Assembly Minority Seeks To Put Safety First In Coming Session
|Leader Tedisco and colleagues want to make passage of civil confinement job one|
Assembly Minority Leader James N. Tedisco and members of the Assembly Minority Conference today called on the Assembly Majority to make passage of civil confinement legislation the first order of business when the 2006 Legislative session begins in January.
"Civil confinement is an issue that transcends party lines - as evidenced by the support of many politicians, including several current and former members of the Assembly Majority," said Leader Tedisco (R,C,I-Schenectady, Saratoga). "Since it was first put forth, this idea has garnered widespread bipartisan support. On Friday, Assembly Majority members said they have a plan to address civil confinement early in the coming session. I hope we can stay that course and I hope their plan does not involve any more hearings."
Assembly Minority members first proposed a civil confinement bill in 1993. Since then, they have held several hearings across the state on sex crime legislation through the Assembly Minority Task Force on Sex Crimes Against Children and Women. At each of these hearings, widespread support was voiced for civil confinement legislation.
The legislation would authorize judges to hold the most dangerous sexual predators in secure mental facilities following their release from prison if, after a thorough review process and unanimous jury verdict, it is found that they still pose a threat to society. The State Senate has repeatedly passed it by significant margins, and it is already law in 16 other states. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld its constitutionality three times.
"Assembly Minority members have traveled the state for the past three years, and it has been clear at each of our forums that the people of New York strongly support this legislation," said Assemblywoman Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava (R,C,WF,I-Gouverneur), Chair of the Assembly Minority Task Force on Sex Crimes Against Children and Women. "The time for discussion has passed. The Assembly must act on civil confinement before more dangerous predators are released."
In the absence of a civil confinement law that applies specifically to sex offenders, Governor Pataki has begun to use the current Mental Hygiene law to confine certain sex offenders deemed likely to strike again after their prison terms. Legal challenges have resulted, and a Manhattan Supreme Court judge recently ruled against the Governor. He has appealed that decision. He has also pledged to sign civil confinement legislation as soon as it reaches his desk.
"It is the responsibility of government to ensure the safety of its citizens," said Assemblyman David G. McDonough (R,C,I-Merrick), Vice-Chair of the Assembly Minority Task Force on Sex Crimes Against Children and Women. "My Assembly Minority colleagues and I unanimously agree that passage of civil confinement is our top priority for 2006. Assembly Majority members must do the right thing and allow this crucial legislation to be voted on in January."
Statistics have shown that there is an extremely high recidivism rate among sex offenders, which only serves to underscore the need for a review process and further incarceration if necessary.
"Even after finishing lengthy prison terms, the recidivism rates for rapists and other sex offenders are alarming," said Assemblyman Vincent M. Ignizio (R-South Shore, Staten Island). "Many violent sexual predators simply cannot be rehabilitated. We need legislation that would keep the worst of them from claiming any more victims and keep them away from our children."
Since the 2005 session ended in June, 241 Level 3 sex offenders have been released into communities throughout New York State. While a civil confinement law would not necessarily keep all of them off the streets, it would ensure that they would be evaluated and the most dangerous could be confined.
"By not enacting civil confinement, or even allowing a genuine floor debate and vote on the issue, my Majority colleagues in the Assembly are protecting sex offenders," said Assemblyman Matthew Mirones (R,C,I-Staten Island, Bay Ridge). "They seem to believe the presumed rights of sex offenders are more important than the safety of our children. The more lip service we get about change in Albany, the more things seem to stay the same."
"I am very disturbed by people constantly talking about the rights of these criminals," said Assemblyman Roy McDonald (R,C,I-Wilton). "I am more concerned about the rights of the residents and families living in our communities. As a parent and grandparent, I realize that this is without question every parent's nightmare. I refuse to stand by and allow these criminals to intimidate mothers, fathers, and especially children in their own neighborhoods."
If the Assembly does bring civil confinement to a vote in January, it will mark the first time the entire body has been given a chance to consider this important legislation.
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