The national debate over how best to deal with dangerous sexual predators is playing out in a highly charged political way in New York, says the Christian Science Monitor It centers on the issue of civil commitment, laws that allow the government to institutionalize unsafe sexual offenders in mental hospitals after they served their time in prison. Advocates say this is the best way to keep dangerous, repeat sexual offenders from striking again. Opponents argue that civil confinement of sexual offenders has proved very expensive and not as effective as longer sentences, intensive treatment, and post-incarceration supervision.
“There’s certainly been a trend in states to pay attention to how long they go to prison and, if they’re going to get out, how do we supervise them effectively in the community,” says Donna Lyons, criminal-justice program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver. “They’re really looking at the whole picture. There’s really not just one solution being pursued.” Thirteen states that have passed civil-commitment laws have enacted amendments further clarifying how and when they are to be used. Most of these states have been sued.