Answering the Call to Protect Our Citizens

Civil Confinement Continues to be a Top Issue
January 18, 2007

The first job of government is to protect its citizens. In his State of the State speech, Governor Spitzer mentioned that civil confinement is one of the subjects that our State Legislature needs to address this year. I applaud this call, as the Assembly minority conference and the state Senate have taken this issue up as an important topic every year, only to be stopped by the Assembly majority.

My conference first proposed civil confinement legislation to the Assembly in March of 1993, which was over 5,000 days ago. Similar legislation passes almost unanimously every year in the Senate, including just last month in a Special Session. The bill was supported by then-Senator and current Lieutenant Governor David Paterson, however, time and again Speaker Silver has blocked this legislation from coming to the Assembly Floor, where we could debate and vote on the matter.

Due in part to the growing inaction of the state, many local governments have taken on their own right to pass local laws to limit the places known sex offenders can visit and live. I applaud local leaders for proactively protecting their communities, but this just shows that the state needs to act now in favor of the safety of our children and families.

Trying to quell the call for strong civil confinement legislation, the Assembly majority introduced its own civil confinement bill. Their measure, however, lacks weight as it did not cover as many offenders including those under the age of 18, and covered fewer offenses. It also called for greater use of supervised parole instead of actual confinement in a secure facility even after the offender was deemed to have a mental abnormality and likely to re-offend. To focus on reaching a compromise, the Legislature needs to reconvene a public joint conference committee to reach agreement on the issue and enact real civil confinement.

Partisan politics has no place in this discussion. With both parties in the Senate and the governor on board, now is the time for the Assembly to pass a meaningful law that will keep our communities safe.