Justice Department examining NY civil commitment of SO’s

The U.S. Department of Justice is examining New York’s civil commitment program for sex offenders, according to a report in the Albany Times-Union. The paper says the investigation was started after a Justice Department attorney spoke with a man confined at the Central New York Psychiatric Center. Interviews the paper conducted with men confined there cast doubt on whether the intent of civil commitment is “treatment” or punishment.

The system has drawn a number of legal challenges in recent years, and some of those who are committed have said they aren’t receiving the kind of treatment that was contemplated when the law was passed 10 years ago. They characterize their confinements as little more than extensions of prison terms, albeit in a hospital rather than a correctional facility.

In a series of interviews with the Times Union in recent months, numerous men who are being held at the Central New York Psychiatric Center after having served prison terms for crimes ranging from sexual abuse to rape said they are receiving little meaningful treatment. They said that sexual activity often goes unpunished, that there is access to pornography, and that mental health sessions often devolve into debates about who controls the television.

Read more at the Albany Times-Union.

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