“Sex-offender-civil-commitment,” AKA shadow prisons, take a blow

By Sandy . . . In 2018 and again in 2019, we wrote about the Commonwealth of Virginia’s second attempt to have a man declared a “sexually violent predator” in order to remand him to the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation. This is what Virginia calls their “sex offender civil commitment” program, a prison in all but name.

The target of their efforts had served a prison sentence as a result of a conviction in 2003 when he was twenty for sexual offenses committed when he was a teenager. The behavior that led to the conviction was not violent or forced. Prior to his release date in 2009, after a six and a half years’ term of punishment, the state sought to have him committed and failed; he was found by a jury not to meet the criteria for this special and very cruel form of confinement. This would be the first of two attempts the Commonwealth would make to imprison him not for what he had done but for what he might do in the future.

He exited prison on supervised release and became an advocate for educating the public and lawmakers with facts about these prisons masquerading as treatment facilities.

In 2018 he was arrested and charged with a violation of the conditions of his supervised release, i.e., exchanging “several non-sexual text messages with a 16-year-old.” The terms of his supervision required no contact whatsoever with anyone under 18. He was sentenced to a year in prison and would not see freedom for closer to three.

To quote Yogi Berra, it was deja vu all over again.

Virginia started its second attempt to commit Galen Baughman to its shadow prison in 2018. With no new criminal offense and the earlier attempt resulting in a finding of him not meeting the criteria for such commitment, they had to fight long and hard, and so they did, but Galen and his family fought back. The subsequent trial found that he was a sexually violent predator and therefore subject to forced commitment in their behavioral rehabilitation facility. The Baughman family appealed to Virginia’s highest court.

It ended, finally, a month ago when the Virginia Supreme Court, on September 15, 2022, handed down their decision: “[T]he trial court’s decision finding probable cause to believe that Baughman was a sexually violent predator is reversed and vacated, and pursuant to Code § 37.2- 906(F), the Commonwealth’s petition seeking to have Baughman declared a sexually violent predator is dismissed” (page 8).

Virginia is one of twenty states whose legislators have placed into their statutes the ability to establish a Sexually Violent Predators Act (SVPA).  Under such an act “[P]eople who have completed their criminal sentences under any of a large number of sex-related offenses can be indefinitely detained in a high-security facility until the state determines that they no longer present a risk, typically never.”

As shadow prisons go, the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation has a better release record, especially when compared with some that we have written about over the past several years, such as Moose Lake, Minnesota; Rushville, Illinois; and Littlefield, Texas.

Regardless of the level of care and treatment, when it comes to “sex offender civil commitment,” NARSOL strongly opposes the use of these post-sentence shadow prisons as they are nothing but an end run around the constitution, extending incarceration periods beyond court-imposed sentences.

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5 Thoughts to ““Sex-offender-civil-commitment,” AKA shadow prisons, take a blow”

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  1. Chris B

    Sex Offender Registration is the same exact thing. A prison without walls. I believe everything about sex offender legislation is about denying Constitutional due process. It renders the accused as less than a citizen of the United States. This is why I am firmly against voting and firearm restrictions as well. A felony (of any kind) does not remove citizenship.

  2. w

    They’re trying to commit my brother who’s been held at High Desert Detention Center in Adelanto CA. He has no history of mental illness and was falsely accused and convicted 5 years ago. The family has struggled to stay together but the State was persistent in its corruption. They truly ruined the family just to cover up this person’s case.

  3. WC_TN

    What really shocked me with regards to this particular case is how the court absolutely denied Galen, who admittedly was his own worst enemy by violating the terms of his supervision, any sort of a defense. He was barred from presenting the previous evaluations that proved he was not a proper candidate for SVP designation / civil commitment.

    This whole process was a farce and mockery of every legal protection. For starters, the prosecutor went outside of the legally prescribed process and cherry picked a hack who would tell him exactly what he wanted to hear with respect to Galen being an incorrigible predatory offender. By the way, this hack was not even qualified by state standards codified in statute to even make such an evaluation. Then, as I stated earlier, the court stripped him of any possible defense, including the admission of previous exculpatory evidence from the state-approved evaluators.

    While I don’t condone Galen’s flaunting the condition of his supervised release which prohibited contact with minors, I even more strongly condemn the government weaponizing the process to retaliate against a man who had really shown the light of truth on what a sham and mockery the state of VA’s SVP / civil commitment process really is.

  4. w

    I’ve done the best I could do to help my brother and it came at costing me my whole life and reputation. The court is beyond corrupt and they are trying to cover it all up with a new website portal.

  5. Dustin

    More concerning to me was the all the self-conflicting points throughout the dissenting opinion. Among them, the dissent claims the state’s cherry-picked psychologist was properly admitted despite not being designated by the appropriate agency while highlighting that she met every other qualification – to include personally interviewing the subject, which she never did.

    According to the dissent, strict adherence to CRC designation would deprive all SVP defendants of the opportunity to present favorable evaluations from non-CRC designated in SVP proceedings. Yet, while they purportedly condemn it, they deliberately overlook that Baughman was, in fact, denied to present two other evaluators he retained by the trial court.

    The dissent went to great lengths to point out the most damaging details of the offenses for which Baughman was convicted (as did the majority, though to a lesser extent). Indeed, rehashing Baughman’s previous offenses comprises over half of the dissenting opinion. I would think that a pretty strong indication that Virginia’s SVP proceedings (as well as every other state with similar schemes) are more about revisiting previous offenses than preventing new ones.

    But the most concerning matter to me is that the majority didn’t address the trial court’s finding that the cherry-picked record reviewer could testify because “the Attorney General is vested with the authority to determine the relevant evidence to be presented at a probable cause hearing.” Whether evidence is relevant is a COURT decision, not the AG, in ANY proceeding. If any party in any proceeding is authorized to determine what evidence is relevant, then what is the point of having courts at all? That is a very glaring procedural error by the trial judge and frankly, I think he should be evaluated for fitness to serve on the bench.

    The trial proceeding here is a good example of the underlying problems with the court system nationwide. Judges essentially defer to the state over nearly the entire process. Judicial discretion is almost always in the state’s favor, orders and opinions written by the state are signed without reading anything in them beyond the judge’s signature block, constitutional rights or either denied or overlooked. While I’m glad that the VASC reversed this dystopian court, I’m still frustrated that it will do almost nothing to address the serious flaws in the overall court system. Also frustrating is the likelihood that the Virginia assembly will look into amending its statutes so SVP proceedings like Baughman’s will stand.