Monday, February 23, 2015

Virginia’s Sexually Violent Predator Program: Today, four to five people are admitted each month, and about 30 are released each year with 367 currently being held. Those who were discharged last year were held an average of three years and nine months, at a cost of $300 a day per resident.

Facility holds sex offenders who've served their time, February 23, 2015
By Margaret Matray

Rodney Bernard Jones has a history of grabbing young women's buttocks. 

A clinical psychologist said the 52-year-old felon has a mental disorder that makes it difficult to control his predatory behavior and "makes him likely to engage in sexually violent acts," according to court documents. 

After nearly 15 years in prison for sex assault, Jones was scheduled to be released April 1. 

But the state attorney general wants him to be civilly committed to a state facility that houses sexually violent predators after they've served their time. 

Once again, Jones must go before a judge or jury who will decide his fate. 

Each year, an average of 132 inmates like Jones are evaluated for potential commitment. Of the cases the attorney general brings before the court, an estimated 90 percent end up being admitted to the state facility in central Virginia, according to state figures.

The Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Nottoway County houses 367 residents who are considered likely to re-offend and therefore unfit to re-enter society.

In 2000, Jones was found guilty of one count each of object sexual penetration and assault and battery. He was sentenced the following year to 31 years, with 16 suspended. 

Jones told a clinical psychologist who evaluated him last fall that he assaulted his girlfriend because he believed she was cheating on him and wanted proof, according to court documents. 

Jones has a criminal record dating to the 1990s, including multiple sexual battery convictions, according to documents recently filed with the attorney general's petition in Circuit Court. 

An interview completed by a probation and parole office in 1992 found that Jones acted on sexual frustration by grabbing young women inappropriately, according to the documents. 

The psychologist noted in his evaluation that Jones said he had good relationships with family members and moved to Hampton Roads while he was in the Navy. He planned to return to relatives in South Carolina upon his release, according to the report.

Jones' attorney, Diallo Morris, will have an opportunity to ask the court for a second doctor to evaluate him. 

"Sometimes you have a battle of the experts" at trial, Morris said, with one psychologist saying the person meets the criteria of a sexually violent predator, while another doesn't agree. 

If a judge or jury believes he is a violent offender, Jones would either be sent to the state facility or conditionally released through the program. The release involves intensive supervision and can include treatment, regular polygraphs, GPS tracking and face-to-face monitoring, according to a program report presented to the General Assembly this session. 

The Sexually Violent Predator program began in the late 1990s, and legislators first funded it in 2003. Two offenders were in the program then. 

Today, four to five people are admitted each month, and about 30 are released each year, according to the report. 

Those who were discharged last year were held an average of three years and nine months, according to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, which operates the center. 

The average cost per resident is $300 a day. 

Amid concerns over population growth and the rising cost of the program, the facility began double-bunking some rooms in 2011 at the request of the General Assembly. That increased the maximum capacity to 450.

Previous predictions had the facility reaching its maximum early this year. But because of a decline in admissions and an increase in discharges in recent years, capacity is now expected to be reached in 2018, according to the General Assembly report. 

The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services is looking into options for when that day comes, such as adding trailers to temporarily accommodate more residents, according to the report. The department did not provide further details. 

"In addition, we are analyzing the barriers to discharge to determine what services/support need to be in place to safely discharge residents" from the center, department spokeswoman Maria Reppas wrote in an email. 

Jones is scheduled to appear in Circuit Court for a probable cause hearing March 27. 

He'll remain imprisoned until the case is resolved.