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Sunday, March 4, 2007

NY's Decision to Hold Sex Offenders Indefinitely Sparks Debate

From NYTimes.com: 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.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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