Civil Confinement Measures to Keep Repeat Offenders Off the Streets

March 9, 2007

For fourteen years my Minority Conference has been leading the call for tougher common-sense laws that would keep dangerous sexual predators off the streets after they’re released from prison, away from children, and in secure facilities where they can receive intensive mental health treatment. The pathway to progress has been long and we have gained a great deal of momentum from the grassroots support of the citizens of New York who saw that the need for civil confinement measures is a common-sense approach to protecting and keeping our families safe.

This week the Assembly majority – the longtime roadblock to the process – succumbed to that pressure and allowed civil confinement to be debated and approved on the floor of the Assembly Chamber. Much of the legislation that was debated contains many measures that have been advocated by my Conference. My minority colleagues and I are pleased to have been longstanding supporters of civil confinement and pleased the legislation passed both houses with overwhelming support.

The measures passed by the legislature will create a new state Office of Sex Offender Management to coordinate all areas related to sex offenders and victims. This includes post- release supervision, treatment, monitoring, risk assessment, civil commitment, community awareness and victim assistance. This office will also develop policies relating to where and how sex offenders should be allowed to live. The legislation expands judicial discretion by giving judges the option of imposing intensive supervision as an alternative to confining offenders in a secure mental facility and toughens the law by mandating fixed sentencing for sex offenders. Upon the release of a prisoner, a panel composed of mental health officials will screen that person to determine if they are a candidate for civil confinement.

The legislation not only creates the system for civil confinement, it also includes stiffer penalties for sex offenders and broadens the category of sexual offense to include crimes motivated by sexual violence. For example, a person who is caught breaking into a house to rape a woman would be charged with a sexually motivated offense even if the offender does not succeed in harming the woman.

As a parent, I feel this legislation is going to help keep our families safe from the repeat sexual predators that prey on children and women. Once this legislation is signed into law by the governor, New York will become the seventeenth state to have civil confinement laws in practice.