Members of the largest and most influential committee in the Florida House called for sweeping changes to the state program for confining and treating the most dangerous sexual offenders, saying flaws in the program put the public at risk, reports the Miami Herald. House appropriations committee members said yesterday they wanted to find out why the program had been allowed to deteriorate since it started seven years ago and explore ways of fixing it. ”I think the whole thing needs to be overhauled,” said Rep. John ”Jack” Seilert. “We just throw money at this problem with no real idea of how to correctly address it.”
A two-hour oversight hearing was prompted by a four-part Miami Herald series two weeks ago that exposed widespread breakdowns in the program. The problems culminated in a raid on the program’s treatment center last February. The series, Predators Among Us, revealed a woefully underfunded program with loopholes that allow 60 percent of the men being held at the center to avoid treatment and a lack of follow-up and monitoring for offenders released from the facility. The civil commitment program for sexually violent predators was created by the legislature in 1998, after the abduction, rape and murder of Jimmy Ryce, 9 in Miami. Known as the Jimmy Ryce Act, the intent was to hold sexual offenders who suffer from mental disorders called paraphilias after their prison sentences to provide them with treatment to tame the cravings triggered by the disorders.