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Submitted 2:24 p.m.
Letter to the Editor

These sex offender civil commitment facilities are a horrible place for a teenager to grow up. ”

Mark Chaffin, Professor of Public Health, Georgia State University

These sex offender civil commitment facilities are a horrible place for a teenager to grow up. I suspect that the response from the defendants might be, “We agree in principle with the concerns, but you don’t know THESE individuals….they are exceptions to the rule. They are beyond the pale.” In this respect, I thought the most concerning bit of information was that independent outside review of the individual cases suggested that many are not beyond the pale. Only their commitment. I think its probably fair to say that if someone is really and truly that dangerous and predatory, it should be apparent to most anybody reviewing their case. And if you have expert panels disagreeing, then the least you can say is that their risk is not as clear cut as the laws say it needs to be.

I know some of the people who do civil commitment prosecutions, and bet they probably would agree that the problem is not how to identify the top-most risk cases and get them in, but how to get some reasonable number of people out. You were correct in noting that other states have started getting people out, so it can be done. These are extraordinarily expensive facilities to run compared to prisons, and if only for financial reasons have limits on their growth. If nobody ever gets out, and they exceed capacity, then this may have implications for what options remain available in the event that there is an individual who is truly uniquely dangerous--like one of the cases that started this whole civil commitment movement; he was a guy getting out of prison saying explicitly that he would rape and murder a child upon his release—then did so.

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