'Dirty Dozen' Sex Fiends Will Stay in Custody — for Now
The Associated Press New York PostNovember 18, 2005
ALBANY — A dozen sex criminals who won their conditional release in court after being ordered held in a psychiatric hospital by Gov. Pataki will instead remain in custody as the state appeals the court decision, the governor said Friday.
State Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline Silbermann on Tuesday ordered the release of the prisoners — whose crimes include the rape and sodomy of boys and girls — pending examinations of each inmate by two court-appointed psychiatrists. Pataki appealed that decision Friday, leading to a temporary stay on the judge’s order, Pataki’s office said.
The convicted sex offenders had been ordered held by Pataki. After years of failing to secure a law that would allow civil confinement of some sex offenders when their sentences end, Pataki decided to “push the envelope” of the law by ordering them held in a psychiatric hospital. Pataki used the state’s involuntary commitment law, which normally deals with the non-criminal mentally ill, to win extended confinement of the sex offenders.
Lawyers for the prisoners petitioned the court for their release, arguing their clients’ detentions were illegal because the state violated the law that governs the transfer of apparently mentally ill prisoners to hospitals.
“We feel very strongly that the state has to comply with the corrections law, which it simply didn’t do,” said Stephen Harkavy, deputy director of Mental Health Legal Services. He represented the 12 defendants. Harkavy said he will try to get the stay lifted by an appellate court.
The case will probably be argued early next week, he said. From there it could be appealed to the state’s highest court, and it could take months for the Court of Appeals to rule.
Pataki asserted he acted within his legal rights. “I’m going to do everything in my power as governor to keep these predators, when it’s appropriate and when it’s legally permissible, away from our children and away from society,” Pataki said during a TV appearance.
“I have no doubt I have the legal authority to take the steps I have taken.”
Richard Hamill, president of the New York State Alliance of Sex Offender Service Providers, said there are some offenders who are too dangerous for society, but civil commitment is “hugely expensive” and affects only a tiny fraction of pedophiles, rapists and other sex criminals.
“If you put 400 offenders in civil commitment, you’ve really addressed less than 2 percent of the registered sex offenders out there,” he said. “And there are probably 10 offenders out there for every one that has been arrested and registered. It’s not a potent way to make the community a lot safer.”
Hamill said lifetime probation is one idea that has been very effective in reducing the number of offenders who commit crimes after they are released from prison.