After repeatedly failing to act on Assembly minority-sponsored legislation that would keep the most dangerous sex offenders behind bars, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has finally succumbed to public demand for stricter sentences for convicted sexual predators by proposing bills that include a civil confinement policy.
"The Assembly minority conference has stood at the forefront calling for a vote on civil confinement and other measures to strengthen Megan’s Law for over a decade," Assemblyman Gary Finch (R,C-Springport) said. "Our leadership, pressure and prescience have led to forcing the Assembly majority into presenting a plan for a full vote in the upcoming 2006 legislative session."
Assembly minority members began introducing civil confinement legislation in 1993, but Assembly majority members have each year blocked the bill from coming to the floor for debate and a vote.
The proposed Assembly majority legislation earmarked for the upcoming 2006 legislative session uses the term "civil commitment" rather than civil confinement.
Civil confinement would allow the courts to order the worst of convicted sex offenders –classified as Level 3 predators – held in secure mental-health facilities beyond their prison release dates if, upon extensive evaluation and unanimous jury verdicts, it is determined they could strike again. Under current law, sexually violent predators are released into communities once their sentences are finished despite the strong possibility they will offend again.
Finch and his Assembly minority conference colleagues during 2005 collected more than 15,000 signatures as part of a grass-roots petition drive demanding that the Assembly majority stop stalling and start passing legislation to further protect New Yorkers from dangerous sexual predators. The legislation includes civil confinement and measures to strengthen Megan’s Law.
"This step in the right direction comes as a result of the support of thousands of residents throughout the state joining in our fight to ensure our communities are safe," Finch said. "I hope that we mark the beginning of the upcoming legislative session by taking civil confinement as our first item of business."
The Assembly minority legislation includes the following measures to enhance protections for women and children:
- Prohibit convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or school grounds. (A.1654)
- Civil confinement of sexually violent predators in secure mental-health facilities beyond their prison release dates if, upon extensive evaluation and a unanimous jury verdict, it is determined they could strike again when freed. (A.2693)
- Require the most dangerous sex offenders to wear electronic devices linked to Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to monitor their movements. (A.8158)
- Expand the information available about sex offenders on the Division of Criminal Justice Services’ Web site to include information on all registered offenders. (A.1701)
- Require law enforcement to release information on Level 2 and 3 sex offenders – those at the highest risk of committing additional crimes – to vulnerable populations in the community. (A.1654)