Frustrated at Democratic state legislators for not passing a bill to allow the civil confinement of convicted sex offenders, New York Gov. George Pataki has ordered state correction and mental health officials to start locking up violent sex offenders in mental health facilities anyway, even after they have completed their prison terms, reports the New York Times. Since the order was effective last month, it has been used to commit at least five convicted sex offenders to a mental health facility run by the correction department in Manhattan. The new policy was first reported by the New York Post.
The governor expects lawsuits from the incarcerated men. Harvey Rosenthal of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, an advocacy group for the mentally ill, said the civil confinement of sex offenders who have already served a prison term wrongly relied on classifying sex crimes as the result of “mental abnormality.” Everyone is concerned about the risks posed to the public by sex offenders, but he said, “This is a misuse of the mental health system. This is more of a criminal justice matter, and I don’t believe that the mental health system is the appropriate place for it, especially given its scant resources.” At least 16 other states and the District of Columbia now have laws allowing the authorities to confine violent sex offenders to psychiatric hospitals after their prison terms are over.