Although California spent $25 million more last year to screen thousands of violent sex offenders for mental illness, the effort resulted in none being sent to a state hospital after completing a prison term, reports the Contra Costa Times. The screening was launched in 2006 under laws that legislators and voters passed to try to keep sexual predators behind bars after they’ve completed their prison sentence. While local prosecutors say they’re filing more court petitions to commit offenders to state hospitals, experts say most of the newly eligible convicts simply don’t meet the expanded definition of a Sexually Violent Predator.
“We were really identifying the highest-risk sex offenders for the most part” before the law changed, said Amy Phenix, a psychologist who evaluates inmates under a contract with the state Department of Mental Health. Proposition 83, along with state legislation, expands the list of sex crimes that qualify an inmate for commitment. An inmate can be committed for an offense against a single victim, rather than the multiple-victim requirement under previous laws. The changes created a wave of soon-to-be-released inmates screened to determine if they have a mental disorder that makes them “likely to engage in sexually violent, predatory criminal conduct without appropriate treatment and custody.” Referrals of inmates to the mental health agency ballooned from a monthly average of 45 to nearly 750.