A case against civil commitment

Reposted from August 14, 2018

By NARSOL . . . In view of recent developments in the case of Galen Baughman in Virginia, NARSOL restates its unequivocal opposition to the civil commitment process occurring in at least twenty states and in the federal system. Paul Shannon, NARSOL’s board chair, states, “NARSOL opposes the practice of civilly committing sexual offenders to a locked facility after they have completed serving their prison sentence. If in fact the offender has a mental disorder, he/she should be treated in the mental health system rather than incarcerated.”

 Shannon’s remarks are in response to Virginia’s effort to designate Mr. Baughman a sexually violent predator (SVP), which would result in indefinite and possibly lifetime confinement. Shannon said, “Although NARSOL does not condone the violations of supervision established in Mr. Baughman’s case, we are deeply troubled by the effort to designate him as an SVP.”

NARSOL’s board of directors opposes the Attorney General’s petition for the following reasons:

  • This is the second attempt to commit Mr. Baughman even though there has not been a subsequent “predicate” sexual offense, which means this effort should be barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The Attorney General is attempting to have a second bite at the apple since the first attempt to commit Mr. Baughman failed back in 2012.
  • Baughman’s publicly available record reveals no history of violence. Violence is defined as, “The use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy.”
  • The Static-99 risk assessment tool which Virginia heavily relies on has a built-in bias against males with male victims.
  • Despite the fact that the state of Virginia has been on notice since January 2012 that significant problems exist with their SVP commitment program, they have failed to take actions to improve the system. In fact, the Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), issued a 202-page report identifying significant issues in need of reform. The full report can be viewed here.

Some key issues identified by the JLARC Report are:

  1. Virginia’s switch to the Static-99 actuarial risk assessment instrument and score of “5” resulted in a 450 percent increase in the number of offenders eligible for civil commitment as sexually violent predators (SVP). (Chapter 1)
  2. Virginia’s actuarial risk assessment screening approach is flawed, in part because it does not allow qualified professionals to use their professional judgment to review certain high-risk offenders, including those who state their intent to reoffend. (Chapter 3)
  3. Virginia’s risk assessment process and civil commitment proceedings rely heavily on expert SVP evaluators. These evaluators find offenders to be SVPs at widely varying rates. (Chapter 4)
  4. Virginia’s risk assessment process does not provide enough flexibility and does not sufficiently use consensus to decide whether to proceed with the civil commitment process. (Chapter 4)
  5. Virginia’s civil commitment program will continue to grow over time. However, the rate of program growth can be reduced if certain program changes, such as those recommended, are made. (Chapter 9)

As stated above, NARSOL opposes the use of civil commitment as presently implemented after a person has completed his or her court-imposed sentence. But in view of the numerous deficiencies in Virginia’s present SVP commitment process identified by the JLARC report, NARSOL submits that the following steps, if taken by the Attorney General, would be a major improvement over present policy:  (1) seek commitment only of those individuals who have actually engaged in physical violence and when a current risk assessment indicates a propensity for future violence clearly exists; (2) advocate for reforms, including reducing the heavy reliance on the Static-99; and (3) seek changes to the current system so there is more flexibility in deciding whether to proceed with the civil commitment process.

See also: https://narsol.org/2019/06/civil-commitment/

and https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/08/23/arlington-judge-must-decide-if-nonviolent-sex-offender-should-stay-incarcerated-after-serving-his-sentence/?arc404=true#comments-wrapper

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    • #59304 Reply

      This is so very dangerous for ALL society. This country is speeding towards a police State. Imagine a human can be detained indefinitely even AFTER serving his maximum punishment as prescribed by law and a judge.sentence. The founding fathers must be rolling over in their graves. This essentially giver government power to detain anyone they “deem dangerous.” It is already implemented with sex offenders and “terrorists.” It will continue with Red Flag laws. It is a very scary time in the country and is going to get worse before it might get better. The real problem is the populace is cheering it on!

    • #59305 Reply

      The USA can change the rules when ever it wants. It can snap any law into effect, at its own will, to put ANYONE into an institution with out cause. The USA also enjoys a challenge to be tied in court for centuries because the government makes billions of stolen money in defunct court cases and trials in the court system. The United States Government is the biggest bully on the planet, Just look at history.

    • #59309 Reply

      Hello and Good Morning and Evening. I wanted to address the “STATIC-99” assessment tool NC uses in Sex Offense Cases. It is the same as Virginia as it has built in BIAS factors on same sex cases. It gives points if the act involved someone of the same sex but doesn’t if it was of the opposite sex. How is this legal? dunno but I feel its not. When I was assessed during my case I was told i was mod to high risk bc the other person was of same sex. Then later on when I requested a copy of the STATIC-99 to view the questions it asked you can clearly tell its BIAS as hell. Means if it would of involved a female and not a male I most likely would not of been wearing a ankle bracelet for 10 damn long yrs. This nonsense needs to end immediately before it destroys more life’s. Anyways, but to keep on breaking more laws to try to send a man to a life long prison sentence as a SVP when it has been proven he is not is so disturbing beyond human understanding. Seems our society is mentally sick and destined to destroy lives than rebuild and restore. When the Federal Government set out to create SEX OFFENSE Legislation, never stopped to see the nonstop damage it would cause later on in life. It prevents ANYONE…ANYONE who ever gets convicted of a SEX OFFENSE of any kind from EVER having a NORMAL LIFE again. Its bad enough to have a SEX OFFENSE on HIS/HER criminal record. The SEX OFFENSE REGISTRY is beyond ridiculous by mandating an ongoing punishment outside of what the jail/prison sentence requires by restricting a person to limitations that NOBODY else convicted of any other crime has to deal with. How in the hell can anyone ever ever get back to a sense of NORMAL when they have these unnecessary burdens. We as a society need to fight to change this immediately before it gets worse. I understand we need to have reasonable protection from dangerous individuals and people but when is it classified as going TOO FAR. Enough is Enough. We need to stop our Government from getting away with making and enforcing unconstitutional laws and legislation. The US constitution says….WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES. That is US. Not the govt. Lets take back what our govt has took from us. Our rights as US CITIZENS.

    • #59310 Reply
      Joe Lawler

      My suggestion is that NARSOL opposes all civil commitment, as it is an unconstitutional practice for all. It may now be focused on sex offenders, we are a test group that is perceived as acceptable to treat this way. This practice will be expanded. DWI, Murder, Texting while driving, where will it not be used will be the question.

    • #59324 Reply

      Well Paul Shannon, I have to congradulate you and all the NARSOL team in presentating this article. Seems one has a big disagreement or argument on one’s hands or someone’s opened a pandora’s box again.. Sure all things come out in the wash as they say if one stands their ground. Imput is good and so are new directions. Now I haven heard of Galen in a long time but this is a good example of how two wrongs don’t make a right. Yes one has to be courageous and strong in these encounters. Are these offenses triggering a trap for lifetime supervision from a simple to a more complex ordeal.

      Galen has his whole life ahead of him and yes he has made a mistrake or two along the way. What’s more he is labeled as a (SVP) and also gay as one says. Your right about Virginia labeling others as (SVP) from the simple to the more complex whether one has an actual victim or not. So its ok with the status of being gay but its not ok with being labeled a (SVP) even when one completes his or her prision, probation or other means of punishment.
      Do court systems think more highly of themselves today than the other or does knowledge puff up or does love build up. Is this a discriminition of him in a personal way or are “We the people”saying because “We” said so. Isn’t that a form of judging.

      One wonders who abuses their vocation today? Many of these offenses are not even offenses or are we all J-walking to a lot of this or being challanged. One wonders who protects and serves wrongfully today in this bias justice system of the offender.

      Galen has spoken out on many things as have a number of people on the registry but who is now judging one’s conscience today in this double standard or as one would say a catch 22. One wonders if Government self-governs themself? When conscience convicts than we are all guilty, or is liberty in denial of justice for all today, I’m sure everyone would be hot and angry over this type of issue. So who’s putting trust in who. Goveernments are not always right you know. What if the simple little person after a 10 probation was betrayed with this lifetime thing.

    • #59336 Reply

      This would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic! Can’t you all see the parallels to the “domestic terrorism” crackdown our police and prosecutors are ramping up to crackdown on? Pitchfork-bearing populace lead by their first-responder worshiping congressmen want to incarcerate people who MIGHT shoot up a school b/c of what they have said or thought.

      Sex offenders who Govt thinks might commit future crimes against children must stay in jail for crimes they might do or want to commit. Not for anything they have done.

      IN BOTH INSTANCES THIS IS ABOUT PRE-CRIME; the incarceration of those who would WANT to commit a crime, not as only the Constitution allows, of those who HAVE committed a crime.

      Somebody, PLEASE connect the dots. The “domestic terrorism” trials to come and the laws that will follow criminalizing thought all stem from the hysteria of the Registry. If we show the parallel maybe they will not only realize the mistake they are about to make but the mistakes they HAVE made wrt RSO.

      Have a happy day!!!

      • #59363 Reply

        You got it, John! I could not agree more this is all a giant power grab done ever so slowly and under the guise of protecting the children. At the end of the day, the general public (People with pitchforks in hand) will pay for turning a blind eye to the constitutional violations. They will punish themselves for it later on when big brother tells them when, where, and how they can take a $h!t.

    • #59337 Reply

      How bout we keep it simple and just agree not to ever take away a citizens constitutional rights, including and especially incarceration, unless a person has been convicted for an actual crime in a court of law?

      • #59392 Reply
        Raymond Hof

        I agree, John. The thought of civil commitment always makes me think of the movie, “Minority Report.” People are incarcerated before actually committing a crime. How can someone be punished for something they haven’t even done yet. It’s unthinkable.

    • #59390 Reply

      Ok guys I know your angry but lets don’t get to carried away. I didn’t know if I was gonna give imput on Sandy’s article or Pauls so i decided to comment on Pauls. Paul you’ve just broken the ice to all this ordeal of the sex offender registry and I’m sure your not even aware of it.

      Seems all these articles have a point but this one has value and truth. Sure the seventies were the days of political unrest but today its a bit more complex in todays government. One wonders where we get the phrase ” All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expeident”. Would one say that than turn around and instill on mankind this form of sex registry enticement today.

      Yes Paul this article opens up a new direction. Yes its up to true liberty and Justice to put the pieces together or as one said on here follow the dots. I dont’ like to use my brain but I do like to strive in following the dots and understand how the dots connect. Actually in many area’s it all boils down to is deception by others in this deadly game. I’m sure Robin can even understand that and all at NARSOL members..

    • #59391 Reply
      Raymond Hof

      I have been a strong opponent to civil commitment since I was incarcerated back in 2003-06, when I watched several people dragged away to their new “home”. I live in NJ, where a lot of these laws and practices began. I have watched people with low Static-99 scores go through the commitment process, because the Judge always looks for that “expert” that he can rely on. Here’s the problem, though. First, most going through the commitment process end up with a public defender and therefore can get a decent expert to testify on their behalf. Second, anyone who is ever “tested” can show signs of a personality disorder because it’s a soft science and there is no hard and fast rule as to who really has a personality disorder or not (which in NJ is a prerequisite to being committed). Third, and most important, “expert” doctors who are out there just plain do not want to put their name to a diagnosis that a sex offender is safe to return to society. I have a friend who was has just started the civil commitment process unfortunately. He was able to scrape together $20K for a lawyer, and another $10K for an expert witness doctor. However, when trying to find a doctor, several have said the same thing. If they are renowned and respected enough to actually be deemed credible by a judge in a civil commitment hearing, they don’t want to risk putting their name on a document saying that they believe a sex offender is safe to enter the community. They don’t want to risk that responsibility. So how does someone who is facing a lifetime of incarceration (and let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it’s not incarceration) get themselves free? One psychologist I spoke to put it very bluntly, “the civil commitment hearings are a kangaroo court.”

    • #59458 Reply

      It is my understanding that the federal government will be renaming S.O. Registration to “Cooties” Registration.

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