California Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez has called for a radical overhaul of how the state handles its highest-risk sex offenders, proposing that they be forced to undergo therapy before they can win release, reports the Sacramento Bee. His statements came in response to a three-day investigative series in The Bee outlining flaws in California’s sexually violent predator program, including the fact that most men sent to the program after prison had not done prescribed mental health treatment before being allowed back into society. Republican legislators immediately attacked Democrat Núñez’s comments as hypocritical, blaming him for blocking their similar – and, they said, tougher – proposals during the past two years.
Members of both political parties agreed that the failures The Bee exposed in the sexually violent predator program made it clear changes are needed. The governor’s office reiterated that it will remain steadfast in its commitment to toughening the state’s sex offender laws. California’s sexually violent predator law passed in 1995 over some Democratic concerns about whether it was even constitutional to hold inmates after they had served their prison time. Núñez will study increasing the amount of time offenders must wait before seeking to gain release from the treatment program. Currently, those held in the program can have their requests for release heard in court hearings every two years. Some who shun treatment have been able to get out sooner through the courts than through treatment, creating a disincentive to accept the help.