In 1937, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover claimed, “The sex fiend has become a sinister threat to the safety of childhood and womanhood.” Unfortunately, many folks still feel that way.

Here in Missouri, Sexually Violent Predator civil commitment, never used as the legislature originally intended, has become one of the most ineffective and expensive programs taxpayers are forced to support.

Even if a former sex offender is 70 years old, the government will still do everything possible to lock him away forever under the guise of providing “treatment.” Men whose crimes were committed in the last century are being actively pursued to guarantee the continuation of the SVP program. Thousands of high paying government jobs and $30 million annually of taxpayer dollars at stake.

These escalating costs continue to be one of the reasons why so many states have not adopted similar SVP commitment laws of their own. Thirty states have decided not to enact SVP civil commitment viewing it both ineffective and too costly. Public policy is not well served if extraordinary resources are squandered on those who pose low risk to public safety.

In thirteenth century England, the King confined then took control of the property of anyone he designated an “idiot.” Missouri is apparently stuck in the 13th century. The government’s function is meant to determine whether an individual currently presents such a danger that he cannot safely function within the parameters of normal society and therefore requires confinement. The result of an unnecessary and unjust commitment is not that the government gains at the committed person’s expense, rather the outcome is an unnecessary deprivation of liberty and a systematic delegitimization of the entire SVT commitment process.

Overburdened taxpayers now recognize that the obvious huge drain on public resources, well over $100,000 per committed individual yearly, is economically disadvantageous to provide confinement and needless treatment to those who pose little or no risk to reoffend.

Such waste is magnified by the fact that the fundamental reason for the extraordinary amount of taxpayer money spent on SVP civil commitment is the belief that the resources are being expended efficiently – going toward keeping only the most dangerous offenders confined. Arguably, there are some dangerous offenders at the Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services (SORTS) in Farmington. But also confined are many men in their 60s, 70s and 80s, whose crimes were long ago and no longer pose a level of risk which meets the threshold of SVP civil commitment. Elderly men, many in wheelchairs, some who can no longer feed or dress themselves, have become a constant drain on taxpayer dollars because the government simply refuses to let them go.

SVP is certainly not about rehabilitation or mental health treatment. If mental health treatment was part of the government’s game plan, they would bring the SVP charges as soon as possible after the offender’s conviction and initial incarceration. The government has every right at that point to invoke the SVP statute. But they wait until after prison sentences are completed.

The SVP jury trials are so weighted to favor the government that nearly 98% result in the former sex offenders being committed. Prior to every trial months are spent in court arguing what the jurors will not be allowed to hear. The government almost always has their way with the courts, manipulating the trial rules to gain an insurmountable advantage. Jurors won’t be allowed to hear about the ineffective treatment, the abusive and restrictive conditions, and the overwhelming sense of hopelessness civilly committed men must endure, hence several recent suicides.

All the jurors hear about is the past. They will hold that people never change. They will be told that a 70 year old man is the same man he was 40 years ago. They won’t be told about all of the research which conclusively proves that elderly men no longer pose a risk, they will be told a lot, but what they won’t be told is the truth.

Politicians and judges will never stop this travesty. Who wants to face re-election and have their opponent call them an advocate of former sex offenders? No, it will take inquiries by concerned citizens, taxpayers who have had enough bureaucratic funneling of their hard earned dollars into programs that simply don’t work.

Stan Schell

Farmington

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