New York is finding that the average cost to the taxpayers for each sex offender subjected to civil commitment is $175,000, more than any other similar program in the country.
Civil commitment is the process by which the state can continue to incarcerate a sex offender indefinitely after he’s completed his prison sentence.
In the old days, a person had to be convicted in a criminal court in order to be sent to prison. Not only that, but the range of prison time was prescribed by law. But the times, they are a changin’. Now, the state can hold a closed civil hearing, out of the public eye and extend the inmate’s incarceration based on a wild guess about whether the inmate is likely to commit a future crime. Yes, it’s like the movie Minority Report except worse, since it operates without the benefit of precogs who can actually see into the future. This masterpiece of judicial palmistry permits open-ended incarceration, but at substantial cost.
Although only a small percentage of the pool of convicted sex offenders ends up civilly institutionalized in New York, the state still has one of the highest rates of civil confinement in the country, records show.
For New York lawmakers, this will create a demand for tens of millions of tax dollars in coming years at the same time that officials face dire budgetary constraints.
And then there are the court costs associated with experts who conjure up, from their crystal balls, different versions of the future:
The courtroom fights over civil commitment have their own costs, often outstripping the costs of criminal cases.
Civil commitment hearings and trials can become a duel between psychiatric experts warring over whether the offender has a “mental abnormality” that makes him unable to control criminal impulses — a legal requirement for confinement.
And then there’s the space issue:
New York operates two facilities where the detained sex offenders are treated — the Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy near Rome and the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg. Both centers are now at capacity — 150 beds at Central and 80 at St. Lawrence.
An unused building at Marcy could be converted into space for 150 beds, but that transformation would come with costs that have not yet been determined.
OMH is talking with corrections officials about the conversion of some unused prison space, but those discussions are only in preliminary phases.At the current rate of growth — about 70 newly confined offenders annually — treatment costs alone will grow by about $12 million a year. OMH has already trimmed its costs by reducing staff at facilities; originally the average cost per offender was $225,000 a year.
What’s clear is that solutions to the space crunch, regardless of the cost, will be needed soon.
The drug war, war on terror, and sexual predator hysteria are the three primary mechanisms by which the government has been able to circumvent almost every civil liberty we once thought were unassailable. And, thanks to the complicity of the mainstream press, the public is largely scared into acquiescence by a continuous barrage of fear mongering. And it’s been accelerating at a stunning rate.