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For what it's worth

In Reality - Is Civil Commitment Civil

“As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy.”

            I originally wrote on this in November of 2002 for a then popular double jeopardy site speaking out against the injustices we face without knowledge of what is transpiring around us.  To this day, I still can’t grasp the reality of what is transpiring under the guise of “civil commitment” for what is being touted as the long term care, custody, and treatment of a sub-class of convicted individuals whom the legislature, in their infinite wisdom, claim are the “worst of the worst” and create a greater risk to society than any other persons ever to be accused of a crime; sex offenders, so I reiterate.

Those accused of any crime that can be linked, even remotely, to sex have always been targeted with greater scrutiny than serial murderers, multiple car-jackers, or drug dealers who, without a question by anyone, destroy many lives of the victims of their crimes. 

No, sex offenders as a whole aren’t the worst of the worst anymore so than a man who killed an intruder who turned out to be the drunken neighbor climbing in the wrong window is a cold blooded murderer although – guilty of murder.  Yet, sex offenders suffer a scarlet letter, the pseudo-life sentence (sex offender registration), community scorn, ridicule, and ostracization, and generally get proportionately longer, greater, and severer punishments than most court sanctions for other crimes.  As a result many sex offenders have taken their own lives, or wished for the death penalty rather face the horrors of even a few years in prison and the subsequent life of paranoia and endless obstacles that face them – if they survive those prison years, once released.  Employment is difficult to find at best, and other than methamphetamine production, it is the only crime that is not afforded certain government assistance, such as housing.

Yes, perpetrate or be accused of a sex crime and the world is not only in your business, but dictates your very freedoms and social acclamation until you die.  You are a miscreant, rogue, and an outcast of the perceived normal society.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “There is no den in the world to hide a rogue…Commit a crime, and the earth is made of glass.”  This is very true for anyone accused of a sex crime.  The mere accusation turns into a life sentence, a continual battle to maintain your name, obtain work, and to keep you and your family safe.  It is a known fact that many do not succeed in these goals afforded all other members of society.  

And on top of all this and most importantly noted for this dissertation, at last check 20 states have laws to civilly commit sex offenders after they have satisfied the court ordered sanction for the crime they were sentenced for.  A commitment that is indefinate, not like the punishment fits the crime ethos of the justice system. No, once released from prison after serving the ‘punishment fits the crime’ someone accused of a sexually related offense is subsequently incarcerated in yet another maximum security prison (many with greater security that the most secure max prison), where they will languish quite possibly until they die.

None of this is an exaggeration.  But my question, pondered over and over for years is, to what end?  What do we really believe we are accompishing by imposing such draconian and drastic measures on one sub-class of individuals?  How are we ok with incarcerating someone without a crime?  There’s a cannon of American justice that states, “It is Better For 100 Guilty Men to Go Free Than One Innocent Man Go To Prison.”  I won’t delve into those who suffer these collateral consequences even though innocent.   Over time I have thought of multiple reasons for the registration and now the civil commitment laws, none of which carry enough salt to justify (rationally) their creation.  Most especailly, the Involuntary Civil Commitment laws, the involuntary incarceration of anyone with a remote to real sex offense in their past under the concept that if they did it before, they will do it again.  “What man was ever content with one crime?”  Juvenal, Satires.  This is ludicrous.  

In a 1994 study, the Bureau Of Justice Statistics tracked the activity of 272,111 former inmates across 15 different states to see if they would commit another sex offense within three years of release []. The study indicated that of the individuals tracked, the recidivism rate of sex offenders to commit another sex offense was only 3.6%, This is the most substantive study ever done about sex offender recidivism.  The crimes with the highest recidivism rates: weapons crimes (87.4%), property crimes (86.7%), drug possession (83.0%), motor vehicle theft (78.8%), possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), larceny (74.6%), burglary (74.0%), robbery (70.2%), and possessing, using or selling illegal weapons (70.2%). 

But alas, this isn’t the only case study proving very low rates of recidivism for sex offenders.  A 2010 study in Maine found that sex offender recidivism for another sex offense in a 3 year period was 3.9%.  And another 2010 study where sex offenders were tracked in Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.  In this study from all these states, again, the highest level of rearrest for sex offenses was  3.9% and that took place in Iowa. [SEXUAL ASSAULT TRENDS AND SEX OFFENDER RECIDIVISM IN MAINE 2010  Maine Statistical Analysis Center USM Muskie School of Public Service].

So, what are the reasons behind the persecution of registration for those actually released and the incarceration of men beyond their prison sentences, beyond the torment of prison? is it because they pose a greater risk of re-offending? Are we protecting society? Or could it be for a much more morbid reason, like personal or political gain? After all, the list is extensive of all who benefit by creating, passing, and representing parties related to these laws; legislators, prosecutors, defence attorneys, psychologists, psychiatrists, the prison industrial complex.

We already know that man’s injustice against man, the power of a few over others, financial and/or political gain, sadism, or just plain and simple disregard for the lives and well-being of others are justified as means to an end and these laws fit nicely, depending on where you are in the scheme of things.  If you are on the receiving end, you are devastated by intense feelings of alarm caused by the expectation of real or implied danger.  You very likely develop a state of dread and helplessness brought on by the imposition of these registration and civil commitment laws.  If you are one of the aforementioned list open to gain, that gain tends to be political or financial reward.  The more they can entrap the greater that reward. It doesn’t really matter to them who they entrap, it’s just easier to do so to sex offenders who generally are portrayed as the worst of the worst (which we just read isn’t factual) ergo with media hype and fear these laws can be implemented with little to no resistance.  Means to the end!

To these legislators, state prosecutors, judges, or even the defense attorneys the sex offenders they mentally, physically, financially, and emotionally abuse daily under these laws are just numbers.  The more they find to fit in some vague and created criteria the more money they make.  The more laws of this nature that can be passed the more constitutional rights are eroded, the more money is made.  They don’t care if it’s you, your family or anyone from your community, they care about one thing only – themselves. Believe me, if/when they find a way they will include more classifications of citizens to incarcerate thety will and the legal arguments against have been made moot by the challenges the sex offenders proffered yet were denied, after all it’s just sex offenders, who wants to be seen soft on the treatment of the worst of the worst?  Numbers equal power, money, prestige.  We are talking about civil commitment, the incarceration of mostly men for indefinite terms without a crime being committed to warrant it.

So they have taken a group of individuals who are already alone in a crowd, shunned, downtrodden, and in a constant battle to overcome social bias and persecution, persons they know will get little empathy for enduring continual abuses and then use them as personal pawns, rungs if you will, up the latter of self esteem and prosperity.  Yes, it is very easy to shock the public into agreeing that anyone accused of a sex crime should be nothing but fodder for the better good of society.  Yes, it is easy to use sex offenders to desensitize the rest of society into complacency about such abuse and deprivation of human rights and liberties.  Yes, it will then be easy to take away the rights of other sub-classes (or anyone not in power at the moment).  The reality is plain for those who have eyes to see; the involuntary commitment of any citizen of a free country without the commission of a criminal offense or threat of imminent behavior that is so obviously dangerous is appalling.  Yet, that is what our government is doing.  Not some third world dictatorship, America, the home of the brave, land of the free! 

Well, you may argue that sex offenders are inherently dangerous, the response is, yes some sex offenders are extremely dangerous, yet not all and certainly not the majority.  I would have to ask which you find most dangerous; a peeping tom, exhibitionist, 19 year old man with a girlfriend 2 years his junior, or a car-jacker, drug lord, pusher, or a murderer?  I further ask, and God forbid either would happen to you or yours, but which would you feel you could handle better, the death or brutal beating of a loved one, or their molestation?  That is a difficult question, but personally, I want to spend more years with my family.  Even if they were molested, they would still be alive.  I realize these are extreme examples and questions not given to justify any criminal behavior as acceptable.  But we are speaking of reality here.  All these things happen!  I’m not here to give you some sugar coated – say what you want to hear – “feel good” legislation; you’ve had enough of that, and civil commitment acts are just such a thing.  In reality, it certainly isn’t based on sound reasoning. 

I love that word, REALITY.  The reality of this Act is: 

      1 The involuntary civil commitment of sexually violent predator’s act is a violation of human rights and dignity, no matter what the courts have ruled contrariwise.

     2 The target population (sexually violent predators) did not exist prior to the adoption of the act.  [See: Legislature Creates A Law To Protect Society by Ed Note]

         a. The State, in collusion with for-profit-psychological teams, created this population out of soon to be released prisoners who had any type of sex offense on their record – no matter how long ago it was allegedly committed or even if it was not committed in the State seeking to commit them.  Committed are a greater value to those that gain.

      3 Once detained under this involuntary civil act these men are tricked, lied to, coerced, or bribed into consenting ‘voluntarily’ to being sexually violent predators in need of treatment often without the benefit of a commitment trial.  If a ‘civil commitment trial does commence, it is done so in front of a criminal jury, prosecuted by a criminal prosecutor, and the representation is by the Public Defenders Criminal attorney.  Yet it is called ‘civil’ and not double jeopardy.

       a. Let’s not forget this is supposed to be an “involuntary” program, how can anyone volunteer for something that is involuntary?  Well it’s all about numbers for money.  The more numbers (people in the program) the more money.  According to residents within Florida’s Civil Commitment Center;

         i. Clinical staff have attempted to get those disillusioned with the lack of a working treatment program and/or because of the general mistreatment of residents within the facility who signed out, to re-consent by telling them they don't have to do any paperwork, keep any logs, or do any other assignments – just sign up.

       ii. Clinical staff have recruited detainees on considerable amounts of psychotropic medications to "voluntarily consent" to treatment, before trial, even though they do not know where they are most of the time.

           iii. Probation Officers have threatened detainees with violation of probation if they didn’t ‘voluntarily consent’ to treatment.

      4 Residents are "buying into" the lies that if they consent to treatment they will be released sooner.  This has historically not been the case.

      5 The Act is called civil to avoid double jeopardy arguments.

        a. Is it civil to interfere with the release of men who have planned (some for many years) for their release by detaining them indefinitely?

        b. Is it civil then to cast them in a more secure, closed management, controlled movement, rule-less prison environment fraught with corruption, extortion, theft, filth, rats, ants, wasps, sewage in the living areas, sexual harassment (by staff and other detainees) and sexual relations between male staff and detainees, staff and staff, administrative sexual harassment charges, sex toys distributed by staff to other staff members, etc.? [Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC) has documented cases of all these events]

           c. Is this really a civil act?

No, I guess I am back where I started; attempting to grasp the reality of Involuntary Civil Commitment Acts. Actually, attempting to see how a free society can remain complacent and consciously oblivious to the fact that this act was not created for their protection but as a means to an end for the powerful few at society’s expense.  You may say, “It’s ok, it’s being done to sex offenders after all.”  But it is not okay, and it will not stop there!  No sir, it’s going to get worse. 

One day society will come startlingly awake and question; “What happened?  When did we lose all our civil liberties?  When did the government start incarcerating people without the commission of a crime?  When did they rescind the constitution?  They said it was being done for our protection, it doesn’t protect anyone, and we paid for it, both with our tax dollars, and with our friends and families.  We are the victims!  What happened to the land of the free?”

I close here shaking my head in frustration at the blind eye society has turned towards all this, and all because it is "only being done to Sex Offenders after all."  

They just don’t get it - - - YET!

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Niemöller’s message remained consistent: he declared that through silence, indifference, and inaction, Germans had been complicit in the Nazi imprisonment, persecution, and murder of millions of people. He felt that it was particularly egregious that he and other German Protestant church leaders, whom he believed had positions of moral authority chose to remain silent.  That message remains true today, not only with the atrocity of civil commitment laws, but anything that curtails constitutionally protected rights and liberties. Time to speak out!


Always in Spirit and Truth - Ed Note

For What It’s Worth is the mindset of the author. Your feedback, comments, and questions help create a dialog of truth and understanding. Hesitate not to reach out at: your emails will be answered, feedback will be addressed.

Exclasius Dolvine, Editor Emeritus

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