Attorney General Jerry Kilgore yesterday hailed the approval of Virginia's Sexually Violent Predators Act. It's intended to keep sexual predators out of the community by civilly committing them. But we looked at how fair it is to the prisoners.
The Sexually Violent Predators Act will take a sexual offender who has already served their time, then re-examine them for repeat offender tendencies. The seven member Commitment Review Committee screens, evaluates and makes recommendations about prisoners. It has three representatives from the Department of Corrections, three from the Department of Mental Health, and one from office of the Attorney General. Some say this new "trial" is unfair to the prisoners. But Delegate Christopher Saxman disagrees.
"It's important to keep sexually violent predators off the streets" says Saxman, Delegate of Virginia's 20th District. "We also have to take in consideration their civil liberties as well as anybody else's. We don't want to create second layers of incarceration. We want to make sure these people are rehabilitated."
"If you're an advocate for the safety of the community it seems fair, if you're an advocate for the person that's been incarcerated then it doesn't seem fair," says licensed counselor Richard Wettstone. "Because here they've maxed out there time and now they're going to be civilly committed for an indefinite period of time."
Wettstone says the prisoner is thoroughly evaluated before he's labeled as a sexual predator.
"The tests nowadays are pretty accurate as predictors of re-offense," says Wettstone. "They are acturarial tests and risk assessment instruments basically is what they are that have been researched to a great degree."
Wettstone sees one other good reason for the program.
"The other thing to consider is most people in prison don't get treatment and the re-offense rate for untreated sex offenders is pretty high," explains Wettstone.
Wettstone says sexual predators are repeat offenders more than 50-percent of the time. Two buildings at the Southside Training Center near Petersburg will house those civilly committed. They will be under the care of the Department of Mental Health.