July 4, 2012

Virginia to decide on privatizing sex offender program

7-4-2012 Virginia:

GEO Group, a private prison company, hopes to secure a lucrative contract early next month

The nation’s second-largest private prison company says it expects Virginia to make a decision by next month on its bid to expand and operate the state’s detention facility for sexually violent predators who have completed their prison terms.

“In Virginia, we submitted an unsolicited proposal for the management of the state’s sexually violent predator treatment facility involving approximately 250 beds,” said GEO Group Senior Vice President Jorge Dominicis during a company earnings call last month. “The state has decided to move forward with this process and is expected to make a contract award by July 1st of this year.”

The detention and treatment of sex offenders represents a growing business opportunity for GEO and its competitors, who hope to score lucrative contracts from state officials looking to keep predators off the streets.

In this case, the facility that GEO wants to run is the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation, a civil commitment center that houses and treats “sexually violent predators” who have already completed criminal sentences in a department of corrections facility but are deemed by a special court to be at risk of re-offending. Rather than being released at a predetermined date, these sex offenders are sent to VCBR to participate in what the state describes as “intensive treatment.” Their “eventual conditional release” from the center “is determined by their progress in treatment and reduction of re-offense risk.”

Virginia’s civil commitment program has been operating for about a decade. It grew slowly at first, with fewer than a dozen new detainees per year. But in 2006, the General Assembly greatly increased the number of crimes that can qualify convicts for the program and also made changes to the evaluation process for identifying which of these offenders are sexually violent predators eligible for civil commitment. The result was an explosion in VCBR’s population. In January of last year, Virginia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services warned legislators that the current VCBR facility was already over capacity and that its population would grow by about 80 detainees each year, reaching nearly 700 by 2016. The department released the following chart: ..For the remainder of this story: by Siddhartha Mahanta, The American Independent

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