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Sex Offenders: The Co$t Of Safety (Part 1)

There are over 600 sex offenders living in Central New York. By region, that's the second largest amount of sex offenders in the state. But some say there's a reason for the high number. About 200 of those sex offenders are part of a program at Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy. It's designed to keep dangerous sex offenders off the streets, but as reporter Rachel Polansky tells us, the program comes with a hefty price tag. State lawmakers approved the 'Civil Confinement Program' in 2007. It places dangerous sex offenders, whose sentences are ending, into treatment in state psychiatric facilities. But it comes at a cost of nearly $175,000 dollars per offender, and that's 3 times the cost it takes to jail an inmate in state prison.
There are over 600 sex offenders living in Central New York. By region, that's the second largest amount of sex offenders in the state. But some say there's a reason for the high number. About 200 of those sex offenders are part of a program at Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy. It's designed to keep dangerous sex offenders off the streets, but as reporter Rachel Polansky tells us, the program comes with a hefty price tag.

State lawmakers approved the 'Civil Confinement Program' in 2007. It places dangerous sex offenders, whose sentences are ending, into treatment in state psychiatric facilities. But it comes at a cost of nearly $175,000 dollars per offender, and that's 3 times the cost it takes to jail an inmate in state prison.

"It's a 2 edge sword because you're going to be outraged at the cost but you certainly don't want to say let's take them out of that environment," says Kevin Conley, region 6 coordinator for the Public Employees Federation.

CONLEY, a member of the Public Employees Federation, represents the clinical staff that works in the sex offender treatment program. He says when this program was enacted, not much thought was given to long-term costs.

"I think it goes back to the original law. I think they rushed it through," says Conley.

So let's go back to 2007. Why did they create this program?

"To protect the public from what the state has deemed as dangerous sex offenders," says Conley.

"If they are dangerous sex offenders why are they being released?" asks reporter Rachel.

"Well they've completed their sentences and because of existing laws, they have to be released from Department of Corrections," says Conley.

That's where the 'Civil Confinement Program' comes into play. Offenders placed in the program receive state of the art treatment and supervision, and while the program is expensive, some lawmakers say you can't put a price on safety.

"Yes it is a costly program but we have to weigh the costs of putting these people back on the streets, and the emotional costs that could happen if they commit a murder or another offense so although there are costs, I think the benefits of the program certainly out weigh that," says Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, (D) District 119.

Housing an offender at Central New York Psychiatric Center costs about $175-thousand dollars per offender. To put that in perspective for you, jailing an inmate in state prison costs about $60-thousand dollars per inmate. And all of this is taxpayer money

"Absolute waste. Absolute waste of money. It's terrible," says Darren Denicola, Ilion resident.

"I think that's outrageous. While I do believe in rehabilitation and they need help, I don't know that I'm willing to spend that kind of money on someone whose committed such heinous crimes," says Nancy Lafreniere, Utica resident.

Still, at the end of the day, most people say protecting children is the top priority.

"If it saves one child being hurt, yes, every little bit helps but again there has to be other solutions," says Lafreniere.

"It's no the perfect choice. Obviously things can always be done more efficiently. But at this point I would feel more comfortable with them being in confinement then back on the street where they can commit another crime," says Assemblyman Brindisi.

"Is it worth $178,000 dollars per year? I think it could be delivered in a better method," says Conley.

The question remains, could there be a cheaper alternative for sex offenders seeking treatment? Tomorrow night at 6 on WUTR, I sit down with a registered level 3 sex offender who did receive treatment and counseling, and he did not take part in this program.
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