Sexual Predator Program Study Updates

An update has been released on a series of studies on the state's violent sex offender program.

A group is studying the growth of the in-state treatment facility that houses all convicted sex offenders in Virginia.

As more violent sexual offenders are convicted, the in-state treatment facility is filling up.

That comes at a big cost, but officials are wondering if the cost is worth it if it means keeping children safe.

As Virginia's sexual predator program is reevaluated, many lawmakers are trying to balance the rising cost with the safety of our community.

State Sen. Mark Obenshain says the studies are to challenge the way the sexual predator program is operated so it can be improved.

Obenshain says, "We're adding more people to the program at a facility that isn't built for that many people or staffed for that many people."

Police don't know if there are more predators or if they are just becoming more aware of them, but Staunton Police Officer Lisa Klein says it's a really serious problem.

She says, "With something like this that is a drive or a compulsion, it's very difficult to deal with that if they are in the community."

As some sexual offenders complete the program, they find it hard to find a job and housing.

So many never leave the program, but that's at a cost to the taxpayers.

Obenshain says people don't like spending money on sexually violent predators, but they know they have to.

Klein says, "When we start talking about money, aren't our children the most important thing? Isn't keeping our community safe the most important thing?"

Both lawmakers and police say they have a commitment to keep the community safe.

Obenshain says, "There just are certain crimes, certain criminals that we just know are a continuing danger to our community, so we're not going to turn them loose on our communities."

The study is expected to be complete in November before the General Assembly convenes next year.


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