July 6, 2012

Rising costs of confining sexual predators is 'necessary evil'

7-6-2012 Wisconsin:

More than $42M spent to keep offenders in secure facility

When the Sexually Violent Persons Law was created in 1994, the financial impact on state taxpayers was expected to be minimal.

But that expectation has turned out to be a far cry from reality. Today, more than 360 so-called sexual predators are confined indefinitely at Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston, at an annual cost in excess of $42.6 million.

It costs $149,012 per year to treat a single offender at the inpatient mental health treatment facility. In 2001, the annual per offender cost was $87,000.

Despite the price tag, there is virtually no public outcry over spending money to keep sexual predators away from society. While state budgets have come under intense scrutiny in these financially challenging times, there’s no call to slash funds to confine sex offenders who were targeted for confinement when their prison sentences ended.

“This is money that is necessary to spend to keep these people locked up,” said state Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah. “It is costly and it is expensive to house them. (Sand Ridge) is a very high-risk secure facility and it’s costly to operate. But my constituents have never told me that this is money they don’t want to spend. I think we’ve become accustomed to the fact that the public wants to be protected from these individuals. They don’t want these people released into the community.

“It’s a necessary evil.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Rep. Patricia Strachota, R-West Bend, who is chairing a committee to examine the criteria surrounding the supervised release and discharge of those who are deemed to be sexually violent.

“This is a public safety issue,” Strachota said. “I don’t think a price tag can be put on public safety as it relates to individuals who have been committed under Chapter 980 (the law relating to civil commitment of sex offenders). I don’t think cost is a consideration when you look at whether an individual is ready to be discharged.

“These are horrendous crimes that have been committed.” ..For the remainder of this article: by Andy Thompson

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