Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Virginia’s 2015 HB1533 and SB976 (both failed) Had an Ulterior Motive, To Continue Cycling Our SVP’s Through the Virginia Prison System Which is Much, Much Cheaper than Civil Commitment

As I posted yesterday I attended the first Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission meeting of 2015. The presentations from the meeting still have not been posted online so I can not provide a link to the issue I am posting about here. 

During the 2015 Virginia General Assembly session one of the many bills I monitored but did not oppose was HB1533 (and its companion SB976) Obscene sexual display in a public place; third offense, penalty. 

What did HB1533 and SB976 propose to do? 

Per it’s summary it would have ……Added engaging in an obscene sexual display, i.e., actual or explicitly simulated masturbation in a public place, to the list of misdemeanor sex offenses for which the penalty for a third offense of any of the listed offenses committed in a 10-year period is a Class 6 felony. 

When it comes to legislation adding or increasing second and third offense penalties (that are not simultaneous), I don’t oppose them.  

In yesterday’s VCSC presentation it was noted on page 25 that two bills from the 2015 session with fiscal impact statements produced by the VCSC staff were sent to JLARC by Virginia Delegates who did not agree with the finding. It turns out this is allowed but rarely occurs, 0-2 times per year according to VCSC. One of the 2 bills sent to JLAC during session was HB1533 . 

On page 30 of the VCSC presentation it breaks down the VCSC analysis of HB1366 and how they came up with 7 additional prison beds being required at a cost of $207,232 for each year if HB1533 became law in Virginia. 

Then on page 33 JLARC’s conclusion of their analysis of VCSC’s work was given and I sat in the meeting stunned because I THEN realized at that very moment what the true intention of HB1533 and SB976 had been.

First here is JLARC’s conclusion from page 33: 

“JLARC staff generally agree with the costs to state adult correctional facilities estimated by the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission for the Fiscal Impact Statement (FIS) for HB 1533. However, the FIS does not reflect temporary savings that could occur at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation (VCBR) as a result of the proposed change in law. JLARC staff found that the cost savings at VCBR would likely occur because some VCBR residents would serve longer felony sentences rather than misdemeanor sentences for future sex offenses committed while in the facility. VCBR would realize a cost savings for each additional day that a resident is housed at an adult corrections facility rather than in VCBR. The cost savings at VCBR would likely be equal or greater than to the additional costs experienced by adult correctional facilities from FY 2017 to FY 2020” 

Budget amendment necessary? Yes, an increase in general fund appropriations is required for the Department of Corrections (DOC), but this could be offset in the near term by a decrease in the general fund appropriation for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS). 

A prison bed in Virginia costs approximately $30, 397 (FY2014) per year. 

A bed at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation for Sexually Violent Predators costs approximately $90,000 (FY2011) per year and the number of available beds is limited. 

Over the years I have sat in meetings where Virginia Delegates and Senators  have discussed how they can retain the SVP’s for as long as possible avoiding release back into our communities. Including one public meeting (a 2009 Virginia State Crime Commission) where it was discussed in length if an SVP was released for a very brief time frame with GPS monitoring and then their PO “violated” them for a technicality so that the SVP would be sent back to prison for a few more years before being returned to the VCBR, freeing up a bed at the VCBR while keeping the SVP confined and under state control. 

During the 2013 Virginia General Assembly session there wasHB1751/SB1182 To make it a crime for the DBHDS patients ONLY at the VCBR (SVP’s), not patients at ANY other DBHDS facility to assault a DBHDS employee. HB1751 came VERY close to being sent to the Governor but failed at the very last minute. THEN….our Governor pulled this AND it became law anyway!

And HB1746/SB1214 To make it a crime for the DBHDS patients ONLY at the VCBR (SVP’s), not patients at ANY other DBHDS facility to “attempt” an escape. Side note: The VCBR removed a portion of the barbed wired surrounding the facility back in the summer of 2011 so that it would appear less like a prison and more like the mental-health facility that is supposed to be. HB1746 and SB1214 became law. 

And during the 2012 Virginia General Assembly session there was HB1271 Imposing a mandatory minimum life sentence for the sexually violent offenses of rape, forcible sodomy, and object sexual penetration of a child under the age of 13. Eliminating release from prison and then the inevitable civil commitment (and expense) as an SVP being “treated”. HB1271 became law. 

So why all of a sudden am I focused on 2015’s HB1533 and SB976 ? 

Because the patron of HB1533 Delegate Thomas Wight Jr. asked JLARC to dispute the $207,232 cost of his bill because there would be an over all savings if SVP’s who masturbates (already a facility violation, that results in demotion in the program) while a resident in the VCBR would then be sent to a Virginia prison freeing up that one bed that cost 3 times as much as the one they would be occupying in a Virginia prison, if HB1533 had become law. 

Oh…….did I mention that the Virginia Representative for the district the VCBR is located in is………Thomas Wright Jr? 


The true intent of 2015’s HB1533 and SB1214 was for the State to be able to charge the residents of the VCBR with yet ANOTHER felony that does NOT exist for ANY other DBHDS patient in Virginia so that the SVP can be cycled back through the Virginia prison system which is less expensive than the VCBR while freeing up a bed for a new VCBR resident.  

A win-win for the Commonwealth. 

I guess if this proposal comes back around in 2016 or 2017, I’ll be opposing it after all! 

Mary Devoy