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March 18, 2012

Extraordinary review of federal sex offender civil commitment program

USA Today has published this extraordinary report on the federal sex offender civil commitment program under the headline "Sexual predators rarely committed under Justice program." Here is how it gets started:

Inside the sprawling federal prison here is a place the government reserves for the worst of the worst — sexual predators too dangerous to be set free.

Six years ago, the federal government set out to indefinitely detain some of the nation's most dangerous sex offenders, keeping them locked up even after their prison sentences had ended. But despite years of effort, the government has so far won court approval for detaining just 15 men.

Far more often, men the U.S.Justice Department branded as "sexually dangerous" predators, remained imprisoned here for years without a mandatory court hearing before the government was forced to let them go, a USA TODAY investigation has found. The Justice Department has either lost or dropped its cases against 61 of the 136 men it sought to detain. Some were imprisoned for more than four years without a trial before they were freed.

Dozens of others are still waiting for their day in court. They remain in a prison unit where authorities and former detainees said explicit drawings of children are commonplace, but where few of the men have received any treatment for the disorders that put them there.

Despite that, neither the Justice Department nor other watchdog agencies have offered any public assessment of how well the federal civil commitment law works.

For this investigation, USA TODAY reviewed all 136 cases that have been brought to court, drawing on thousands of pages of legal filings and dozens of interviews with attorneys, psychologists and former detainees.

The outcomes documented by that review have raised questions about a system meant to control men too seriously ill to control themselves. A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., has already called delays in bringing the men to trial "troubling," and suggested that they could raise concerns about the detainees' constitutional right to due process. And Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., one of the law's key supporters, said "there will be somebody who will have to answer" for them.

"We need to be very, very careful in a free society about a system in which a group of people can make statements that result in someone being deprived of their liberty for a future crime," said Fred Berlin, the director of the Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. "If it's going to be done, it has to be done in a just and fair manner."

Many of the men the government sought to detain have been found guilty of molesting children or brutal sexual assaults. One killed a woman. U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychologists certified that the men also suffer from mental abnormalities making them "sexually dangerous," a determination that keeps them locked up while their cases are reviewed. By law, a federal judge must ultimately decide whether the government can prove the inmate is too dangerous to be released. Worst of the worst

But in case after case, those determinations have come into question. In at least two cases, the government could not prove the men had committed crimes serious enough to justify committing them. Others had not been found guilty of a "hands-on" sex offense in decades. Some psychological assessments failed to fully account for men's ages, a key factor when assessing risk.

March 18, 2012 at 10:27 PM | Permalink


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These centers are a great idea, but what an underused resource! Why limit it just to people who are sexually dangerous? Shouldn't we civilly commit people who are generally dangerous, too?

Or maybe even people who are epically stupid. We'd have to build a lot more prisons. I mean, "civil commitment centers."

Posted by: C.E. | Mar 18, 2012 10:39:30 PM

As a supporter of incapacitation, as the sole mature goal of the criminal law, these men should have been executed before age 18. The advocacy of their release is a catastrophic form of lawyer rent seeking. If a lawyer looses one these men, the family of the subsequent victim has full moral, intellectual and policy justification to kill the judge, the defense lawyer and the prosecutor who failed to detain this proven predator.

The reader likely knew his sexual preference at age three, e.g. adult, developed females. Then he was taught to not touch strangers without permission. Outside of that lesson, the preference is set at age 3. So, say, my preference requires that I slit the throat of my sex partner to feel anything or else the sex act holds no pleasure. That is set at age 3 too, and will never change.

A panel of those experienced psychologists should review and decide these cases, with full tort liability to those they injure by their carelessness. That know nothing federal judges get to decide is an absurdity. Then, give this dunce on the bench absolute immunity for his catastrophic mistakes, and you have an explosive potential. It is not the words of a psychological report that continues the detention. It is the facts of the past behaviors of the inmates.

I understand the constitutional problems, but they were made by the lawyers. And victims should not pay the price.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 18, 2012 11:46:21 PM

could be worse. they could be in florida's. they just had a case where the guy went 10 YEARS with no hearing. The florida supreme retards of couse said TOUGH SHIT that was NOT a violation of his civil rights. Becasue 10 years ago one of his 5 dollar lawyers was retarded enough to wave the ORIGINAL 30 day requirment!

Sorry SC but these centers are illegal and UNCONSTUTIONAL! They don't even pass the smell test!

Sorry but it's not even CLOSE TO LEGAL

to decide someone is sane enough to charge
sane enough to take to trial
sane enough to take said trial to conviciton
sane enough be given a prison sentence
sane enough to SERVE said prison sentence

and THEN only when said prison sentence is fixing to end...to SUDDENLY be NUTS!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 19, 2012 1:28:27 AM

Rod: You must be sincere enough in your defense of the constitution to give the parole board your address. Have them open a half way house for 8 of them, next to your residence. Then, if you have kids walking to school, they can pass by these fellows on the porch, saying to a girl, "You look nice today." or, "Do you want to see my puppy?"

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 19, 2012 3:52:24 AM

If a sex offender killed a woman, the fact that he even had a release date scheduled is pure madness. Of course, that doesn't mean its Constitutional to hold someone for ever with no hearing or no chance for relief. Its not and its not exactly novel. 4 years with no hearing - that is a clear violation of due process no matter how dangerous an icky perv might be. Espcially since unlike the states, the feds don't even pretend that they are doing anything other than keeping in prison - mainly because they do keep the icky pervs in prison following release. When the first word of a location is "FCI" that is not a treatment center.

No doubt there are plenty of islands out there which the United States owns or could annex easily which can be used to create an offshore sex offender treatment resort which would enable icky pervs to be isolated from society without keeping them in prison forever even after their sentence ended. The United States government really should contact Erika's Icky Perv Solutions for a full proposal for this exciting treatment option.

And while it might cut into the number of future profit centers for Erika's Icky Perv Solutions, in the future anything short of a life sentence for a sexual predator/murderer or a violent rapist of a child is pure insanity.

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Mar 19, 2012 7:09:28 AM

This civil commitment program could also eventually lead to major inmate unrest among those subject to this program. When you keep a person beyond his or her prison sentence with no prospect of release no matter how well behaved that inmate is toward his or her jailors, then that inmate will lose such incentive to behave and decide that he or she has nothing to lose any more by targeting guards or staff for assault or murder as a way of getting even with the civil commitment system. To my knowledge, this has not happened yet and I hope it never will, but don't be complacent. There is always a first time.

We used to think that black convicts before the Attica and Lucasville uprising were too docile and complacent to rise up against their keepers. We also had that assumption about ghetto-dwellers until 1965 when ghettoized residents decided to target police whom they viewed as occupyers instead of as keepers of the peace and to target certain white-owned businesses whom black ghetto residents suspsected of discriminating against ghetto-dwellers. One should NOT be surprised if any one of these civil commitment centers should ever take a page from these militant, radicalized, uprisings.

I work as a note-taker and reader at a local community college.

Posted by: william delzell | Mar 19, 2012 12:00:51 PM

I remain troubled by that old quote: "If you can do it to anybody, you can do it to anybody." Civil commitment? Preventive detention? There is supposed to be some meaningful difference?

Posted by: tim rudisill | Mar 19, 2012 12:44:39 PM

Your first paragraph specifies sexual predators to which there should be some assignment, however the rest of the paragraph goes on to say "... most dangerou's sex offender, ..." as if to say someone serving a sentence as a sexual offender, as prescribed by applicable statute, is or can be more dangerous than someone serving a sentence as a sexual predator, as prescribed by applicable statute. please call apples apples and pine-apples pine-apples. it is responsible reporting of words in their definition by responsible publications such as yourself that motivate "society's opinion" implying it is acceptable to have a different social law than criminal law.

Nor, apparently is it acceptable for your implied watch dog agiencies and the Justice Department to cite recidivism rates of sexual offenders because they know, in using facts, rather than social opinion, they would be exposing their abuse of the: United States Constitution Article I SS 10 under 42 USC ss 1983, 5th, 8th and 14th Ammendment(s)

In So much as "Erika" has stated the same misrepresentation of facts when she starts her retort off saying "If a sex offender killed a..." Sir, if a sex offender killed a woman, by statute (no matter what state you are in i am reasonably sure) he would be a sexual predator. And about the island; I believe that is how Britan started Australia and oddly it developed into its own responisble society? ps- at least you made the correct ending reference, thank you.


The classification system we use is arbitrary at best even in national compliance where the applied classification system is a 3 tier system (which Florida does not employ as it only lists "offenders" or "predators").

The only way to stop sexual abuse is by education by all of society, for all of society. Speak out against sexual abuse, it is more common than you know.

Posted by: Baker Jones Jr | Mar 19, 2012 3:37:32 PM

hate to break it to you erika!

but this is ILLEGAL and UNCONSTUTIONAL based on the 2002 USSC case that make the registry legal!

"No doubt there are plenty of islands out there which the United States owns or could annex easily which can be used to create an offshore sex offender treatment resort which would enable icky pervs to be isolated from society without keeping them in prison forever even after their sentence ended."

Legally once their prison sentence ended the feds or state have no more right to tell THEM where to live than they have to TELL YOU!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 19, 2012 3:48:42 PM

"We need to be very, very careful in a free society about a system in which a group of people can make statements that result in someone being deprived of their liberty for a future crime," said Fred Berlin, the director of the Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. "If it's going to be done, it has to be done in a just and fair manner."

If we're going to deprive people of liberty for crimes they haven't committed, we need to do it in a fair and just manner? Paging Mr. Orwell....

Posted by: Guy | Mar 19, 2012 5:30:38 PM

See: Minority Report

Posted by: movie goer | Mar 20, 2012 1:06:42 PM

I'm sorry, my sarcasm meter is broken. Is Erika serious or just trolling?

Posted by: Adam Jensen | Mar 20, 2012 10:31:47 PM

based on oh so many posts. i've have to say she's as serious as a heart attack!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 21, 2012 1:04:38 AM

At the Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia, Florida, about 750 men are detained/committed. Keep in mind that this facility is run by GEO Group, a for-profit, private prison company with headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida. The Florida Commitment Center is a cash cow for GEO. Because GEO stock is publicly traded, beds must be kept full at all times. The number of detainees never drops below the amount needed to keep things rolling along.

At the taxpayer's expense, it costs about $60,000 per man to stay there. This does not include the State-hired psychologists at $5,000 a clip for individual evaluation; continuous court proceedings, evaluations and appeals.

Lately, a renowned leading psychologist and leader in his field of sexual matters, took on the job of highest authority at this facility. He rolled up his sleeves and wanted to implement outstanding methods of treatment for the men there. Well, this would greatly cut into the profits because people would be healed and no longer held there indefinitely. After great embattlements with GEO, this wonderful "Dr. Phil" type left abruptly.

In reality, there are only a few truly violent predators held at this facility. Maybe 10%. The rest are a bunch of guys who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most have no serious sexual problems and should just go home. This is corruption at its finest - even the judges who hear the cases are corrupt.

Posted by: Reverend | Mar 21, 2012 3:36:51 PM

lol said a mouth full here reverend!

"This is corruption at its finest - even the judges who hear the cases are corrupt"

As proven by the newest Flrorida Supreme Court decison that basicaly said keeping someone in there for a DECADE without a hearing was perfetly LEGAL and NOT a violation of his civil rights!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 21, 2012 11:43:10 PM

Under the Jimmy Ryce Act, the detainees/residents of Florida Civil Commitment Center are entitled to a yearly annual review. I guarantee the next part will make you feel sad.....the yearly annual review consists of nothing more than a less-than-five-minute phone call from a judge. The judge knows almost nothing of the detainee and asks, "Did you change?" The detainee is not allowed to speak, but his public defender, also on the line, says a few words. Then, the case is "rubber-stamped" and put on the shelf until the following year.

Three men at this facility requested Probable Cause for Release Hearings. They had participated in years of (worthless) treatment as prescribed; but had even gone beyond the regular expectations of any prisoner. One of the men completed two accredited associate degrees and they participated in recognized religious training from seminaries. They attended AA training and beat their former mild addictions. I will also mention that the original charges against them were indeed flimsy, non-contact events.

The anticipated day of the Probable Cause for Release Hearings came around - but the three cases were again, just rubber-stamped, "Denied." All three cases are now awaiting appeal. One of the men is over 60 years old, and they are also holding a 94-year old at this facility. What a threat to society!

Posted by: Reverend | Mar 22, 2012 3:24:21 PM

Oh my God! The comments of C.E. are so irrationally untrue. I refuse to even argue against them. I'll just say that I spent several years working with sex offenders and pretty much everything he said about human sexuality is completely false. Oh my God!!

Posted by: Micah Allen | Mar 22, 2012 5:27:20 PM

Adam, to find out how serious Erika's Icky Perv Solutions take a look at our business model:

First, we find a suitable island which will be renamed Erika's Icky Perv Island.

Second, we develop an off shore treatment resort for sex offenders on said island

Third, we find sex offenders through the passage of my proposed Erika's Law (so named because state legislatures and Congress simply cannot resist passing laws restricting sex offenders named after pretty White women) - Erika's Law will offer convicted sex offenders a choice of either voluntarily moving to Erika's Icky Perv Island or voluntarily undergoing surgical castration including slicing off of penis.

Fourth, Erika's Icky Perv Solutions as the exclusive housing and service provider of Erika's Icky Perv Island brings in massive profits as sex offenders pay inflated prices for rent, goods, and services on Erika's Icky Perv Island.

Fifth, profits come rolling in.

Sixth, additional icky perv islands are developed as needed.

If you wish to find out more information about this exciting business opportunity and hopefully decide to invest large sums of capitol into our solid business model of turning fear into profit, simply request a copy of our investment prospective from the investment firm of Ponzi & Madoff ;)

But seriously, the answer to your question is "both" - I actually do believe that sending sex offenders to a sex offender island would be more humane than leaving them in prison forever, and I do support surgical castration and removal of the penis of sex offenders - the joke part is thinking my proposed small woman owned business can compete with the big established private prison providers in developing the sex offender island concept :)

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Mar 22, 2012 6:08:55 PM

i know reverend. the entiere system is a complete criminal enterprise. What suprises me is we hear little or nothing from them.

If i was there...i'd soon either be FREE ..in a real prison or DEAD! since i would be trying to remove myself from what is a patiently ILLEGAL DETENTION no matter who i had to hurt or even KILL to do it!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 22, 2012 7:34:44 PM

I forgot to mention the three men who are seeking Probable Cause for Release have already been thoroughly and completely evaluated by at least two of the best psychologists in this field. Multi-page reports have been prepared for all three men, outlining the specific reasons why they pose no threat to society or themselves. So, two doctors have said, "It's OK to go home, fellas."

Let's see....at $5,000 for each evaluation = $30,000 total for just these three men. Consider there are about 750 men there, who will need at least two doctors' evaluations to go before a judge for a probable cause hearing. A lot of taxpayer money wasted here.

Even so, the judge denied their release and we're back to square one. The funny thing, Virginia, is that the 60-year old is not capable of having sex because of a previous surgical operation. All that I've posted here is true.

Posted by: Reverend | Mar 23, 2012 9:56:53 PM

I want to say that RodSmith is wrong on about the 10%. Its more on the lines of 50% that should be there.

Posted by: RoddoRudder | Aug 4, 2013 5:22:13 PM

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