AP probe: $500 million-a-year hemorrhage
Today's MSNBC website has an excellent report by Martiga Lohn of the Associated Press on the hefty price tag of Sexually Violent Predator laws in the United States. Lawmakers are stymied because they don't want to appear "soft on crime," yet the mushrooming detention facilities are squeezing out social programs such as schools and health care.
The costs of incarceration alone are more than $500 million a year and rising, according to the analysis, and that does not include the "considerable legal expenses" of the actual commitment process. Last year, New York and California spent about $175,000 PER OFFENDER. In the 20 states with SVP laws, the average cost per offender was more than five times that of a regular prison bed, and more than double the cost of a year at an Ivy League university. For a fraction of these costs, imagine how many high-risk offenders could be enrolled in comprehensive "Circles of Support" to protect the public.
As Ms. Lohn reports, "these 'civil commitment' programs are costing states hundreds of millions of dollars more than anyone envisioned, and they've created a political quandary for lawmakers who need to cut spending but don't want to be seen as soft on rapists and child molesters."
Bang for the buck?
In many places, treatment costs are up sharply since 2005, raising doubts about whether the system is still worthwhile in an era of ruthless budget cuts brought on by the recession.The full story is HERE.
"I've heard people in a lot of the states quietly say, 'Oh, my God, I wish we'd never gotten this law,'" said W. Lawrence Fitch, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law. "No one would ever dare offer repeal because it's just untenable." …
The heavy financial burden of treating confined sex offenders has left lawmakers with less money as they make agonizing cuts to areas like education and health care. Politicians who spent years cracking down on sex crimes now struggle to pay for their tougher laws.
"It's easy to say, 'Lock everybody up and throw away the key,'" said state Rep. Michael Paymar, a St. Paul Democrat who heads a public safety budget panel. "But it's just not practical." …
"They had no idea 10 years ago, seven years ago, what this program was going to cost," said Dennis Benson, a former prison warden who now oversees Minnesota's civilly committed sex offenders.
In most states, the number of confined sex offenders has steadily increased, requiring ever-greater spending….
Some states have steered clear of the civil-commitment system, partly because of financial reasons. In Louisiana, legislation died last year after top lawmakers questioned the cost and constitutional issues. Vermont legislators rejected a similar proposal....