Law keeps sexual predators in jail
The law was found constitutionally sound, but the methods of treatment and the finances still need some work, according to state analysts.
Since its enactment, the Sexually Violent Predator Act has recommitted 164 sex offenders to state mental hospitals for treatment. Only one was a woman. Challenges on the law’s constitutionality were shot down by the California Supreme Court. And a similar law in Kansas was upheld by U.S. Supreme Court. The courts have said that the individuals are not retried for past crimes but rather evaluated for a current mental disorder, and no punitive purpose is intended.
The legislative analyst’s office projects that by 2000, California will have spent a total of around $214 million for state and local government costs related to the law.
The extensive cost, and despite the tough measures there are still a large number of sex offenders classified as high risk released on parole, has forced some legislators to step back and look at other options.
“We’re not proposing to modify the sexually violent predator law. What we are saying is that if you think the law by itself will solve the problem you’re wrong,” said Dan Carson of the legislative analyst’s office. “Other states have found that intensive parole supervision and treatment programs in the prisons have had good results for a fraction of the cost.”
As of April 26, the Department of Corrections had referred 2,601 prisoners to mental health for evaluation under the sexually violent predator law. Mental health referred 660 of those cases to county district attorneys for filing – 508 were filed. Only 307 cases have actually gone to trial – 36 were released by the juries – and 107 still have trials pending, according to the Department of Mental Health.
The prisoners, who according to the Department of Corrections cost the state around $21,000 annually to house in prison, will cost about $107,000 a year for treatment in a state mental hospital.
Carson said the state would see a significant savings if individuals received treatment in prison and were released on a closely monitored parole after serving their sentences.
The legislative analyst’s office’s suggestions for paroled sex offenders is now in bill form before the state assembly. It highlights intense parole supervision and longer parole times, specialized treatment programs, a pilot prison treatment program and voluntary medication treatments.
“Every single person that we divert from coming back to us either as a first-striker or three-striker will translate to substantial savings for the state,” Carson said.
The cost for the containment approach is estimated at about $9 million annually, according to the legislative analyst’s office.
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