(Albany, NY) Senator Dale M. Volker (R-I-C, Depew) today announced that The New York State Senate, in collaboration with Governor Spitzer and the New York State Assembly, that would provide 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 historic agreement between the Governor and the State Legislature in my opinion represents the greatest reforms in the criminal justice system in a decade," said Senator Dale M. Volker. "I believe that it is the most comprehensive plan for dealing with the treatment and confinement of violent sexual predators."
In order to protect the public and provide treatment to dangerous offenders, at least 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. These states include: 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.
Senator Volker said, "The agreement will create a separate facility run by the New York State Office of Mental Health and provide for intensive supervision of sex offenders if they are released back into society. Additionally, significant mental health treatment is provided for sex offenders in secure mental health forensic facilities. New York State is one of the most complex states in the union and yet we have continually led the way in innovative and reform-minded criminal justice policies."
Recidivism rates for persons who commit sexually violent offenses are extraordinarily high. According to a 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. However, 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.
Under the agreement, 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:
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.
"I first introduced legislation on the civil confinement of sexual predators in 1994 after the United State’s Supreme Court decision on Hendrick’s vs. Kansas court case confirming the legality of civil confinement of sexual predators," said Senator Dale M. Volker. "Since then, and three Governors later, I have passed, promoted, and finally have seen it’s enactment. We have finally reached our goal in protecting our children, our loved ones and our families from these violent sexual predators."