Saturday, June 17, 2017

Virginia State Police Sex Offender Registry Quietly Adds New Search Criteria in 2017 After July 2016 FOIA Inquiry

Almost 3 weeks ago my husbands new VSP Trooper stopped by for one of the two (per VA law) unannounced VSP Residency checks. His original VSP Trooper was promoted and we were assigned another Trooper instead of a VSP Compliance Officer. I personally believe he’s assigned Troopers instead of CO’s because of my public advocacy, but maybe not.

Anyway, I could tell the Trooper was holding back on asking me or rather telling me something so I invited him inside our house instead of the typical 2-minute simple chit-chat on the front porch. 

During the 10 maybe 15 minute conversation about my advocacy, legislative proposals and yearly battles/barriers with VSP Legislative Liaisons/Representatives at the VA GA sessions the Trooper made some key comments that I’ve decided he was instructed to say to me. He also seemed to have established a belief that nothing I’ve asked for over the years is reasonable or will ever be accomplished.  

This post is about one of the points I discussed with the Trooper.

While explaining the 4-Level/Tiered Risk-Based Classification system proposal to him I pointed out that the public can not decipher who the civilly committed SVP’s (both past and present) are. That Virginia commits these folks based on their risk but today’s VSP Registry classification system is based on their conviction so if they are released back into the community a previously committed RSO who was convicted of rape is classified exactly the same as someone who was never committed as an SVP but has a conviction of rape. That’s when the Trooper told me you can now search the VSP Registry by those who are currently civilly committed. My reply to him was “that’s because of me”, he looked at me with serious doubt. He believed that improvement originated within the VSP.  

Almost a year ago I filed a FOIA with the Virginia State Police. 

On July 6, 2016 I submitted this request to the VSP:
This email is a FOIA submission about the State Polices annual “Monitoring Sex Offenders” Report.

From 2009 to 2016 these VSP Reports have divided up the Registered Sex Offender totals/counts into 3 groups:
1.    Incarcerated
2.    Under VA-DOC supervision
3.    Under VSP supervision 

I would like to know:
Which of these 3 groups does the VSP place the civilly committed SVP’s who are housed at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation (VCBR) in Burkeville? 

On July 12, 2016 I received this reply:
Ms. Devoy,
The offenders residing at the VCBR were included in the “incarcerated” field for purposes of the report.  Please be advised that VSP is in the process of changing these offenders web page from displaying “incarcerated” to displaying “civilly committed”.  Once this is complete, we may consider adding a fourth category to the annual report.
I hope this information has been helpful. 

So when the annual January 1, 2017 VSP SO Monitoring Report came out I expected to see a new category of civilly committed but there wasn’t one, I decided to circle back with the VSP. 

On January 10, 2017 I sent this email:
Back in July I sent you an inquiry about the SVP population at the VCBR and the annual VSP Report, where did this population fall. 

Your reply stated that the VSP was currently working on an update and that the next annual VSP Report might have a 4th category. 

The 2017 report$file/RD626.pdf does not have a 4th category. 

So my 2 questions are:
1.       In the 2017 Report which group do the civilly committed SVP's fall into?
2.       Are there still plans to separate the SVP's into a 4th category for the 2018 Report or not?

       I look forward to hearing from you. 

On January 12, 2017 I received this reply:
Ms. Devoy,
We recently added “civilly committed” to the search page and the VCBR offenders web pages now reflect “civilly committed” rather than “incarcerated”.  This functionality was not complete when we were compiling statistics for the 2016 Annual Report.  We do anticipate adding the additional field for those civilly committed next year.
I trust this information has been of assistance.

Would this category now be an option on the VSP Registry if I had not submitted a FOIA last July?  

I highly doubt it. 

Virginia needs a 4-Tier/Level Risk Based Classification system, period. 

Is civil commitment after an incarceration term has been served, justice? That’s a debate for another day.  

And as long as Virginia civilly commits some RSO’s as Sexually Violent Predators (SVP’s) claiming they are the worst-of-the-worst and the most likely to re-offend then once they are released back into the communities they should be flagged as an SVP.  

Are risk-assessments perfect or full-proof? No, but they are the best tool we have currently and they are an additional step that conviction-alone doesn’t give us.  Especially sine more than 94% of criminal cases in VA are settled with a plea to a lesser charge.

I know some of you and probably every formerly committed SVP is going to disagree with me on this and that’s your right. But the Sex Offender Registries were originally supposed to list ONLY the worst-of-the-worst and Virginia’s SVP civil commitment is based on risk NOT on just the conviction so allowing SVP’s to be mixed in under the classification of Violent (83% of the entire VSP Registry) makes absolutely no sense. Mixing SVP’s in with consensual offenses, juveniles and non-contact offenses is absurd. 

I advocate for a Smarter Registry based on data-driven practices and that means classifications based on risk and SVP’s are evaluated by risk (unlike the rest of the VSP Registry) so SVP’s should be their own category, period. 

Mary Devoy