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January 15, 2011

"Cost of sex offender program shocks lawmakers"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting local article from Virginia.  Here are excerpts:

Lawmakers expressed shock Friday over the exponentially rising cost of a program to keep some sex offenders locked up after they complete their criminal sentences. The annual operating cost of Virginia's Sexually Violent Predator Program is projected to hit $32 million next year - more than a tenfold increase in eight years.

The General Assembly created the program in 1998 to keep sex offenders deemed likely to re-offend off the streets after they finish their criminal sentences. The process is known as civil commitment.

The 300-bed Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Nottoway County, built just two years ago for $62 million, will be filled by this fall, the House Appropriations Committee was told Friday.

Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed spending an additional $68.5 million this year to accommodate the growing number of offenders coming into the program, including $43.5 million in borrowed money to convert a closed prison in Brunswick County into a second 300-bed treatment center.

The numbers generated bipartisan alarm on the budget-writing panel. "This has just exploded," said Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk. "I worry about where we're heading," said Del. James Scott, D-Fairfax County....

The panel grilled Olivia Garland, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, about how and why the program has grown so dramatically.

Initially the pool of offenders was limited to four crimes: rape, forcible sodomy, object sexual penetration and aggravated sexual battery. In 2006, however, the Assembly expanded the list of crimes to 28. In addition, the state switched to a different screening test, which lowered the threshold for commitment.

As a result, Garland said, the number of offenders coming into the program, initially about one a month, now averages six to eight a month. There are 252 offenders in the program. So far, 11 have been released.

The average annual operating cost is $91,000 per resident. That's low compared to the cost in some of the other 19 states with similar programs, Garland said. In New York, for instance, the per-resident cost is $175,000. A big factor in the cost is the high staffing ratio required for such a program, she said: roughly two staffers for every resident.

Garland cited several reasons why Virginia's program is growing faster than those in many other states. Unlike most states, Virginia commits mentally ill offenders and those who have been judged "unrestorably incompetent to stand trial."

Also, most states require that an offender show a history or pattern of sexually dangerous behavior before becoming eligible for commitment. In Virginia, it takes only one offense. The department is exploring ways to curb the program's growth, Garland said....

Del. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, said the state needs to examine why so few offenders are being released. "We have an elaborate get-you-in system," she said. "I think we also need an elaborate get-you-out system."

January 15, 2011 at 12:22 PM | Permalink


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Relatedly, it looks like Texas won't comply with the Adam Walsh Act because it would cost $39+ million to implement and the penalty for not doing so is losing a million or two in federal Byrne grants. A TX Senate Committee just recommended noncompliance and a legislator who'd filed a bill requiring compliance said yesterday he'll change it to remove that portion.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 15, 2011 1:33:26 PM

Excellent news Gritsforbreakfast!

It doesn't take a rocket scientist, an accountant, an economist, a judge or a governor to figure out that the Adam Walsh Act is NOT a good law. Not only does it not protect anyone, it costs way too much in our cash strapped society.

It's nothing more than a experiment in government control, and that control WILL eventually be exorcised on every citizen in our country!!!!!

Posted by: Book38 | Jan 15, 2011 6:50:36 PM

hmm all the little hate filled nazi's violated the U.S. Constitution and 200+ years of law in this country and now they are paying though the nose for it.


Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 16, 2011 1:03:40 AM

If judicial review is to continue to destroy this country, it should get at least a little scientific method. Before passing any law, define the intended effect. Test in a small jurisdiction. Apply to a larger one if it is safe and effective. If it fails to achieve the intended goal strike it down in judicial review. These judges can at least help by taking out the garbage.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 16, 2011 2:23:51 AM

Five paragraphs into the set up it was powerfully tempting to skip the rest of the article and post speculations about why Virginia's program went viral...but then there it was:

"...the Assembly expanded the list of crimes to 28. In addition, the state switched to a different screening test, which lowered the threshold for commitment."

Ah ha! But of course.

It's how these things work nowadays. Something bad happens. Then ambitious lawmakers push look-at-me bills purportedly to keep the folks safe from even the REMOTE possibility of such awful things happening to them. Next come the creative, imaginative, novel-theory prosecutors who riff on the new laws until they cover pretty much everyone they can be thinly stretched to cover.

Next thing you know the expansive programs and enforcement efforts represent lucrative enterprises and lots of jobs. Therefore any notion of cutting back poses political risks for any (job-killing, soft-on-crime) politician daring enough to suggest it.

The only wonder here is how so many other states managed to resist the forces to which Virginia so enthusiastically succumbed.

Posted by: John K | Jan 16, 2011 9:29:43 AM

sorry john k!

"The only wonder here is how so many other states managed to resist the forces to which Virginia so enthusiastically succumbed."

they havent virginia is the wimp in the family of states compared to most of the others. Every state and even the FEBS now have an illegal after the fact prison system running

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 16, 2011 2:16:36 PM

I wrote a paper questioning the use of sex offender treatment programs for inmates that have life sentences or those offenders who statistically will reoffend. Since we use statistics to place post release inmates in facilities, than we should use statistics to determine who will not benefit from sex offender treatment. Further, we have tests that are structured and very good at predicting who will most likely reoffend. These programs should be only for those that have a higher likelihood of benefiting and those who will be released. FOr example, in Arbenel facility in NJ there are inmates who have been convicted of murdering children, but are in these very expensive programs. We spend so little on inmates who are not sexual offenders and who will be released, but here we spend our treasure on inmates who will not be released. Something makes no sense. Perhaps we want to keep psychologists working?

Posted by: dovid | Jan 16, 2011 11:23:44 PM

the problem dovid is all these goodie-goodie programs are being enforced AFTER THE FACT. Sorry that's ALWAYS gonna be a non-starter under our constution. To be legal they should have been included in the sentence by the judge. Dont' wait till the END OF THE SENTNECE then yell WAIT.....

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 17, 2011 10:00:13 PM

or course i agree with one thing you said. forcing someone with one of the new 25-life sentences for a sex crime into therapy is just stupid! unless it's one of the new sex criminals...you know! the KIDS!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 17, 2011 10:01:21 PM

The General Assembly created the program, expanded the list of crimes and lowered the threshold for commitment - and now they have the temerity to ask how and why the program grew so dramatically?

Who the hell are these people?

Posted by: Huh? | Jan 19, 2011 9:32:04 PM

well Huh? they are the same retarded hatefilled IDIOTS the general public keeps reelecting YEAR AFER YEAR AFTER YEAR AFTER YEAR AFTER YEAR! in some cases going back 30-40 YEARS!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 19, 2011 11:33:08 PM

Hello, I am Brian, paralegal student. The cost is quite high and the situation is quite complicated but we have the faith in our Government.

Posted by: George Allen | Jan 31, 2011 9:19:25 AM

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