I decided to post this article about the process to civilly commitment those deemed by the state of Virginia as a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP’). If the state is successful then the inmate is transferred from the prison to the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Burkeville, VA for indefinite "treatment".
Today Galen volunteers with National C.U.R.E. and is a member of the Virginia State Chapter in Northern VA.
How 'civil commitment' enables indefinite detention of sex offenders
Many sex offenders are held indefinitely past their sentence on a recidivism assessment that's almost impossible to challenge
Most people would think that once you have served a jail sentence, you are free to go. But that's not always the case.
When it comes to sex offenders, a number of states and the federal government have laws that allow them to keep you in jail, simply because they consider you a potential recidivist. Through a legal procedure called "civil commitment", you can be classed as a sexually violent predator based solely on the subjective opinion of a state-employed psychologist or sex expert.
Once placed under a civil commitment, you are essentially in prison indefinitely. This can quickly become a nightmare, particularly in instances such as an "agreed disposition'' – similar to a plea bargain in a criminal trial – where a person may have been pushed to waive his right to appeal (pdf) during negotiations.
No one knows for sure how many sex offenders there are in the
The topic, especially with the Ariel Castro horror in Cleveland fresh in everybody's minds, is charged with emotion. There is little regard for sex offenders in the justice system: defense lawyers are loath to take a case before a jury, fearing instant conviction, and judges often can barely hide their disgust should they render a decision at a bench trial.
Baughman had been a college student in the early 2000s at the
The judge suspended part of the sentence; even so, Baughman spent nine years in prison – half of that time in one sort of segregation or another, despite serving his sentence without any infraction.
In 2007, just as he was looking forward to release,
One day, a psychologist arrived at the prison, and said he wanted to interview Baughman to determine whether he was a sexually violent predator. Baughman said he would be glad to answer questions but wanted an attorney present. At that, the psychologist left, never to return.
Baughman's two attorneys, Charles Burnham and Eugene Gorokhov of
Then, on 9 October 2009,
Under civil commitment, the state can hold a person for an undetermined length of time until its therapy works to the satisfaction of law enforcement agents. His doctor's report, made available to me by Baughman and his attorneys, concluded with an assessment that despite past actions:
[Baughman] has no condition which makes him likely to engage in 'sexually violent' acts. Therefore, in my professional opinion, he does not meet the statutory requirements for civil commitment as a 'sexually violent predator'.
At the subsequent trial, the judge refused to allow the expert's evaluation to be entered in Baughman's defense, instead relying wholly on the state's own expert's report. This was based on written evaluations made years ago.
In the end, a jury of six women and one man found Baughman not likely to be a sexually violent predator. After listening to the state's prosecutor describe what Baughman might do if let out of jail, one perplexed juror was reported to have asked: "But what's the crime?"
Baughman is thus believed to be the first person in
The therapy is unusual in that Baughman believes the therapist functioned as a sort of surrogate cop. As he put it:
It is absolutely the case that everything I say to my therapist ends up on my probation officer's desk – which means it also ends up on the prosecutor's desk.
Baughman sought to re-enter the
So, he is stuck in
Baughman's parole officer, at least, has been generally supportive of his charge, even moving away from containment model therapy. Still, many would find the terms of Baughman's probation over the top. He has been asked by
Baughman faces six more years on probation. He had studied to be an opera singer, but like so many sex offenders, he has little chance of obtaining meaningful employment. He has come to see no future for himself in the
His probation conditions may be restrictive and intrusive, but Baughman is lucky to have two aggressive attorneys fighting in his corner. Most accused sex offenders are simply told to plea-bargain their way into civil commitment. Once under civil commitment, they may spend the rest of their lives in prison.
While there are, undoubtedly, some irremediable sex offenders who need to be confined for reasons of public safety, the civil commitment protocol denies some of the basic rights afforded other criminal defendants. These include the right to a speedy trial, full right to counsel and, perhaps most importantly, the right to introduce testimony from a defendant's own experts. Without the protection of this last right, some defendants are sent off to prison for an indefinite sentence on the basis of questionable opinions from the state's expert witnesses.
Civil commitment for sex offenders needs to be reformed root-and-branch or abandoned. The policy may be popular in law enforcement circles, fewer than half of US states have such laws. But in those states that have it, Baughman is the rare exception; most do not escape this largely invisible American gulag.