"civil Commitment" Agreement Reached

James L. Seward

March 01, 2007

The governorand legislative leaders today announced an agreement on legislation that will help protect New Yorkers against repeat sex offenders. The legislation authorizes a new program of civil commitment of individuals who have been convicted of sex crimes, served their prison terms and yet remain a clear threat to commit additional sex crimes.

"This was one of my key priorities this year," State Senator James L. Seward said. "We're protecting our kids by keeping sex predators away from the public. This is a big step forward."

"We must do all we can to protect society from individuals who prey upon innocents," said Governor Spitzer. "This legislation will improve our ability to identify and properly confine the most dangerous sexual predators, while also expanding supervision and treatment of all sex offenders."

"This legislation will save lives, protect our children and keep our communities safe by making sure dangerous sexual predators are kept off the streets and get the treatment they so desperately need," said Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. "I commend Senator Dale Volker, who has led the fight in the Senate to get civil commitment enacted for almost two decades. The most important responsibility of government is to protect the people, and this legislation will ensure that all New Yorkers, particularly the most vulnerable -- our children -- are protected from dangerous sexual offenders. This is another example of negotiating and compromising to get a result that will benefit all New Yorkers."

"Today's agreement on civil commitment is another sign that we have entered a new and productive era in state government," said Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith. "I'm proud the Senate Democratic Conference had a place at the table and a role in shaping this bill. The fact that we were able to reach an agreement on this issue is a clear sign that things are changing for the better in Albany, thanks in great part to the leadership of Governor Spitzer."

"On March 2nd 1993, the Assembly Republican Conference was the first to introduce civil confinement legislation for the most dangerous sex predators and pedophiles," said Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco. "Nearly 14 years to the day, we can finally declare victory on behalf of all the families across the state who will now know that someone deemed likely to recommit their heinous sex crimes will not so easily be released back into our communities."

Under the legislation, civil commitment procedures will be streamlined. The initial screening of cases will be done by mental health professionals, who will decide whether the inmate has a mental abnormality that might predispose them to commit sex offenses in the future. A final decision on this issue is entrusted to the unanimous determination of a jury after a trial. A judge will then determine the most appropriate form of management – either confinement for the highest-risk offenders, or strict and intensive supervision for those who pose a lesser risk.

In addition to establishing the new civil commitment program, the new legislation provides for the following:

"Our communities will benefit from a well rounded approach to this social problem," said Lieutenant Governor Paterson. "Involvement from law enforcement, mental health and judicial professionals will ensure not only that justice is done, but that treatment plans address mental health issues and legal safeguards ensure due process is followed."