Monday, March 05, 2007

Second NYT Piece On The Civil Commitment Of Sex Offenders

The second of a three-part series addressing the civil commitment of convicted sex offenders appears in today's New York Times. Entitled "A Record of Failure At Center For Sex Offenders," the story paints a shockingly grim and disturbing portrait of a privately run "treatment" facility in Arcadia, Florida.

Inside a privately run treatment center here for pedophiles and rapists who have completed their prison sentences, where they are supposed to reflect on their crimes and learn to control their sexual urges, bikini posters were pinned to walls.

Two men took their shirts off, rubbed each other’s backs and held hands, while others disappeared together into dormitory rooms. Some of the sex offenders appeared to be drunk from homemade “buck” liquor secretly brewed and sold here.

And some of the center’s employees, who openly ignored the breaking of rules (“As long as they are happy, we let them go,” one explained), reported that a high turnover rate among staff members was mostly because of female employees leaving their jobs after having had sex with the offenders.

These and other observations were included in a memorandum composed in 2004 by six employees on loan here from Pennsylvania. They had been dispatched by the Liberty Behavioral Health Corporation, which ran the facility, the Florida Civil Commitment Center, and a facility in Pennsylvania.

Nineteen states have laws that allow them to confine or restrict sex criminals beyond prison in a trend that is expanding around the country, with legislators in New York last week announcing agreement on a new civil commitment law there.

The courts have upheld the constitutionality of such laws in part because they are meant to furnish treatment where possible. Most of the states run their own centers to hold and treat such predators, generally with meager results, but at a time when private solutions are popular for prisons, toll roads and other state functions, a few have teamed with private industry.

Yet as the story of the center here in Arcadia reveals, even a $19 million partnership between the state and a company that describes itself as “a national leader in the field of specialized sex offender treatment and management” failed to meet a central purpose: treating sex offenders so they would be well enough to return to society.

“It was like walking into a war zone,” Jared Lamantia, one of the visiting workers who signed the memorandum, recalled in an interview. “The residents in that place ran the whole facility.”

The third article to be published focuses on the "difficult science of treating sex offenders."

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