Has the state gone too far in enforcing its sexual predator law? An appeals court heard arguments Monday that could clarify one of the most controversial elements of the Jimmy Ryce Act, which gives prosecutors broad authority to classify inmates as sexual offenders and lock them up for a treatment program that has no expiration date. The 5-year-old law is so sweeping that prosecutors have been using it indefinitely detain people who have served out their sentences for non-sexual crimes. These people, like Tabor, 46, have committed a rape or molestation decades ago, been released, and then re-arrested for some other crime not sexual in nature. (by NOAH BIERMAN)
---- Illinois ----
» CC » 12-7-03 Illinois: Sex offender wins new appeal: An appellate court will reconsider Raymond Gough’s case in light of a civil commitment law! SPRINGFIELD — An Ogle County sex offender has won a battle in the Illinois Supreme Court in his legal war, but State’s Attorney Deborah Ellis said she will “do whatever it takes” to keep Raymond Gough behind bars.

The state Supreme Court this week ordered the Elgin-based 2nd District Appellate Court to reconsider Gough’s appeal in light of its October opinion involving a state law that provides for the civil commitment of sex offenders. In that ruling, the high court said that to civilly commit a sex offender under the statute, the state must prove it is substantially probable that the person will offend again. At issue is whether prosecutors proved Gough has difficulty controlling his sexually deviant behavior. (by AARON CHAMBERS, Rockford Register Star)
» CC »12-02 Illinois: Expert Blasts Use of Polygraph Tests at Joliet Sex Offender Center! Polygraph tests used to help decide whether to free sexually violent offenders held at a state center in Joliet after finishing prison sentences are unscientific and even "biased against truthful people," according to an expert's report. There is doubt as to whether such tests "can ever be highly accurate" because they aren't "anchored to sound psychological theory," says William G. Iacono, a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota..

His report was prepared for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which is suing the state, asking improved treatment and conditions at the center for violent sexual offenders. According to another recent report prepared for the ACLU, 129 people are being held there. They are called patients and are supposed to receive treatment.

State law allows authorities to hold the offenders at the center until experts deem their treatment so successful they are unlikely to commit more sexually violent crimes. Polygraph, or lie-detector, tests play a crucial role in measuring such progress.

Iacono has served as a polygraph consultant to the congressional Office of Technology Assessment, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department, among others. In his 15-page report he expressed skepticism on whether so-called control-question tests using polygraphs are reliable. In such a test, the subject is asked control questions, such as: "Have you ever told a lie?"

Once his response to such questions is noted, he is asked more relevant questions, such as whether he has told authorities about all of the sexually violent crimes he has ever committed. Responses such as sweating palms and higher blood pressure are supposed to indicate lies. Iacono said, however, that such tests can be misleading.

He said patients are likely to attach considerable emotional weight to the relevant questions and show signs of heightened physical activity even if they are telling the truth. "Truthful examinees are often more bothered by the emotionally charged accusations in the relevant questions than in the trivial issues raised by control questions," he said. "The inadequacy of the control questions causes the (test) to be biased against truthful people." Research shows that more than 40 percent of those who tell the truth will produce symptoms that suggest they are lying, he said.

Moreover, the tests as given in Joliet could be even more suspect, Iacono said. He said just one of the center's employees is responsible for polygraphing all of the patients and that person does not record the sessions so that they can be reviewed by experts. "This entire polygraph program is in the hands of a single person whose accurate administering tests is unknown and whose errors have no way of ever being detected," he said. (by Mike Robinson, Associated Press)
» 10-22 Illinois: Attorneys don't want release of treatment report! Illinois Department of Human Services attorneys want to keep secret an expert's opinion of the state's treatment of 180 convicted sex offenders at a Joliet site where they are indefinitely confined. The lawyers filed an emergency motion Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago that said public release of the report by Dr. Fred Berlin would "seriously undermine the effectiveness" of the residents' treatment. U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber decided Tuesday to hold a hearing to determine if the report should be kept confidential.

The department also wants to keep the report from the sex offenders, who are the plaintiffs in a class-action federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union last year on conditions at the state site. "In 19 years I've never seen the government try to suppress a report even from being disclosed to the plaintiffs," ACLU attorney Benjamin Wolf said.

The ACLU lawsuit alleges the sex offenders confined in Joliet are living under punitive conditions and receiving inadequate mental health treatment.According to the state's emergency motion, Berlin toured the Joliet site and interviewed staff and residents in August 2002. Berlin, a psychologist and physician at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, found the program to be "a substantial departure from accepted practice, judgment and/or standards in the field of inpatient mental health treatment," according to court documents.

"There is a reasonable likelihood that (residents) will read the untested report and question the effectiveness of their treatment providers and confront them with its contents," the motion said. (by The Associated Press)
When did laws pass that PROHIBIT a patient (remembering these folks are not prisoners) from questioning the competence of the treatment provider or conditions of confinement?

» CC » 10-5 Illinois: State high court upholds law to keep sex offender confined! The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the state's sex offender laws in an opinion released Thursday, rejecting a suburban man's attempt to get a new hearing. But the attorney representing convicted sex offender Herbert Varner said the ruling is flawed. She plans to ask the court to reconsider its opinion, and, if that fails, she says she will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kathleen J. Hamill, Varner's attorney, said the Illinois court "missed the boat" in its decision and said another court opinion also issued Thursday appears to contradict the Varner decision.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling requires states to prove sex offenders have mental defects that make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to control their behavior. Hamill said no such specific determination was made in Varner's case. She asked the court for a new hearing and to create specific instructions for judges and juries in these cases.

The state's high court initially rejected the request, but the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the court to hear it. In an opinion authored by Justice Charles E. Freeman, the court held Thursday that the issue of inability to control behavior is already part of Illinois' law so there's no problem with Varner's commitment to the mental institution.

But Hamill pointed to another ruling issued Thursday regarding a Chicago sex offender in which the court said there must be an explicit finding that the person will strike again if not confined. She said the two rulings are not consistent and hopes the justices will reconsider. (by John Patterson Daily Herald State Government Editor)
---- Massachusetts ----
» 10-16 Massachusetts: EXPAND CIVIL COMMITMENT FOR SEX OFFENDERS (S 1005)! THE HOUSE AND SENATE. BHRC records local representatives' votes on three roll calls and local senators' votes on two roll calls from the week of October 6-10.

Senate 40-0, gave near final approval to and sent to the House a bill expanding the state's current civil commitment law that allows a judge to determine that some sexually dangerous prisoners convicted of specific sex crimes be kept locked up in treatment centers for one year to life after they complete their prison sentences.

The measure adds new crimes to the list of offenses for which the offender could be civilly committed including child pornography, kidnapping, forcing children into prostitution, open and gross lewdness and any other offense in which "the facts suggest a sexual motivation."

The proposal also makes an offender who is in prison for a non-sex-related crime eligible for civil commitment if he previously served time in prison for one of the sex-related crimes on the list.

Supporters said current law includes too many loopholes by omitting many sexual-related crimes from the list and argued that this expansion would help protect the public by ensuring that more incurable, sexually dangerous predators are kept behind bars and do not go out and commit additional sex crimes. (by Bob Katzen / Correspondent)

A careful reading of this article makes one wonder if it goes too far, beyond the original intent of civil commitment. Some of these crimes have no human victim. i.e. possession of child porn, if the possessor didn't take pics. Also, RETROACTIVE based upon prior sex offenses, under the guise of the current non-sex offense, and, "if facts suggest a sexual motivation," anything can be construed that way. TOO BROAD! The word "Predator" is the intent, but the crimes included do not indicate that! Knee-Jerk Legislation?

---- Minnesota ----
» 12-25 : State mails counties names of sex offenders for possible commitment! MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Responding to the arrest of a convicted rapist in connection with a college student's disappearance, the Minnesota Corrections Department has started sending prosecutors the names of sex offenders they might want to consider for commitment. In the past week, the state Corrections Department has sent letters to 25 county attorneys with the names of about 200 Level 3 sex offenders, those considered most likely to reoffend. Of those names, 135 have already been released... On Friday, Attorney General Mike Hatch also sent a letter to county prosecutors which spelled out procedures his office has developed to assist local prosecutors because of "the unprecedented nature" of a new Corrections Department policy. (Associated Press)
» 12-25 Minnesota: Sex-offender rules spark worry! A number of Minnesota county attorneys are expressing concern about new rules that would dump many cases of released sex offenders in their laps without the usual review from state corrections officials... The new state policy raises legal and fiscal issues that neither the state nor the counties have grappled with, say those involved. The state attorney general's office suggested last week the policy change could open the door to court challenges whose end result would be the demise of an effective program for keeping sex offenders off the street. Fabian said she hopes they can work out a better system for determining which Level 3 sex offenders, the ones mostly likely to offend again, should be recommended for "civil commitment" to a state mental hospital after they finish their prison term. (CHARLES LASZEWSKI and RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER, Pioneer Press)
» 12-25 Minnesota: Counties claim sex offender civil commitment change shifts costs! Requiring counties to perform civil commitment reviews of all Level 3 sex offenders is another cost-shift from the state, says Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom. .. Under the state’s Dangerous Persons Act, individuals deemed significantly unable to control their urges and at high-risk of reoffending can be committed to secured hospital settings indefinitely through civil court proceedings. Backstrom said the evaluation process, performed by the state until Corrections Commissioner Joan Fabian surprised county attorneys with the policy change announcement about two weeks ago, is expensive and time consuming.

There’s a lot of Level 3 offenders who are already out in the community right now,” said Backstrom. “That’s going to increase our cases.” Monica Jensen, spokesperson for the County Attorney’s Office, said on average, the civil commitment process costs up to $5,000 per case, but only to review the “reams” of medical, criminal and prison records and conduct pre-screening psychiatric evaluations. She added the costs increase as cases proceed to require the time of court officials, prosecutors and defenders. (Laura Adelmann, Thisweek Newspapers)
» 11-19 Minnesota: Lifetime Commitment: Two lawyers challenge the governor's new policy on sex offenders! "State officials look to release sex offenders." That was a front-page headline in the Star Tribune back in June. But the accompanying article described something slightly different. The story detailed the Department of Human Services' plans to begin allowing some men who have been committed after serving their prison sentences to begin gradually transitioning back into the community. Even though none of the 200 men enrolled in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program were actually being released, the story ignited a wave of sex-offender hysteria and political grandstanding.

Attorney General Mike Hatch accused the administration of freeing dangerous criminals in order to balance the budget. Gov. Tim Pawlenty responded by issuing an executive order barring state officials from releasing civilly committed sex offenders unless required by law or court order.

In theory, the men who are committed to state facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter are supposed to work their way through a therapy program and eventually be released back into society. In reality, since the sex offender program was established in 1995, not a single person has been set free.

Earlier this month, a lawsuit was filed in Ramsey County District Court seeking to have the Governor's executive order vacated, arguing that it usurps the authority of the Department of Human Services and is in conflict with state law. Eric Janus, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law, and Warren Maas, coordinator of the Hennepin County Commitment Defense Project, are representing five sex offenders named as plaintiffs. (by Paul Demko)
220 million dollars over 11 years, and only one patient has qualified for release? Should the community question this taxpayer program?
» 9-19 Minnesota: Advisory board: Changes needed in state sexual offender program! A few of the nearly 200 sexual psychopaths locked in state treatment centers should be moved into less prison-like settings and allowed back into the community through work release, an independent review committee recommends.

The five-member board found the state's sexual offender program contributes to a sense of hopelessness displayed by many of its patients, who have been declared sexually dangerous by a judge. Human Services Commissioner Kevin Goodno disagreed with the criticisms of the state's program, however, he said he would seriously consider the panel's recommendations. "We want to reassess, make sure (the program) is effective, and make sure we are ensuring the public's safety," he said.

The advisory committee -- which consists of lawyers, a retired judge and a psychologist -- was created 18 months ago when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that sexual offender patients have the same rights as patients at other psychiatric facilities. (Brainerd
---- Missouri ----
» 11-6 Missouri: Woman held as 'sexual predator' released today! Angela Coffel told her lawyer that her first stop after she gets out of the mental health facility in Farmington, Mo., later today is Ted Drewes in St. Louis for a frozen custard. Selig (her lawyer) got the order he needed today for Coffel's release after the Missouri Supreme Court returned Coffel's case last week to the Court of Appeals where a three-judge panel in March had ruled that she should be released.

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon had sought her confinement as a sexual predator after she completed her prison term and had opposed her release from Farmington. "I am extremely disappointed that the community to which Angela Coffel will return will be the testing grounds for whether she is cured of her dangerous mental health condition,'' Nixon said today.

He was referring to the appellate court ruling that found there is a lack of research nationwide on the risk of repeat crimes by female sex offenders. (by William C. Lhotka, Post-Dispatch)
---- North Dakota ----
Putting Sex Offenders, in society today, Into Prison / Civil Commitment As Soon As A Risk Assessment Shows They Are A High Risk?
» 12-23 North Dakota: N.D. to evaluate sex offenders! FARGO -- High-risk sex offenders who move to North Dakota from other states will be evaluated for civil commitment and could be forced to return to prison, Gov. John Hoeven says. The law, approved by the Legislature in 1997, allows people considered to be sexually dangerous by at least two experts to be committed indefinitely. They need not be convicted of a crime, and they can be held after any prison sentence is completed. The state currently reviews all sex offenders before they are released from North Dakota prisons, Hoeven said. But there has not been a review of offenders who come from other states, he said. (DAVE KOLPACK, Associated Press Writer)
» 12-15 North Dakota: Group to study commitment hearings for sex offenders! BISMARCK, N.D. - Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is organizing a task force to study whether North Dakota should make commitment hearings for sexual predators open to the public.

Those hearings, and many of the offenders' records, now are confidential, as is testimony during the civil commitment hearings. The hearings before a state district judge are made possible by a six-year-old law adopted by the North Dakota Legislature. It was patterned after the state's mental health commitment law, which also mandates that hearings and records be closed. (Associated Press)
---- New Jersey ----
» 11-20 New Jersey: Even a sex offender deserves fair hearing: State has gone overboard with involuntary commitments! Some sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated in prison. That's why New Jersey is one of 16 states that can commit a sex offender as a psychiatric patient after he or she has served a criminal sentence. It is an extraordinary step to protect the public. These offenders have served their time. Still, with careful attention to balancing the offender's rights against those of the public, these detentions can be justified as crime prevention. Unfortunately, the state has not found the right balance.

It was expected that the scales of justice would be tipped in favor of preventing a probable crime, shifting the burden to the convict to prove he or she can be safely released. Since implementation of the law in 1998, however, the state has shifted the scales of justice too far. In the past five years, just 11 of 302 sex offenders have proved to the satisfaction of a judge that they can be released safely. Prosecutors didn't recommend any offender for release.

The release rate might indicate the state is doing a good job of identifying high-risk offenders, such as serial rapists and child molesters. Yet The New York Times uncovered problematic procedures that cast doubt on whether each offender is getting a fair hearing. The attorney general's office has no written screening process for deciding whom the state should seek to detain. That process is being challenged by a class-action lawsuit in federal court. It also is troubling that the commitment hearings are closed to the public.

Many offenders don't receive access to experts who can give the presiding judge a second opinion about their capacity to commit another sex crime. Instead, that information usually comes from one side - state-hired professionals. And the diagnoses favoring commitment are so vague, experts told the Times nearly anyone could be locked up.

With the deck stacked against them, the sex offenders usually lose and remain locked up as mental patients. This is a safe course for prosecutors and judges, but it's not how the justice system ought to work. Even sex offenders ought to receive a fair, impartial hearing. It is questionable whether they are getting one under the system now in place. Lawmakers need to review the implementation of the law to ensure justice for all. (by OPINION, Courier Post Online)
---- Wisconsin ----
» 10-13 Wisconsin: State settling 4 men's suit over seclusion: They say they were illegally punished under sex predator (civil commitment) law! The state has agreed to pay $365,000 to four men kept in seclusion under Wisconsin's sexual predator law. The men, who were confined at the Wisconsin Resource Center in Oshkosh in the late 1990s, filed the federal lawsuit in 1999. Attorneys for the state Department of Justice and the Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy, which represented the men, confirmed that a settlement had been reached, and would likely be formalized later this month. Officials said it would be the state's largest-ever cash settlement to people in state custody, and that practices have been changed.

According to their lawsuit, the plaintiffs were illegally subjected to long periods of isolation. People confined under Chapter 980, the state's violent sex offender law, are considered patients under civil commitment, not inmates. The law dictates that seclusion must be medically motivated, and not ordered as discipline as the plaintiffs claimed it was.

The men - Robert Addington, 32; Matthew Bennett, 23; Perry Bernal, 48; and Edwin West, 38 - were at times made to strip naked, placed alone in cells without toilets and given plastic bags in which to relieve themselves, according to court records. The placements often lasted for weeks at a time. Bennett was once secluded for 82 days, Bernal for 55. Addington and West were each secluded for as long as 20 days. In 1998, both Bennett and Bernal spent over 100 days in seclusion. Court records show that Wisconsin Resource Center administrators secluded the men for fighting with staff and organizing sit-ins to protest their living conditions.

"The events that were involved in this case were in the early days of the Chapter 980 program," said Dan Stier, the department's chief legal counsel. "The state was in the process of developing its programs and policies. They are now fully developed, and we wouldn't ever have anything like this happen today." (by REID J. EPSTEIN)
» CC »10-27 Wisconsin: Predator law has officials in a bind: Prosecutors must prove person not fit for release! Paul Wozniak would seem a poor candidate for release from confinement under the state's sexual predator law. The 83-year-old pedophile has "persistently discounted, undermined, resisted and/or refused" treatment, a state evaluator says. But, nonetheless, that same state doctor is recommending that a Milwaukee County judge release Wozniak into the community, with strict supervision.

State DHFS doctors in 2000 started recommending that judges release so-called sexual predators on supervision even if they, like Wozniak, had refused or not progressed in treatment. The key test became whether their risks and needs could be managed safely in the community. Wisconsin's release numbers doubled; in Milwaukee County such offenders are starting to create a bottleneck because the state has not been able to find placement for them. (by JESSICA McBRIDE)
» 9-29 Wisconsin: Wisconsin reintegrates sex offenders ! Despite growing concerns and efforts to curb sexual predation on the University of Wisconsin campus and other communities around the state, many find that their efforts are ineffective because of a law that makes Wisconsin the leading state in the release of sexual offenders.

Wisconsin's Chapter 980 law, passed in 1994, allows for the placement of sexual offenders in securely monitored homes within residential communities once they have served a portion of their criminal sentences and have received treatment at some sort of secure facility. Others, however, are released outright, with no restrictions or police jurisdiction. (by Kirtan Gandhi, News Reporter)
---- Virginia ----

--- Court Cases & Research Related to the "Issue of Civil Commitment" ---

» Research Report » July 2002: Citizens For Reform: RESEARCH OF THE MSOP TREATMENT PROGRAM! The following research analysis was conducted by Mary Thuringer of Citizens For Reform, a non-profit organization which advocates on behalf of ex-sex offenders, who have been civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. The following details will explain the views of residents within these "regional treatment" facilities in regard to the treatment program itself, as well as the punitive state within this program, the psychological and emotional abuses they have encountered, and lack of rehabilitative treatment thereof, within this program. (by Mary Thuringer, Citizens for Reform)


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