Wednesday, July 30, 2014

SVP Residents of the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation Received Approval from a Staffer to Watch the Free HBO that Appeared on the Facility Televisions Last Month and Now They’re Being Punished for “Sexual Behavior” and Demoted in the Program


I’ve previously given examples to the Virginia General Assembly Committees and to the Virginia State Crime Commission of the VCBR stacking the deck against the residents to retain them as long as possible (usually because legislation to expand their authority is being proposed) and this recent example is just another shameful example of how the staff/management regularly sets residents up for failure.

As ACLU of VA's Claire Gastanaga says below, “It’s about some people doing it because they can”. 

It's an abuse of power by the VCBR and it's been occurring for years, most examples just never make the news. 

Sex offenders upset over punishment for watching HBO, July 29, 2014
By Melissa Hipolit

A human rights advocate for a state facility that provides treatment for civilly committed sex offenders in Virginia has filed a complaint on behalf of one of those sex offenders alleging unfair treatment. 

The complaint was filed on July 21, 2014 with the Virginia Center for Behavioral Services and alleges residents at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation (VCBR) were unfairly punished for watching HBO. 

VCBR is a residential treatment facility for civilly committed sexually violent predators, according to the facility’s website. 

CBS 6 spoke with the sex offender named in the complaint, Elijah Howell, along with another resident at the facility, Robert Baugh. 

“On the weekend of June the 27th, HBO was offered as a promotional by the cable provider,” Howell said. 

Howell and Baugh told us they watched “We Are the Millers” that weekend with approval from a VCBR staff member. 

“He said the programming was pre-approved, and there would be no problem with us watching it,” Howell said. 

But, the next day, they said roughly 50 of the more than 200 residents at VCBR were punished for watching nudity on HBO and accused of “sexual behavior.”  

“It dropped me down from a blue card to a red…there’s a lot of stuff you can’t do when you become a red card,” Baugh said. 

The residents worry their time at VCBR will be extended for something they said is not a valid punishment. 

“When you go to court and you have a sexual behavior observation note…it’s gonna look like this guy doesn’t understand what he’s doing and still getting sexual behavior notes,” Baugh said. 

The human rights advocate at VCBR who filed the complaint, Tammy Long, alleges he residents did not engage in sexual behavior. 

She cites VCBR’s facility instructions, which state sexual behavior involves physical contact. 

We showed the complaint to the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Claire Gastanaga. 

“These convicted sex offenders in this particular facility have all served their criminal time, and then they’ve been civilly committed, not voluntarily, for treatment… So at this point the purpose is supposed to be therapeutic not punitive,” Gastanaga said. 

Gastanaga said if the complaint is accurate, it shows unfair treatment. 

“It’s about some people doing it because they can…it’s almost bullying,” Gastanaga said. 

CBS 6 asked the state agency that oversees the VCBR about the complaint. 

A spokesperson said they cannot comment on specific investigations, but human rights complaints are investigated by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Office of Human Rights. 

The spokesperson added that the facility director may also investigate complaints.