Senate Passes Civil Commitment Legislation
Senator John J. Flanagan (2nd Senate District)announced that the New York State Senate has passed legislationthat provides for the civil commitment of sexually violent predators at a secure treatment facility after they’ve completed their prison sentence in order to protect the public from criminals likely to commit repeated acts of sexual violence. The bill, which Senator Flanagan sponored, is part of a major effort to strengthen the State’s sex crime laws and expand Megan’s Law.
"This legislation provides for the treatment and control of sexually violent predators at secure facilities in order to reduce their chances of re-offending and to protect the most vulnerable people in our society, our children," said Senator Flanagan. "Almost half of the people who commit sexually violent offenses and are released from prison are returned to prison, either for a violation of their parole or for committing a new sexual offense."
Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia have passed laws authorizing the civil commitment of sexually violent predators at the end of their criminal sentences: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the involuntary civil commitment of dangerous persons who are unable to control their behaviors and whose mental illnesses render them a grave risk to the health and safety of the public.
Recidivism rates for persons who commit sexually violent offenses are extraordinarily high. According to a recent report from the New York State Department of Correctional Services, for the period from 1986 through 1995, approximately 49 percent of sex offenders who were released from New York prisons in 1986 were returned to prison for a violation of parole or for committing a new crime.
Some of these sexually violent predators have mental abnormalities that make them even more likely to continue committing acts of sexual violence. The existing programs in state correctional facilities are insufficient to address this problem. As a result, these predators are eventually released into the community without the benefit of treatment or care designed to address their unique treatment needs. The Senate bill provides for such treatment at secure facilities and simultaneously extends greater protection to the public by establishing procedures to civilly commit persons who have committed acts of sexual violence and are likely to commit more sex crimes.
"With the passage of this legislation, we have the opportunity to save lives, protect our children, and ensure that our communities are safe from sexual predators who roam our streets in pursuit of their next victim," concluded Flanagan.