Monday, April 3, 2006

a new version of indeterminate sentencing

in earlier posts, chris wrote about how we as a society dehumanize sex offenders, and i followed up on march 5th with more on the civil commitment of sex offenders after they have completed the original sentence imposed by the court. last week, the seattle times published a story about a "notorious" rapist who will be completing his 25-year sentence at the washington state penitentiary (apparently in its fifth week of lockdown) in september.

shortly before his release date, however, the state is planning to file a motion seeking a civil commitment for kevin coe, 59. according to the article, civil commitment motions are typically filed about a week before an inmate is due to be released, keeping him (or her) in state custody indefinitely while the case works its way through the courts. while awaiting a civil trial, coe would be held for years without bond at the special commitment center at mcneil island. if coe is sent to mcneil island, the chances for him to ever be released appear slim. a spokesman for the department of social and health services said: "there is no real pattern established for how long it takes to get through the program, but we have never had anybody graduate completely from the program."

just to be clear, the program was established in 1990, and in its 16 years, it has never had anyone graduate. currently there are 236 "sexually violent predators" housed in the secure mental health facility on mcneil island. the total confinement facility opened in 2004 with a capacity of 228 beds for men and four beds for women. an adjacent building for "low maintenance residents" added 80 beds in 2005. expansion is planned--as needed--to accomodate up to a maximum operational capacity of 398 beds.

if washington state continues to civilly commit sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences while offering them virtually no possibility of release, they had better plan to keep building.

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