The New York State Senate will act today on legislation (S.3273) that provides for the civil commitment of sexually violent predators after they’ve completed their prison sentence to protect the public from criminals likely to commit repeated acts of sexual violence.
"It's simple -- this is about protecting our children and ending the nightmare of child abductions by predators," Senator James L. Seward said.
"Almost half the people who commit sexually violent offenses are returned to prison for a violation of parole or for committing a new crime," Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said. "In the capital region you only have to go back six weeks to find an incident where a convicted sex offender attacked a woman in Waterford. We have to act to protect the public by enacting this bill. Sixteen other states have enacted civil commitment laws to protect the public from sexually violent predators and to provide treatment to this dangerous group of offenders. I hope the Assembly will join us in passing this bill so New York can be the seventeenth."
"This legislation is not strictly a ‘lock 'em up and throw away the key, get tough’ bill, but rather an honest attempt to provide 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," Senator Dale Volker said. "This bill would ensure that people who are clearly mentally unstable and determined by mental health experts to be a significant danger to society would be detained. The proposal is constitutional and there should be no delay in passing a law to keep the most dangerous sex offenders off the streets."
There are well-respected experts in the field of sexual and mental disorders, as well as volumes of sound scientific research, that prove that sex offenders have extremely high occurrences of re-offending once released. Currently, there is no statutory authority to civilly commit sexually violent predators to secure facilities after they serve their criminal sentences in New York State. Under our existing laws, sexually violent predators are released into the community without the benefit of treatment designed to address their unique needs. No provision exists to protect the public from sexually violent predators.
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 public health and safety.
Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia have passed laws authorizing the civil commitment of sexually violent predators at the expiration of their criminal sentences: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
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,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.