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Jury Clears Pataki Over Post-Prison Detention of Sex Offenders


See also: Sex offenders awarded $1 in liability suit over N.Y. illegal 'civil commitments'

7-31-2013 New York:

A federal jury in Manhattan found on Wednesday that former Gov. George E. Pataki was not liable for violating the rights of six men who claimed that they were wrongly confined in state psychiatric hospitals after completing prison sentences for sexually violent crimes.

The six plaintiffs were confined under a 2005 initiative of the Pataki administration, in which state psychiatrists reviewed the cases of inmates as they completed their sentences to determine whether they should be confined to psychiatric hospitals.

The program was ended in 2006 after the New York State Court of Appeals said such prisoners were entitled to greater protections, including notice and a court-supervised commitment process.

The judge, Jed S. Rakoff of United States District Court, had already held that the program violated the plaintiffs’ rights to due process, but the jury still had to decide the extent to which Mr. Pataki and his three co-defendants were involved in creating or carrying out the policy that was then applied to the plaintiffs. The judge had also ruled that Mr. Pataki and the other officials did not have immunity from being sued.

The jury also cleared two of the three other defendants of liability: Glenn S. Goord, the former correctional services commissioner, and Eileen Consilvio, the former executive director of the Manhattan Psychiatric Center, where the plaintiffs were held. The third defendant, Sharon Carpinello, the former commissioner of the State Office of Mental Health, was found to be liable, although the jury awarded negligible damages.

During the trial, Mr. Pataki testified that he had asked his staff to put the initiative into effect after he failed repeatedly to win legislative approval for such a policy.

He said that among the reasons he pushed for the initiative were two incidents: the fatal 2005 stabbing by a convicted sex offender of a woman in a parking garage next to the Galleria mall in White Plains, and an experience he and his family members had years earlier, when they were accosted while hiking in a state park by a man he later learned was a sex offender.

“It just made me personally aware not just of the horrors of these crimes, but the immediacy of the possibility,” Mr. Pataki testified.

The plaintiffs were seeking compensatory and punitive damages. ..Source.. by BENJAMIN WEISER

NY jury hears closings in Pataki sex offender suit


7-29-2013 New York:

Jurors were asked to decide Monday whether former Gov. George Pataki's decision to divert violent sex offenders into mental institutions after their prison terms ended was an abuse of power or a well-intended effort to protect the public.

The program initiated in 2005 was a "sham" attempt to "bypass the Constitution," plaintiffs' attorney Reza Rezvani said in closing arguments at a civil trial in federal court in Manhattan. "You know that the Constitution applies to everybody. ... No one is saying don't lock up the bad guys. But you do it right and you're fair."

Pataki's attorney, Abbe Lowell, told the jury of one man and seven women that what's most shocking about the lawsuit brought by six convicted sex offenders who were eventually freed is "what the plaintiffs did, not what the defendants did."

The plaintiffs "were mentally ill and dangerous and should have been committed," Lowell added as Pataki listened nearby from the defense table.

The case stems from Pataki's effort to use existing laws to direct prison officials to have the worst sex offenders evaluated for involuntary civil commitment once released from prison. The practice was halted in 2006 after a state court found that the 12 men who were committed should have been entitled to hearings before it happened. Some remained in psychiatric institutions for years afterward.

The summations Monday followed nearly three weeks of testimony, including that of plaintiffs who served lengthy prison sentences for sex assaults on minors. One, Louis Massei, testified that once committed to psychiatric care, he and the other convicts were never given any treatment.

"We were separated from the other patients," Massei said. "We were treated like 'the experiment.'"

Pataki testified he used his executive authority only to order evaluations of sex offenders before they were freed, not to rob them of liberty. Defense lawyers noted that of the nearly 800 inmates examined, fewer than 200 were committed to mental institutions.

The jury must decide whether the defendants intentionally deprived the plaintiffs of constitutional rights and, if so, determine potential damages. Deliberations were expected to begin as early as Monday afternoon. ..Source.. by Wall Street Journal

NY ex-governor testifies at sex-offender trial


7-23-2013 New York:

Defending himself Tuesday against a lawsuit, former New York Gov. George Pataki described a creepy stranger who joined a family hike nearly two decades ago as a major catalyst in his crusade to institutionalize violent sexual predators.

Pataki told about the episode in Hudson Highlands State Park near his Peekskill birthplace as he explained to a federal jury in Manhattan why he became interested in ridding the streets of violent sex offenders soon after he became governor in 1995.

The 68-year-old Pataki is a defendant in a civil lawsuit filed by six convicted sex offenders who said their constitutional rights were violated when a Pataki-initiated program in 2005 caused them to be transferred indefinitely to psychiatric centers when their prison terms ended. A state court ruled a year later that the program was illegal, but the men remained institutionalized for years.

The three-term Republican governor said he was hiking with his wife, a son and several neighborhood children in 1995 or 1996 when he noticed a stranger was constantly near them and would "walk right out and stand next to the kids."

He telephoned state police troopers on security detail nearby and they learned he had been convicted of sexual crimes in the Rochester area.

"My family was fine. I had troopers, but I couldn't help but think of a mother on a walk in the park with a child, or a child at a playground, and it just made me personally aware not just of the horrors of these crimes, but the immediacy of the possibility," Pataki said.

Pataki said he tried unsuccessfully for years to get the state legislature to pass a law that would let violent sexual predators be evaluated for possible involuntary institutionalization at the end of their prison terms. He said a Democratic assemblyman and a prosecutor were among those in 2005 who suggested it could be done under existing law.

He said he was determined to develop the program after a newly paroled rapist killed a woman in 2005 in a suburban mall parking lot and then told investigators that he was angry he had to register as a sex offender and was not getting mental health treatment from Westchester County that he thought he deserved.

Repeatedly, Pataki testified he began the program that put more than 100 convicted prisoners into psychiatric institutions only after he was advised existing law allowed it.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff told jurors the initiative was unconstitutional and they must determine whether the defendants acted with intent to deprive the plaintiffs of constitutional rights.

Before Pataki told about his family's hike, attorneys for the plaintiffs objected.

"I think this is, to be frank, the price you pay by asking for punitive damages," Rakoff said. "It opens up a very broad scope of relevance."

Pataki, himself a lawyer, insisted he knew little specifics of the program when he announced in October 2005 that every sexually violent predator in state custody would be evaluated for involuntary civil commitment once prison sentences were finished.

The practice was halted in late 2006 after the state court ruling.

About 20 states now allow certain sex offenders to be detained at psychiatric facilities after their sentences are served if they have a mental disorder that would make them more likely to offend again.

Pataki said he wanted to rid society of the effects of "particularly heinous crimes" because rape and molestation tend to plague victims throughout life and because he was advised that sexually violent criminals have a high rate of recidivism.

"Anybody's hopes or dreams can vanish in a minute in an act of violence," he said. ..Source.. by Arizona Daily Star

Washington AG tried to prevent release of convicted sex predator


7-25-2013 Washington:

Washington's attorney general is trying to prevent the prison release of a convicted pedophile who has committed more than 100 offenses against young girls.

Stephen Robinson, 56, is scheduled to be released from the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla on Friday.

But Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Robinson remains a threat and should be held indefinitely at the state's Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island.

"Mr. Robinson has admitted to more than 100 heinous assaults on young girls and must not be released into our community," Ferguson said in a press release.

Robinson was convicted of sexually violent offenses against young girls in Benton County in 1984 and in Colorado in 1999. He told authorities that he would seek out and attack other young girls if released, Ferguson said.

The attorney general's office filed a petition Tuesday in Benton County Superior Court, a first step in seeking a civil commitment. A probable cause hearing could be held as early as Friday. If probable cause is found, Robinson will be transported to the Special Commitment Center pending trial.

The unit was established in 1990 following enactment of the state's sexually violent predator law, which permits the involuntary civil commitment of sex offenders who are likely to commit acts of sexual violence if released to the community.

As of April, there were 296 sexually violent predators civilly committed in Washington state.

The Tri-City Herald reported Wednesday that Robinson was convicted in 1984 in Benton County of indecent liberties after a 3-year-old girl reported to her father that her crotch area hurt and described abuse by Robinson.

"By Robinson's own current admission, he was having sexual intercourse with the toddler within days of meeting her, and that the molestations/rapes lasted more than six months," according to court document.

Robinson also was convicted of sexual assault of a child in Denver County, Colo., 15 years later. That case involved a 9-year-old girl who he gained access to through her prostitute mother, court documents said.

"Robinson traded sex with the girl for some drugs for the mother. He had done this before and had frequented prostitutes that had daughters between (the ages of) 4 and 8 for this purpose," the documents said. ..Source.. by Nicholas K. Geranios

Texas sex offender gets life for civil commitment violations


7-10-2013 Texas:

A district court in Montgomery County is the only venue in Texas to decide felony civil commitment cases for violent sexual predators. The presiding judge said all sexual assault and other violent offenders who passed through the court were given maximum penalties.

Sex predators are described under the Texas Sexually Violent Predator Act as repeat offenders with behavior abnormalities. Predatory offenses include aggravated sexual assault and sexually-motivated burglary, kidnapping and murder. A violent sex offender is committed to an outpatient treatment program indefinitely or until behavior patterns noticeably change.

A 56-year-old Texas man recently was sentenced to life imprisonment for violating civil commitment terms at a Ft. Worth halfway house. Parole eligibility is possible within 15 years.

The defendant was convicted of two knifepoint rapes in 1982. He was sentenced to two, concurrent 25-year prison terms. Within a year of early release, the man was arrested and later convicted for trying to kidnap a child at a store.

The man was returned to prison until 2000, when he was granted permission to move out of state. The sex offender later served a three-year term for indecent exposure.

After extradition and imprisonment for parole violations, the offender was set free in Texas during 2004. He was imprisoned on a pornography charge in 2005 and officially designated a violent sex offender in 2009.

The outcome for the repeat offender was similar to convictions for two other men in the same court. Maximum prison sentences were handed down in 2012 for known sex predators who broke Texas halfway house rules.

The state civil commitment statute recognizes some sex offenders suffer from conditions that predispose them to violent sexual behavior. Court-ordered outpatient treatment is geared toward helping individuals overcome violent sexual tendencies that are out of their control.

Consequences for sex crimes convictions are severe. A lifetime of penalties and treatment is possible for suspects charged with violent sexual behavior. ..Source.. by On behalf of Terry W. Yates & Associates posted in Sex Crimes on Tuesday, February 26, 2013.

State tries to block release of inmate who attacked over 100 young girls


7-24-2013 Washington:

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. -- Washington's attorney general is trying to prevent the prison release of a convicted pedophile who has committed more than 100 offenses against young girls.

Stephen Robinson, 56, is scheduled to be released from the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla on Friday.

But Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Robinson remains a threat and should be held indefinitely at the state's Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island.

"Mr. Robinson has admitted to more than 100 heinous assaults on young girls and must not be released into our community," Ferguson said in a press release.

Robinson was convicted of sexually violent offenses against young girls in Benton County in 1984 and in Colorado in 1999. He told authorities that he would seek out and attack other young girls if released, Ferguson said.

The attorney general's office filed a petition Tuesday in Benton County Superior Court, a first step in seeking a civil commitment. A probable cause hearing could be held as early as Friday. If probable cause is found, Robinson will be transported to the Special Commitment Center pending trial.

The unit was established in 1990 following enactment of the state's sexually violent predator law, which permits the involuntary civil commitment of sex offenders who are likely to commit acts of sexual violence if released to the community.

As of April, there were 296 sexually violent predators civilly committed in Washington state.

The Tri-City Herald reported Wednesday that Robinson was convicted in 1984 in Benton County of indecent liberties after a 3-year-old girl reported to her father that her crotch area hurt and described abuse by Robinson.

"By Robinson's own current admission, he was having sexual intercourse with the toddler within days of meeting her, and that the molestations/rapes lasted more than six months," according to court document.

Robinson also was convicted of sexual assault of a child in Denver County, Colo., 15 years later. That case involved a 9-year-old girl who he gained access to through her prostitute mother, court documents said.

"Robinson traded sex with the girl for some drugs for the mother. He had done this before and had frequented prostitutes that had daughters between (the ages of) 4 and 8 for this purpose," the documents said. ..Source.. by KEPRTV.com Staff

New Documents Released on Donald Smith, accused killer of 8 year old Cherish Perrywinkle


7-24-2013 Florida:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The three white crosses in the Perrywinkle's front yard are a daily reminder of 8-year-old Cherish.

But the crush of information concerning Donald Smith, her accused killer, has made it hard for the family to remember her in peace.

New documents released by the Department of Children and Families show Smith refused to participate in his own treatment several times and declined to be interviewed or attend therapy.

In prison, Smith was constantly in trouble.

Documents show he lied to prison officials, and was found in possession of narcotics and other contraband.

His answers to prison officials changed by the day.

At one point he told a psychologist he had "no comment" about whether or not he had violent sexual fantasies.

Asked 4 months later, Smith said, "not anymore, I don't."

Explaining why he didn't want to participate in treatment while incarcerated, he said, "this program will never touch the type of modalities I've been through."

In 2006, a team of psychologists determined he did not meet the criteria to be locked up in the state's treatment facility for violent sexual offenders, in part, because he refused to be interviewed.

When he was released, a court agreement shows that he was scheduled to receive Depo-Lupron shots to chemically castrate him.

The documents do not show if he actually followed through with the treatment, and DCF said that's medically privileged information.

While the new information might shed some light on Donald Smith, Cherish's mother's boyfriend says it won't bring their little girl back. ..Source.. by Kaitlyn Ross

Ex-NY governor’s testimony set in trial where sex offenders say their rights were violated


7-23-2013 New York:

Former New York Gov. George Pataki is expected to testify about how more than 100 sex offenders came to be involuntarily institutionalized eight years ago when they finished prison sentences.

Tuesday’s testimony comes in a civil trial in Manhattan federal court after six convicted sex offenders sued Pataki and the state. Pataki announced in an October 2005 press release that every sexually violent predator in state custody would be evaluated for involuntary civil commitment once a prison sentence was finished.

A year later, the program was discontinued after a state court ruled the state was wrongly confining convicted sex offenders in psychiatric facilities. Pataki lawyer Abbe Lowell has urged jurors to award the plaintiffs nothing, saying his client acted honorably to protect the public. ..Source.. by Washington Post

Most civilly detained sex offenders would not reoffend, study finds


7-21-2013 National:

Other new research finds further flaws with actuarial methods in forensic practice

At least three out of every four men being indefinitely detained as Sexually Violent Predators in Minnesota would never commit another sex crime if they were released.

That’s the conclusion of a new study by the chief researcher for the Department of Corrections in Minnesota, the state with the highest per capita rate of preventive detention in the United States.

Using special statistical procedures and a new actuarial instrument called the MnSOST-3 that is better calibrated to current recidivism rates, Grant Duwe estimated that the recidivism rate for civilly committed sex offenders -- if released -- would be between about 5 and 16 percent over four years, and about 18 percent over their lifetimes. Only two of the 600 men detained since Minnesota's law was enacted have been released, making hollow the law's promise of rehabilitation after treatment.

Duwe -- a criminologist and author of a book on the history of mass murder in the United States -- downplays the troubling Constitutional implications of this finding, focusing instead on the SVP law’s exorbitant costs and weak public safety benefits. He notes that "Three Strikes" laws, enacted in some U.S. states during the same time period as SVP laws based on a similar theory of selective incapacitation of the worst of the worst, have also not had a significant impact on crime rates.

The problem for the field of forensic psychology is that forensic risk assessment procedures have astronomical rates of false positives, or over-predictions of danger, and it is difficult to determine which small proportion of those predicted to reoffend would actually do so.

Minnesota has taken the lead in civilly detaining men with sex crime convictions, despite the state's only middling crime rates. Unlike in most U.S. states with SVP laws, sex offenders referred for possible detention are not entitled to a jury trial and, once detained, do not have a right to periodic reviews. Detention also varies greatly by county, so geographic locale can make the difference between a lifetime behind bars and a chance to move on with life after prison.

Ironically, as noted by other researchers, by the time an offender has done enough bad deeds to be flagged for civil commitment, his offending trajectory is often on the decline. Like other criminals, sex offenders tend to age out of criminality by their 40s, making endless incarceration both pointless and wasteful.

The study, To what extent does civil commitment reduce sexual recidivism? Estimating the selective incapacitation effects in Minnesota, is forthcoming from the Journal of Criminal Justice. ..Source.. by Karen Franklin, In the News

Report: Allegations of abuse at NY (Civil Commitment) facility under scrutiny


7-21-2013 New York:

A series of injuries to civilly committed sex offenders has prompted state scrutiny of allegations of staff abuse against the confined residents at a New York facility, a state report shows.

Between August 2011 and January 2012, the staff emergency squad — called the Red Dot Team — was accused by confined sex offenders of abuse in 22 instances of “physical intervention” at the state facility, according to a report from the state Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities.

That facility, located in Marcy near Utica, houses about 180 sex offenders who have been released from prison but, through a mental health process, judged too dangerous to allow back into communities. The facility’s Red Dot Team is summoned for confrontations with residents that could escalate.

While the commission report is more than a year old, it sparked a back-and-forth between the commission and the state Office of Mental Health that continued well into this year, records show. The Office of Mental Health, or OMH, oversees the state programs for civilly confined sex offenders, who undergo treatment with the goal of their safe release.

“While we share your concerns regarding patient/resident safety, inevitably during these occurrences, injuries may occur to both patients/residents and staff given that the event has resulted in physical contact,” OMH Forensics Services Associate Commissioner Donna Hall wrote in an April letter to Commission on Quality of Care officials.

In recent years, offenders at the Marcy facility — the Central New York Psychiatric Center, or CNYPC — have claimed to the Democrat and Chronicle and some lawyers that they were physically abused by staff.

OMH officials respond that injuries came in incidents initiated by the residents who required physical restraint.

Records show that many more “interventions” with residents end peacefully, not requiring some manner of restraint, Hall wrote to commission officials in April.

“These data indicate that a vast number of interventions are undertaken to, whenever possible, prevent Red Dot emergency responses, restraints and possible risk of injuries to patients/residents,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, there are times when less restrictive interventions are attempted and the situation does not de-escalate, thus requiring Red Dot emergency responses and subsequent restraints.”

OMH declined to comment on the Commission on Quality of Care report, referring to its responses to the commission.

This is not the first time that allegations of abuse have been leveled at CNYPC workers.

In December 2011, officials with the state’s Mental Hygiene Legal Service office also questioned whether there was “a pattern of abusive behavior by Central New York Psychiatric Center staff.”

Those letters to OMH officials were obtained by the Democrat and Chronicle.

Whether the MHLS allegations were the impetus for the sweeping review by the Commission on Quality of Care review of abuse allegations at CNYPC is unclear.

As with allegations of prison abuse, separating fact from fabrication can be difficult with the CNYPC claims. And there is another layer making it tough to determine the truth behind the allegations: Civilly confined sex offenders are psychiatric patients in state facilities, meaning that much of what happens in the facilities is shielded from public scrutiny by privacy regulations.

OMH, in fact, will not even acknowledge whether particular offenders are in the facilities.

One CNYPC resident once sent a photograph to the Democrat and Chronicle of another resident’s severely bruised and swollen face, injuries alleged to have resulted from a beating by staff. The injured resident, however, was charged with a crime, accused of starting a physical altercation with OMH staff.

The commission report notes injuries suffered by CNYPC residents during confrontations with the Red Dot Team.

In one incident, a sex offender suffered bruises, contusions, bruised left and right ribs, and a swollen cheek, the report states. according to a state report.

In another incident, an offender was left with “superficial abrasion at both elbows, behind the left ear, (and) abrasion with discoloration at right lower leg,” according to the report.

The Commission on Quality of Care now no longer exists, subsumed last month into a newly created state agency, the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. Justice Center officials did not respond to requests for comment on the report from the former Commission on Quality of Care.

The report from the Commission on Quality of Care also:

• Questioned the lack of specific information in CNYPC reports on staff-patient confrontations.

• Maintained that residents were reluctant to report allegations to the commission “as they believe they will be retaliated against by staff.”

• Said internal investigations of alleged abuse were hindered because of delays by residents in reporting the allegations.

• Questioned whether the Red Dot Team was utilized for non-emergency interventions, such as with incidents logged in formal reports as “verbal assault.” ..Source.. by Gary Craig

New York Civil Commitment Review


Audits: 7-21-2013 New York:

Source: Commission on Quality of Care for Persons with Disabilities

See news report for description of findings.

DCF to review criteria for sexually violent offenders program after Cherish Perrywinkle death


7-19-2013 Florida:

The Florida Department of Children and Families will review its criteria for which sex offenders should be held in civil commitment, almost a month after a Jacksonville man was charged with the kidnapping and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

Dan Montaldi, administrator of the state’s sexually violent predator program, said procedures are reviewed when it is learned that someone evaluated in the program has been re-arrested. Donald James Smith’s arrest on June 22 was a high-profile example, he said, and studies published in the last year have also raised questions about the effectiveness of the psychological assessment tool used in evaluating offenders for continued confinement as they are scheduled to be released from prison.

“It’s important for us to look at all our programs to make sure we’re keeping everyone safe, particularly children in our state,” Montaldi said.

The department will convene a team of experts to review the tools it uses to determine whether a sex offender leaving prison should be held under the Sexually Violent Predator Program, better known as the Jimmy Ryce Act, DCF press secretary Whitney Ray said in a statement.

Professional journals have discussed the evaluation tools used by the state to decide whether a person with a criminal history of sexual offenses is likely to be dangerous, according to the statement. The review team will deliver findings on the Static-99R tool by Sept. 23.

Montaldi said the evaluation tool is just one part of a comprehensive review, and different studies have found varied recidivism rates in cases where the predictive tool was used.

REFUSED TREATMENT

Records provided to the Times-Union Friday show that Smith declined treatment several times before he was released from prison — apparently even during his time in the Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia.

Smith’s first evaluation under the Jimmy Ryce Act stemmed from 1992, when police said Smith tried to lure a 13-year-old girl into his van in Jacksonville. He chased her into a park, and later that day showed pornography to children. He served almost five years before getting paroled in 1997, but returned to prison on a parole violation.

He was held in civil commitment for three years. Clinical records were not released due to medical privacy laws (HIPAA), but Smith refused to attend a meeting or sign a consent form to receive treatment at the commitment center two weeks before prosecutors dropped the civil case in 2002. He was never taken to trial. The court ordered him to seek his own treatment.

He was sent back to state prison in 2004 for dealing in stolen property. Records from Smith’s file show that each time he entered a prison facility, he declined treatment.

Smith is quoted in a 2005 report as saying, “This program wouldn’t be able to touch the [treatment] modalities I’ve been through.” He refused to talk about his current offenses, and when asked if he believed he had a problem with sexual thoughts or behavior, he said, “Not anymore I don’t.”

In 2006, when he was scheduled for release, records show an evaluator said Smith did not meet the criteria to be committed as a violent sexual offender.

Records show that during that evaluation, Smith declined to be interviewed. ..Source.. by Kate Howard Perry

Juvenile Sex Offenders: Locked Up for Life?


10-1-2012 South Carolina:

Medical experts raise questions about indefinite civil commitment for troubled youths

At 21, Thomas Simmons has spent nearly half his life in confinement.

When he was 13, Simmons was sent to a juvenile detention center for raping and sexually abusing a younger relative over a period of years. When he was 17, Simmons became the youngest person indefinitely committed to South Carolina’s adult violent sex offender treatment program, according to court testimony.

The government initially placed Simmons in a restricted wing and assigned a staff member to stay with him to protect him from the other residents, many of them middle-aged child molesters, a program psychologist testified earlier this year.

Four years after his civil commitment, Simmons is asking the South Carolina Supreme Court to order his release. Though experts for the state Attorney General’s Office say Simmons is still dangerous, a psychologist at the sex offender commitment center testified at a court hearing earlier this year that Simmons has not shown signs of sexually violent behavior since before he was 13, and should be released.

“Thomas was at best 11 years old when he committed his crime; he was a child,” said Brana Williams, Simmons’s attorney.

“And now he may be locked up for the rest of his life. This is why they say you should not get life without parole when you’re that young. You’re not who you’re going to be.”

At least 10 states allow some form of juvenile sex offender civil commitment, according to research compiled by the Defender Association of Philadelphia. In four of those states, at least 52 adults—not including Simmons—are currently indefinitely committed as sex offenders as a result of crimes they committed when they were juveniles, state departments of corrections and mental health said in response to inquiries from JJIE.

‘He was a kid’: Former juvenile sex offenders languish in MSOP


10-5-2012 Minnesota:

Timothy Coon could spend his whole life confined to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program for actions he committed as a juvenile. And there are more than 50 others like him inside the walls of MSOP.

On May 5, 2001, Lucy Coon discovered her 15-year-old son, Timothy, inside the family’s van with his 9-year-old sister. His pants were around his knees and he had a visible erection. Under questioning, he admitted that he had been sexually molesting his sister.

Timothy was immediately pulled out of the family home. He was eventually ruled delinquent after being charged with criminal sexual conduct in the juvenile court system and ordered to Mille Lacs Academy for sex offender treatment. He was kicked out of the program after seven months because he lacked motivation, misbehaved and argued with staff.

Over the next three years, Coon cycled through juvenile treatment facilities, making little headway in various programs. His progress was stymied, in part, by symptoms from what was eventually diagnosed as Asperger Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by extreme difficulties with social interaction.

One week before his 19th birthday, he was referred by the Anoka County Attorney’s Office for civil commitment as mentally ill and dangerous, a sexual psychopathic personality and a sexually dangerous person.

Prosecutors drop bid to keep Seattle serial rapist locked up


7-19-2013 Washington:

State psychiatrist’s change of opinion means freedom for Seattle sex offender

A Seattle serial rapist will likely be free for the first time in 16 years early next week, when prosecutors expect to drop an effort to have him institutionalized indefinitely as a violent sexual predator.

Sentenced to prison in 1997 for a string of sexual assaults, Sallyea McClinton, now 35, would have been released a year ago had King County prosecutors filed a lawsuit meant to keep him confined until state psychologists determined he was fit for release. A change in opinion by a state psychologist who previously found McClinton eligible for institutionalization forced prosecutors to ask that the lawsuit be dismissed.

Under Washington law, county prosecutors or the state Attorney General’s Office can file civil lawsuits asking that convicted sex offenders be confined indefinitely at a Department of Social and Health Services facility, the Special Commitment Center.

To prevail, prosecutors must show that an offender is likely to sexually assault again, and that the offender has a mental abnormality making him so. If a jury or judge agrees with prosecutors, an offender can be sent to the McNeil Island facility.

The Special Commitment Center is home to about 300 men being held indefinitely. While several offenders have "graduated" from the program and more than a dozen others are living off the island, most remain at the facility. They make up about 1 percent of the sex offenders convicted in Washington courts.

Prior to prosecutors attempting to have McClinton confined at the Special Commitment Center, a state psychologist found McClinton was likely to offend again. Late last month, the psychologist reviewed her work and agreed with a defense expert that McClinton does not qualify for civil commitment.

That change in opinion left prosecutors unable to continue the lawsuit, King County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Dan Donohoe said Tuesday. Prosecutors have asked that the case be dismissed, and a King County Superior Court judge is expected to grant that request during a hearing Monday.

McClinton was suspected of raping or assaulting least six women in the weeks surrounding his 18th birthday in the fall of 1995.

“All totaled, over six weeks Mr. McClinton engaged in serial rapes or attempted sexual assaults with four females,” a psychologist said in a report filed by prosecutors. The psychologist went on to assert McClinton attempted to sexually assault a fifth woman during the same spree.

According to court papers, McClinton attacked a 34-year-old woman after following her home from a Rainier Avenue bus stop. McClinton raped her at knifepoint in an apartment complex elevator.

McClinton later forced his way into the apartment a 33-year-old woman shared with her two children. Once inside, he attempted to rape the woman but was thwarted after the woman’s 13-year-old broke a window to summon help. McClinton returned to the apartment the following day, but was scared off by another of the woman’s children.

A jury acquitted McClinton in another attack at a Seattle apartment. Reports indicate McClinton was suspected in at least three other cases. Charges were not pursued in those cases.

Writing the court, a clinical psychologist who interviewed McClinton noted the Seattle native was first suspected of sexual assault at age 15. After that, he spent much of his youth in foster homes or was homeless until his arrest in the string of sex assaults.

Since being convicted of rape, attempted rape and burglary in 1997, McClinton was faulted on multiple occasions for harassing corrections officers and other women working at state prisons where he was serving time. He also exposed himself to or masturbated in front of prison workers 10 times. All told, he received 120 disciplinary infractions during his years in the prison system.

McClinton did not participate in sex offender treatment while in prison. Asked what he planned to do if released, he said, according to the psychologist’s report, he would simply choose not to attack anyone.

Presently confined at the Special Commitment Center, McClinton is expected to return to King County Superior Court on Monday. A judge will then decide when McClinton will be released.

Once freed, the Department of Corrections will be able to monitor McClinton for two years. He will also be required to register as a sex offender. ..Source.. by LEVI PULKKINEN

Trial for Civil Commitment of Convicted Rapist Begins


6-25-2013 Washington:

Indefinite Incarceration: Mark T. Robinson Served a 12-Year Sentence After He was Convicted of the Rape and Kidnapping of a Winlock Woman in 2000; He Now Faces Indefinite Time on McNeil Island

More than a year after Mark T. Robinson completed his 12-year prison sentence for the rape of a Winlock woman, he is still in custody and may be held indefinitely if the state convinces a jury that he is a sexual sadist.

Robinson is one of a few hundred offenders in Washington who the state attempts to keep incarcerated indefinitely under the Washington Sexually Violent Predator Law. ..Source.. by Stephanie Schende

Doubts Rise as States Hold Sex Offenders After Prison


3-4-2007 California:

The decision by New York to confine sex offenders beyond their prison terms places the state at the forefront of a growing national movement that is popular with politicians and voters. But such programs have almost never met a stated purpose of treating the worst criminals until they no longer pose a threat.

About 2,700 pedophiles, rapists and other sexual offenders are already being held indefinitely, mostly in special treatment centers, under so-called civil commitment programs in 19 states, which on average cost taxpayers four times more than keeping the offenders in prison.

In announcing a deal with legislative leaders on Thursday, Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, suggested that New York’s proposed civil commitment law would “become a national model” and go well beyond confining the most violent predators to also include mental health treatment and intensive supervised release for offenders.

“No one has a bill like this, nobody,” said State Senator Dale M. Volker, a Republican from western New York and a leading proponent in the Legislature of civil confinement.

But in state after state, such expectations have fallen short. The United States Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the laws in part because their aim is to furnish treatment if possible, not punish someone twice for the same crime. Yet only a small fraction of committed offenders have ever completed treatment to the point where they could be released free and clear.

Leroy Hendricks, a convicted child molester in Kansas, finished his prison term 13 years ago, but he remains locked up at a cost to taxpayers in that state of $185,000 a year — more than eight times the cost of keeping someone in prison there.

Mr. Hendricks, who is 72 and unsuccessfully challenged his confinement in the Supreme Court, spends most days in a wheelchair or leaning on a cane, because of diabetes, circulation ailments and the effects of a stroke. He may not live long enough to “graduate” from treatment.

Few ever make such progress: Nationwide, of the 250 offenders released unconditionally since the first law was passed in 1990, about half of them were let go on legal or technical grounds unrelated to treatment.

Still, political leaders, like those in New York, are vastly expanding such programs to keep large numbers of rapists and pedophiles off the streets after their prison terms in a response to public fury over grisly sex crimes.

In Coalinga, Calif., a $388 million facility will allow the state to greatly expand the offenders it holds to 1,500. Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, Virginia and Wisconsin are also adding beds.

At the federal level, President Bush has signed a law offering money to states that commit sex offenders beyond their prison terms, and the Justice Department is creating a civil commitment program for federal prisoners.

Even with the enthusiasm among politicians, an examination by The New York Times of the existing programs found they have failed in a number of areas:

¶Sex offenders selected for commitment are not always the most violent; some exhibitionists are chosen, for example, while rapists are passed over. And some are past the age at which some scientists consider them most dangerous. In Wisconsin, a 102-year-old who wears a sport coat to dinner cannot participate in treatment because of memory lapses and poor hearing.

¶The treatment regimens are expensive and largely unproven, and there is no way to compel patients to participate. Many simply do not show up for sessions on their lawyers’ advice — treatment often requires them to recount crimes, even those not known to law enforcement — and spend their time instead gardening, watching television or playing video games.

¶The cost of the programs is virtually unchecked and growing, with states spending nearly $450 million on them this year. The annual price of housing a committed sex offender averages more than $100,000, compared with about $26,000 a year for keeping someone in prison, because of the higher costs for programs, treatment and supervised freedoms.

¶Unlike prisons and other institutions, civil commitment centers receive little standard, independent oversight or monitoring; sex among offenders is sometimes rampant, and, in at least one facility, sex has been reported between offenders and staff members.

¶Successful treatment is often not a factor in determining the relatively few offenders who are released; in Iowa, of the nine men let go unconditionally, none had completed treatment or earned the center’s recommendation for release.

¶Few states have figured out what to do when they do have graduates ready for supervised release. In California, the state made 269 attempts to find a home for one released pedophile. In Milwaukee, the authorities started searching in 2003 for a neighborhood for a 77-year-old offender, but have yet to find one.

Supporters of the laws offer no apologies for their shortcomings, insisting that the money is well spent. Born out of the anguish that followed a handful of high-profile sex crimes in the 1980s, the laws are proven and potent vote-getters that have withstood constitutional challenges.

“There has to be a process in place that prevents someone from rejoining society if they’re still dangerous,” said Jeffrey Klein, a Democratic member of the New York State Senate who has pushed for civil confinement there.

Martin Andrews, 47, of Woodbridge, Va., who was abducted, buried in a box and repeatedly sexually assaulted for a week when he was 13, also supports the laws.

“If they can’t control themselves,” Mr. Andrews said, “we need to do it for them.”

But the myriad problems have concerned some advocates for victims of sexual abuse, who suggest the money is being wasted and that other options for dealing with dangerous sex offenders — such as giving them longer prison terms, preventing sentencing deals with prosecutors and mandating treatment during incarceration — would be more effective.

“Civil commitment is a huge, huge assignment of resources,“ said Anne Liske, the former executive director of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a victims’ advocacy group. “This wholesale warehousing — without using the proper assessment tools and with throwing treatment in when they are not people who can be treated — has already proven not to be working, so why would we do it more?”

A Series of Convictions

Leroy Hendricks was a likely candidate for commitment as he prepared to leave a Kansas prison in 1994.

Mr. Hendricks’s most recent crime, for which he had been convicted a decade earlier, had been “indecent liberties” with two 13-year-old boys in an electronics shop where he worked. All told, his convictions left a painful trail reaching back to 1955: exposing himself to young girls; molesting 7- and 8-year-old boys at a carnival where he was the ride foreman; molesting a 7-year-old girl; playing strip poker with a 14-year-old girl; preying on his own family members, including a boy with cerebral palsy.

Like Mr. Hendricks was, thousands of soon-to-be-released prisoners are screened for commitment each year by state corrections departments, prosecutors and panels. The process varies widely from state to state, as do standards for the evaluators, but in most states, those recommended for commitment have trials before judges or juries.

Mr. Hendricks may have sealed his own fate when he testified in 1994 that he could not “control the urge” to molest when he got “stressed out.” He said his mother, Violet, had wanted a girl when he was born and had dressed him as one when he was growing up.

“I sure don’t want to hurt anybody again,” he told the court, but then conceded that he could not ensure the safety of children in his presence. “The only way to guarantee that is to die,” he said.

More often, these cases come down to contentious duels between psychologists over how best to analyze an offender’s history and likelihood of repeating crimes. In most states, commitment is for an indefinite period, but offenders are allowed to have their cases reviewed by a court periodically.

The results of the screening process are inconsistent. Some offenders are passed up for civil confinement, only to commit vicious crimes again; others’ physical ailments alone make them unlikely repeat predators.

Even though Minnesota prison officials had classified Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., a convicted rapist, in a category of sex offenders most at risk to commit more crimes, Mr. Rodriguez went home when his term ended in May 2003. That November, he kidnapped and killed Dru Sjodin, a North Dakota college student who was beaten and raped.

Likewise, Jerry Buck Inman was charged with raping and strangling a college student in South Carolina last June, nine months after his release from a Florida prison after serving 17 years for rape and other crimes. The authorities in Florida looked at his records but decided not to seek commitment.

Meanwhile, some prosecutors seek commitment for others convicted of noncontact crimes like public exposure. In Florida, prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to civilly commit a man who was imprisoned for driving drunk even though his last sex arrest was decades earlier.

“The population that is being detained is a very, very mixed group,” said Richard Wollert, a psychologist in Portland, Ore., who evaluates civilly committed offenders. “There are cases that are appalling in terms of being kept in custody at the taxpayers’ expense when there are probably alternative placements for them.”

Predicting who is likely to commit future sex crimes has become more of a science over the last decade, but many still find the methods questionable.

Actuarial formulas — akin to the tables used for life insurance — play a central role in deciding who is dangerous enough to be committed. They calculate someone’s risk of offending again by looking at factors such as the number of prior sex offenses and the sex of the victims. Men with male victims are graded as higher risk, for example, because statistics show they are more often repeat offenders.

“The danger is that these numbers will blind people,” said Eric Janus, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul who has challenged Minnesota’s civil commitment law in court.

Politics and emotion also factor heavily into who gets committed, with decisions made by elected judges or juries who may be more affected by the raw facts of someone’s offense history or the public spectacle over their crimes than the dry science of risk prediction.

“It’s so emotional for them,” said Stephen Watson, an assistant public defender who represented an offender in Florida. “They don’t even want to hear the research.”

New Laws Follow Publicized Cases

Earlier in the 20th century, many states had sexual psychopath laws that allowed them to hospitalize offenders deemed too sick for prison. But by the 1980s most such laws had been repealed or fallen into disuse.

But a handful of horrific and highly publicized cases in the 1980s and ’90s spurred lawmakers to act again. Washington State adopted the first civil commitment law in 1990 after men with predatory histories killed a young woman in Seattle and sexually mutilated a boy in Tacoma.

After state courts upheld Washington’s law, Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin passed versions in 1994, followed by California in 1996.

Then, in a 5-to-4 decision in 1997, the United States Supreme Court found civil commitment to be constitutional in Kansas v. Hendricks, the same Mr. Hendricks still confined in Kansas.

In the ruling, the justices found that a “mental abnormality” like pedophilia was enough to meet a standard to qualify someone for commitment, not the different standard of “mental illness” that had been traditionally used. The court also rejected the notion that civil commitment amounted to double jeopardy (a second criminal punishment for a single crime) or an ex post facto law (a new punishment for a past crime), noting that Kansas’s statute was not meant to punish committed men but, like other acceptable civil commitment statutes, intended “both to incapacitate and to treat” them therapeutically.

“We have never held that the Constitution prevents a state from civilly detaining those for whom no treatment is available, but who nevertheless pose a danger to others,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority, later adding, “By furnishing such treatment, the Kansas Legislature has indicated that treatment, if possible, is at least an ancillary goal of the act, which easily satisfies any test for determining that the act is not punitive.”

Since then, state officials, civil liberties advocates and lawyers have wrestled with exactly what that treatment requirement means.

“There’s no question about it,” Professor Janus of William Mitchell College said, “it’s a very murky area of the law.”

Since the Hendricks ruling, the courts have indicated that states have “wide latitude” when it comes to treatment for the civilly confined, meaning that unsuccessful treatment alone or an untreatable patient would not be enough to undo the laws.

In 2001, the Supreme Court, in Seling v. Young, decided the case of Andre Brigham Young, a committed man in Washington State who argued that the conditions he was being held under were so punitive and the treatment so inadequate as to amount to a second criminal sentence. The court ruled against Mr. Young.

A year later, in 2002, the Supreme Court made clear the limits of who may be committed by states, saying the authorities must prove not just that an offender is still dangerous and likely to commit more crimes but also that he or she has a “serious difficulty in controlling behavior.”

Some civil libertarians and prisoner advocates, who still object to the laws, have not given up on finding a challenge that the Supreme Court might view favorably. Despite the court rulings, these groups insist civil commitment amounts to a second sentence for a crime.

Even the look of commitment centers reflects the dichotomy at the core of their stated reason for being — to lock away dangerous men (only three women are civilly committed) but also to treat them.

Most of the centers tend to look and feel like prisons, with clanking double doors, guard stations, fluorescent lighting, cinder-block walls, overcrowded conditions and tall fences with razor wire around the perimeters.

Bedroom doors are often locked at night, and mail is searched by the staff for pornography or retail catalogs with pictures of women or children. Most states put their centers in isolated areas. Washington State’s is on an island three miles offshore in Puget Sound.

Yet soothing artwork hangs at some centers, and cheerful fliers announce movie nights and other activities. The residents can wander the grounds and often spend their time as they please in an effort to encourage their cooperation, including sunbathing in courtyards and sometimes even ordering pizza for delivery. The new center in California will have a 20,000-book library, badminton courts and room for music and art therapy.

Diseases like hepatitis and diabetes are common among the committed, and severe mental illness — beyond the mental “abnormalities“ described by the Supreme Court — a scourge. A survey in 2002 found that 12 percent of committed sex offenders suffered from serious psychiatric problems like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Most severely mentally ill men cannot participate in sex offender treatment and receive few services besides medication. Verwayne Alexander, a self-described paranoid schizophrenic who has been detained at the Florida Civil Commitment Center since 2003, has sliced himself so many times with razor blades that a guard often watches him around the clock, lawyers said. Mr. Alexander has sought unsuccessfully to be moved to a psychiatric hospital.

Those who choose to participate in sex offender treatment spend an average of less than 10 hours a week doing so, but the hours differ vastly from state to state. The structure of therapy, too, varies widely, a reflection, perhaps, of the central question still looming in the field: Can treatment ever really work for these offenders?

Admitting to previous crimes is a crucial piece of a broad band of treatment, known as relapse prevention, that is used in at least 15 states and has been the most widely accepted model for about 20 years.

Some of the institutions, too, devote time to other therapies and activities that seem to have little bearing on sexual offending. In Pennsylvania, young residents take classes to improve their health and social habits called “Athlete’s Foot,” “Lactose Intolerance,” “Male Pattern Baldness,” “Flatulence” and “Proper Table Manners.”

In California, they can join a Brazilian drum ensemble or classes like “Anger Management Through Art Therapy” and “Interpersonal Skills Through Mural Making.”

But many of those committed get no treatment at all for sex offending, mainly by their own choice. In California, three-quarters of civilly committed sex offenders do not attend therapy. Many say their lawyers tell them to avoid it because admission of past misdeeds during therapy could make getting out impossible, or worse, lead to new criminal charges.

For those who decline treatment — sometimes including hundreds of “detainees” awaiting commitment trials — boredom, resentment and hostility to those in treatment lead to trouble. Some sneak in drugs, alcohol and cellphones, sometimes with the help of staff members, or beat up other residents, sometimes coercing them into having sex.

“There’s rampant sexuality going on in there,” said Natalie Novick Brown, a psychologist who has evaluated 250 men at Florida’s center.

The people who run civil commitment centers say that a constant, nagging question hangs over them: How to keep order while not treating argumentative, sometimes violent offenders like prisoners? The low-level staff members are not prison guards and tend to be poorly educated, trained and paid. Their job titles — in Illinois, security therapy aide — reflect the awkward balance they must achieve between security and therapy.

Because civil commitment centers are neither prisons nor traditional mental health programs, no specialized oversight body exists. None has been created, in part because its base of financial support, the 19 civil commitment programs around the country, would be too small, several experts who study the programs said. But the need, they said, is urgent.

“They ought to be reviewed by an independent entity with the highest possible standards,” said Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic in Baltimore.

Few Signs of Progress

Around the country, relatively few committed sex offenders finish treatment and are released.

“Every year I go to his hearing, and every year there’s no progress in his case,” said Armand R. Cingolani III, a lawyer with a client in Pennsylvania who was committed in 2004 after being adjudicated as a juvenile for sexual assault on two different minors. “It doesn’t seem that anyone gets better.”

Nearly 3,000 sex offenders have been committed since the first law passed in 1990. In 18 of the 19 states, about 50 have been released completely from commitment because clinicians or state-appointed evaluators deemed them ready. Some 115 other people have been sent home because of legal technicalities, court rulings, terminal illness or old age.

In discharging offenders, Arizona, the remaining state, has been the exception. That state has fully discharged 81 people; there, the facility’s director said records were not available to indicate the reason for those discharges.

An additional 189 people have been released with supervision or conditions (excluding Texas, where there is no commitment center and those committed are treated only as outpatients). And an additional 68 (including 58 in Arizona) are in a higher, “transitional” phase of the program, but still technically committed and often living on state land.

The backlogs have led to an aging population. Inside many facilities, wheelchairs, walkers, high blood pressure and senility are increasingly expensive concerns. Florida’s center filled 229 prescriptions for arthritis medication one recent month, and 300 for blood pressure and other heart problems.

More than 400 of the men in civil commitment are 60 or older, and a number of studies indicate a significant drop in the recidivism rate for this group, many of whom have health problems after years in prison. David Thornton, treatment director of Wisconsin’s center and an expert on recidivism rates, said the decline was increasingly well-documented.

The growth of the committed population has become a political quagmire. No legislator wants to insist on the release of sex offenders, but few are able to swallow the mounting costs of civil commitment. The costs of aging and sick offenders, such as Mr. Hendricks in Kansas, are especially high in part because of their special needs and physical ailments.

From 2001 to 2005, the price of civil commitment in Kansas leapt to nearly $6.9 million from $1.2 million, a state audit there found. “Unless Kansas is willing to accept a higher level of risk and release more sexual predators from the program,” the audit said, “few options exist to curb the growth of the program.”

But as more states consider granting some offenders supervised release, the cost is turning out to be nearly as prohibitive.

For $1.7 million, Washington converted a warehouse in Seattle into a home for men on conditional release. It has 26 cameras monitoring residents, a dozen workers, a surveillance booth overseeing the living area and a 1,700-pound magnetic door.

Two men live there so far.

With the logjams and frustrations mounting, many states have lengthened prison sentences for sex offenders. Virginia last year increased the minimum sentence for certain sexual acts against children to 25 years, from 10, though it also sharply expanded the number of crimes that qualify an offender for civil commitment.

Ida Ballasiotes, whose daughter’s rape and murder in 1988 helped spur the first civil commitment law, in Washington State, said that no sexual predator should walk free and that longer prison sentences should “absolutely” be considered.

“I don’t believe they can be treated, period,” Ms. Ballasiotes said.

After Release, Objections

Even for those sex offenders considered safe enough to be released, going home is no simple process. Kansas authorities decided two years ago that Mr. Hendricks, who was the first person that state committed under its law and who after a decade had progressed to one of the highest phases of treatment, should be moved from Larned State Hospital to a group home in a community where he would be watched around the clock.

Mr. Hendricks would not be allowed onto the home’s porch or patio without an escort, according to court documents. Besides, his medical problems, including poor hearing and eyesight, meant he could not walk down the 40-yard gravel driveway outside the house without falling, the documents said.

But as with many men with his history, the community balked. In California, so many towns object to men leaving civil commitment that some of those released have to live in trailers outside prisons.

“You can’t just sneak them in,” said John Rodriguez, a recently retired deputy director in the California Department of Mental Health. “You’ve got hearings, the court announces it, it’s all over the press.”

In Mr. Hendricks’s case, residents of Lawrence, where he was initially to be moved, collected petitions. “You can tell me that he’s old, but as long as he can move his hands and his arms, he can hurt another child,” said Missi Pfeifer, 37, a mother of three who led the petition drive with her two sisters and mother.

Then officials in Leavenworth County, picked as an alternative, said the choice violated county zoning laws. Mr. Hendricks lasted two days there, in a house off a road not far from a pasture of horses, before a judge ordered him removed.

State officials said they had no choice but to move Mr. Hendricks back to a facility on the grounds of a different state hospital, where he still is.

Through a spokeswoman for the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, Mr. Hendricks declined to speak to The New York Times.

Two years ago, he told The Lawrence Journal-World that he would be living in a group home “if somebody hadn’t opened their damn mouth,” adding, “I’m stuck here till something happens, and I don’t know when that will be.”

Next: Inside the troubled center for sex offenders in Florida.

Correction: March 6, 2007

A chart with the continuation of a front-page article on Sunday about civil commitment, the practice in some states of confining sex offenders beyond their prison terms, misstated the average annual cost per person under the system in Florida. It is $41,845, not $421,845. ..Source.. by MONICA DAVEY and ABBY GOODNOUGH

Only One Woman Held Under Ryce Act


9-12-2009 Florida:

Nearly 700 Florida men are held in a secure facility, classified as sexually violent predators, despite having completed their prison terms. Just one woman is held in the same situation.

Florida's Jimmy Ryce Act allows for the indefinite civil commitment of sex offenders after they have served their time behind bars. The 1998 law is named for a 9-year-old Miami-Dade boy kidnapped, raped and murdered by a handyman - 14 years ago on Friday.

A jury convicted his killer, Juan Carlos Chavez, the same year the Legislature passed the Jimmy Ryce Act. As a result, Florida sex offenders are spending more time behind bars than ever before.

Judy K. Taylor of Ocala holds the distinction of being Florida's lone woman committed involuntarily and indefinitely to a psychiatric facility, after completing her four-year prison term for having sex with underage boys ranging in age from 13 to 16.

"Men typically abuse because they are sexually aroused by children, and women typically abuse because they are trying to get emotional needs met," according to Fort Lauderdale forensic psychologist Amy Swan, chairwoman of the Florida Board of Psychology and an evaluator for the DCF.

The 45-year-old Taylor is one of just four women nationwide held under sex-offender civil-commitment laws, according to data from the Sex Offender Civil Commitment Programs Network.

The laws, whose constitutionality has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, allow the 20 states to hold sex offenders determined by a court as likely to engage in future acts of sexual violence.

As of August 2008, the most recent data available, just more than 3,600 men across the country were civilly committed. One woman each from Illinois, Florida, Minnesota and Washington were held under the same laws.

When the prison term of someone who has committed a sexually motivated crime is nearing completion, the DCF reviews the case file. Mental health professionals do face-to-face interviews with about 10 percent of those prisoners and 4 percent of them get recommended to state attorneys for civil commitment, according to Dr. Suzonne Kline, director of DCF's Sexually Violent Predator Program.

Only about 1 percent actually are committed, which requires the offender to be declared a sexually violent predator likely to reoffend. This is done at a civil jury trial - as in Taylor's case - or by the offender voluntarily entering into an agreement with the state.

In the 10 years since Florida began civilly committing sex offenders, the DCF has reviewed more than 35,000 cases, of which only 435 have been women.

Men are housed in a secure facility in Arcadia, which is quickly nearing its 720-person capacity. Taylor is held in a Miami psychiatric facility, where she's separated from the other residents.

Since the commitment is civil in nature, treatment is voluntary. The Arcadia facility has dorms filled with men who are forced to live there but refuse treatment.

The DCF would not permit the evaluating psychologist to discuss Taylor's case, but Swan is familiar with the case and said that Taylor has been diagnosed with pedophilia. Taylor also has "significant mental health issues," a common theme with women sex offenders, Swan said.

Scientific literature indicates a "best-guess estimate" that 4 percent of women sexually touch children, compared with 7 percent of men, according to Markus Wiegel, an Atlanta psychologist specializing in female sex offender research. Collecting data on women offenders is challenging, he said, because so little research exists.

Whether more women will be snared under civil commitment laws is the subject of debate, though prosecutors and mental-health professionals agree that the number of women likely will increase, though probably not in great numbers.

"I don't think it's an anomaly that there's one woman, but I don't see the numbers growing significantly," said Kristin Kanner, Broward County's Jimmy Ryce prosecutor.

With women only recently - in the past 10 years or so - being more aggressively prosecuted for sex crimes, the civil-commitment numbers may begin to increase as their prison sentences near completion, according to Barbara Burns, who prosecutes Palm Beach County's Jimmy Ryce cases.

Sex offenders are a heterogenous group, but there are some general differences between men and women who abuse children.

About half of women who commit sex crimes have had a psychiatric hospitalization and have a history of taking psychotropic medications, she said. Forty percent of sexual abuse perpetrated by women occurs in a day care setting.

Complicating the research is that boys abused by women are far less likely to report it "since our society still views it for a boy as scoring," Swan said.

More than half the time, women abuse children with a man, who will have coerced the woman into participating, according to Wiegel.

There is not enough research to reliably estimate the recidivism - or reoffending - rate for women, but it's thought that they reoffend less often than men, perhaps as little as 1 percent, according to some experts.

And while much debate exists about whether sex offenders can ever be cured, Wiegel says they can, indeed, rejoin society.

"A child sex abuser can be taught not to do it again, just like an alcoholic is taught not to drink even if they still have urges," he said. "Sex-offender treatment is very effective, if done correctly." ..Source.. by Missy Diaz Staff Writer

EXCLUSIVE: Inside Moose Lake, Where Sex Offender Vows to 'Sue My Way Out the Front Door'


7-19-2013 Minnesota:

With less than two weeks to go until a court-imposed deadline for proposals for less restrictive alternatives to Minnesota's current program for civilly committed sex offenders, one of the sex offenders who is part of the class-action lawsuit that forced the recommendations vows to "sue my way out the front door."

"I have remorse, I'm sorry for what I did, I'm sorry I grew up as a hateful person," explained Guy Greene, a 41 year-old from Minneapolis who the state has determined is a "sexually dangerous person" and has been committed since 2005.

"But I love life, I love people, I love my family. I want to go home to my family. I want to be a productive member of society," Greene said during an interview recently at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program facility in Moose Lake.

"I'm filing a civil rights complaint. I'm going to sue my way out the front door," Greene said.

Greene is one of the 669 sex offenders - all men except for one woman - committed to MSOP; they represent about four percent of the state's 17,500 registered sex offenders.

The MSOP sex offenders are part of a federal lawsuit that has been certified as class-action that has brought the state closer than ever to reforming the program, which is supposed to offer treatment to persons deemed to be "sexually dangerous" or who have a "sexually psychopathic personality."

Since 1993, not one "client," as the sex offenders are called, has ever successfully finished treatment and completely graduated from the program.

"Two decades have shown that they've been a failure in their treatment, in their attempt at providing treatment," declared Mike Benson, another civilly committed sex offender in Moose Lake who was convicted of raping a woman in 1989. He has been confined in MSOP since 1993.

Anne Barry, deputy commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Human Services which runs the MSOP, acknowledges the lack of provisional discharges.

"I don't think that we're satisfied that we've moved enough people through phases of treatment," Barry said in an interview.

"There need to be some changes if we are going to actually either move more people into the community who have been appropriately treated or if we divert some of those people who would otherwise come to us," said Barry.

DHS is awaiting the recommendations from the Sex Offender Civil Commitment Task Force, which is set to finalize its recommendations at a meeting Nov. 29th and present them to the department, the court, and the Legislature by Dec. 3.

"I can see no reason why we would not follow their recommendations," Barry told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

The largest reforms may require Legislative action; the next session begins in January.

"In addition to our responsibility to make sure that, in fact, we're treating people, we also have a responsibility to the public safety," Barry said. "So there is pressure from all over the place."

Of the 669 sex offenders committed to the MSOP, only 10 - one percent - are in the final phase before they petition a judicial panel for a provisional discharge, according to DHS.

Minnesota has the highest number of civilly committed sex offenders per capita of any state.

Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of the sex offenders in the MSOP are classified as Level 3, which the Department of Corrections defines as the "highest public risk" of re-offending. ..Source.. by Mark Albert

Prosecutors: Sex offender shot ‘up-skirt’ photos at library


7-17-2013 Washington:

A child molester and voyeur already facing indefinite confinement at a state facility is now accused of taking “up-skirt” photos at Seattle’s downtown library.

King County prosecutors contend Michael L. Lacher – a convicted rapist with a history of sex crimes dating to the 1980s – was trying to take the illicit photos even though he was being tracked by the state Department of Corrections at the time.

Lacher was detained by security at the downtown Seattle Public Library after he was reported taking up-skirt photographs on the library escalator. Prosecutors subsequently filed a petition that could see him confined indefinitely at a state center for sexual predators.

Earlier this month, prosecutors charged Lacher with attempted child pornography possession – they contend his home computer showed he was trying to find child pornography online – and voyeurism.

Writing the court, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Snow said a man was at the library with his girlfriend when he saw Lacher hold a cellular phone out under the woman’s skirt. He confronted Lacher, who was then detained by security officers at the library.

“Lacher … showed the officers at least four photos that appeared to be fuzzy shots of women, including shots apparently taken from under a table,” Snow said in court documents describing the July 2009 incident. “Two of the photos appeared to be photos under females’ dresses that showed their underwear.”

Lacher, the prosecutor alleged, told security “he could not be alone with a woman or girl or he would grab her by the hair and rape her.”

Department of Corrections officers arrested Lacher four days later. He went on to admit to several violations of his post-prison release, including failing to make progress in sexual- deviancy treatment and committing voyeurism.

In court documents, Snow said that Lacher admitted to going to the library that day to take up-skirt photos. He also allegedly admitted to taking similar pictures at a storage facility earlier in the day.

A forensic investigator was able to recover more than two-dozen surreptitiously taken photos from Lacher’s phone, the prosecutor continued. Investigators also claim to have found similar photos on Lacher’s home computer, as well as evidence that he was surfing the internet for child pornography.

Lacher has been in custody since his arrest, as the King County Prosecutor’s Office's sexually violent predator unit has pursued a court order that could see him confined indefinitely in an institution for sex offenders on McNeil Island.

Under Washington law, county prosecutors or the state Attorney General can file civil lawsuits asking that sex offenders be confined indefinitely at a Department of Social and Health Services facility, the Special Commitment Center.

To prevail, prosecutors must show that an offender is likely to sexually assault again and that the offender has a mental abnormality making him more likely than not to reoffend. If a jury or judge agrees with prosecutors, an offender can be sent to the McNeil Island facility.

The Special Commitment Center is home to about 300 men indefinitely held as a violent sexual predators. While several offenders have "graduated" from the program and more than a dozen others are living off the island, most remain at the facility. They make up about 1 percent of the sex offenders convicted in Washington courts.

Now 45, Lacher’s has a history of sex crimes dating back to 1987.

In a North Dakota case, Lacher admitted to sexually assaulting a woman living at his home and, separately, molesting a 14-year-old girl whom he also threatened to kill. He was also charged with molesting another 14-year-old; that charge was dropped after Lacher pleaded guilty to the other counts.

Sentenced to five years in prison, Lacher was out two years after the first attack. He didn’t stay free for long, though – he was jailed shortly after his release for peeping on a 20-year-old woman in 1989, then arrested again in 1991 for having sex with a 15-year-old girl.

For that and his prior offenses, Lacher was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in state prison. He was released six years later, and moved to Seattle shortly thereafter.

Settling in a boarding house, Lacher became building manager despite reports that he was seen peeping under the doors of female residents. He was never charged with any crime related to those allegations; instead, he was charged with, and later convicted of, voyeurism after he was caught masturbating outside a Seattle home while watching a young woman in a hot tub.

Lacher’s run-ins with law enforcement continued – he was convicted of voyeurism and trespassing in 2000, a burglary in 2005, and of groping a 17-year-old on a Metro bus in 2008.

Following one incident, Lacher told security at the University of Washington bookstore he couldn’t stop following women.

“I basically have a problem,” Lacher said, according to statements filed with the court. “I am a sex addict.”

Lacher was under Department of Corrections supervision and wearing a tracker in July 2009 when he is alleged to have taken up-skirt photos at the library.

A forensic psychologist who interviewed Lacher following his arrest in 2009 found that Lacher has a “mental abnormality” that makes it likely he will offend again, according to documents. Such a finding is key if prosecutors hope to have Lacher committed as a violent sexual predator.

The psychologist went on to express concerns about Lacher’s pattern of offenses, which appeared to be have been broken only by incarceration.

“Mr. Lacher’s pattern of recidivism has continued unabated despite advancing age, placement on active GPS monitoring, and (Department of Corrections) ordered restrictions prohibiting him from being in residential areas,” the state psychologist wrote in a December 2009 report.

The civil commitment proceeding against Lacher is currently scheduled to go to trial on Nov. 28. He has not yet entered a plea to the recent criminal charges. ..Source.. by LEVI PULKKINEN

California Appeals Court Rejects DA’s Bid To Stop Release Of Convicted Serial Rapist Into LA County


7-17-2013 California:

A California appeals court on Tuesday rejected a challenge to the release of a sexually violent predator to Los Angeles County.

LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said in a statement that the 6th District Court of Appeal’s ruling on the release of Christopher Evans Hubbart, 62, was “very disappointing.”

The writ filed earlier this month by District Attorney Jackie Lacey did not challenge the conditional release of Hubbart from a state hospital that was granted by a panel in May, only the location of his release.

Prosecutors say Hubbart was born and raised in LA County and considers it home. But the writ argued that Hubbart has no living relatives in LA County and that he primarily lived and committed his more recent crimes in Santa Clara County.

Hubbart remained at Coalinga State Hospital while officials searched for housing for him. It’s not clear when he would be released or if further hurdles remain. Los Angeles County was considering all other options regarding his release, Antonovich said.

According to the district attorney’s office, Hubbart has acknowledged raping 40 women in California between 1971 and 1982, including 26 women in Los Angeles County.

In 1982, he was convicted of false imprisonment, rape, and forced oral copulation and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

He was paroled in 1990, but after two months he was arrested and convicted of false imprisonment for an attack on a jogger.

His prison term had been due to end in 1996, but he was instead admitted to a state hospital under a then newly enacted law that allowed sexually violent predators to be civilly committed for treatment.

Release terms would require 24-hour monitoring including a GPS ankle bracelet, treatment, a curfew and random searches, drug tests and polygraph tests. ..Source.. by CBS

Civil commitments for sex predators rejected


7-17-2013 Delaware:

A Delaware task force working to revamp the state’s mental health system on Tuesday roundly rejected a suggestion that the state consider civil commitments for sexually violent predators who “cannot be successfully prosecuted.”

The suggestion was among the recommendations in a 2010 report on the case of former Lewes pediatrician Earl Bradley. Bradley is serving 14 life sentences plus 164 years for abusing hundreds of his young patients. The report on his case was done by Linda Ammons, dean of Widener University School of Law.

Twenty states have adopted predator-related laws, giving authorities a way to extend custody of offenders who are judged to be a continuing threat. Those commitments in other states usually are linked to convicted predators, not those who have not been prosecuted.

In either scenario, strong objections were made to using any mental health facilities – including the Delaware Psychiatric Center – to house sexual predators for public safety reasons.

“The problem with the recommendation is these folks don’t have a mental illness,” said Kevin Huckshorn, director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. “We can’t treat them. Depo-Provera doesn’t work. Chemical castration doesn’t work. Satiation doesn’t work. Aversion therapy doesn’t work. ... It’s inappropriate to hold someone with no mental illness in a mental health facility just because we want them off the street. It’s creepy.”

Dr. Neil Kaye, a psychiatrist who is a member of the task force, said the Psychiatric Society of Delaware opposes the idea.

“These people are bad, not mad,” he said. “Many states who have gone down this slippery slope now regret it. ... And what we’re talking about wouldn’t have prevented Bradley, anyway.”

Reached Tuesday, Ammons said she has not reviewed her notes in several years, but said her recommendation was that the Legislature consider such a law, not that she was recommending it.

The task force was created by a resolution of the House of Representatives to study the state’s mental health system and recommend changes. The resolution was triggered in large part by the state’s consent agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, which sued the state for violating the civil rights of patients who had been “warehoused” for decades at DPC.

In other matters Tuesday, the task force reviewed proposals and new definitions related to the involuntary inpatient commitment process. The process is triggered after an evaluator determines a person is a danger to themselves or others, which would be defined as a substantial likelihood of imminent, serious bodily harm – including a substantial risk of death, significant disfigurement, impairment of health or the function of any organ. The decision would include consideration of the person’s history, recent behavior and threats.

The task force considered a recommendation to add a “provisional admission” period after the initial 24-hour evaluation. At present, a person can be held involuntarily for almost two weeks without a hearing.

Under the new proposal, a person could be held for 48 hours after the initial 24-hour evaluation. After that, the person would have a probable cause hearing and judicial review before involuntary commitment is imposed. ..Source.. by Beth Miller

Smith v State


2-10-2009 Iowa:

AMENDED OPINION

THE COURT'S PRIOR OPINION DATED FEBRUARY 9, 2009 IS HEREBY WITHDRAWN

Jason Smith was incarcerated for the 1998 rape of a fifteen-year-old girl. Prior to his release, he was referred to the Sexual Offender Classification Board (the Board or SOCB) to determine whether he should be classified as a violent sexual predator (VSP).

The Board classified Smith as a VSP. Smith sought judicial review of that decision. After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the district court upheld the Board's decision.

We conclude Smith's designation was not constitutionally sound and, therefore, reverse and remand with instructions to vacate Smith's designation as a VSP. Source: Smith v State