Agreement On Civil Commitment Of Sex Offenders

Thomas P. Morahan

March 01, 2007

Senator Thomas P. Morahan, New York State Senate Majority Liaison to the Executive Branch, announced an agreement between the Executive Branch and the State Legislature 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.

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.

"Sexual predators prey on the innocent -- they are among the most dangerous criminals, and recidivism rates for these offenders are especially high. Almost half will end up back in prison from a parole violation or for committing a new crime. So instead of releasing them back out into the streets after they serve their prison term, this legislation will place them in secure mental health facilities where they can get the treatment they need, and our communities will be safer because of it," said Senator Morahan, who chairs the Senate Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee.

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

> Mandatory treatment for all sex offenders – both during incarceration and after release;

> Longer periods of parole supervision for sex offenders;

> Establishment of a new crime of "sexually motivated felony;" and

> Creation of a new Office of Sex Offender Management in the State Division of Criminal Justice Services, which will develop comprehensive policies and standards for the evaluation, treatment and management of sex offenders