In New York State, the end of a criminal sentence for a sex offender doesn't mean he or she is going free.
Last night we told you about the 'Civil Confinement Program,' designed to keep dangerous sex offenders off the streets by giving them secure treatment in the Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy. But as Eyewitness News reporter Rachel Polansky tells us, the program is costing taxpayers a hefty $175,000 dollars per offender per year.
Rachel brings us an exclusive interview with a person whose experienced these issues first-hand. She sits down with a registered sex offender to tell his personal story.
"I was arrested in 1998. Accused of molesting 4 boys. And I went to jail," says Frederick Parker, registered level 3 sex offender in Utica.
Parker is a registered level 3 sex offender; that's the highest level there is. He got out of jail 7 months ago and he says he knows what he did to his victims was wrong.
"I definitely did damage emotionally and psychologically," says Parker.
Parker did not participate in the 'Civil Confinement Program' but he says he did receive intense treatment and counseling during his 15 years in state prison.
"We had classes about what we did, things like that, anything that involved sex. We also had thinking-change classes," says Parker.
"Did you change?" asks Rachel.
"Oh yes. Because I wanted to. I wasn't forced. It was strictly voluntary. I wanted to change. I wanted to make sure I never hurt anyone again," says Parker.
Parker says he was able to change in prison. And as we told you last night, housing an inmate in New York State prison is 1/3 of the cost of housing a sex offender in this 'Civil Confinement Program.' That's where questions start arising. Kevin Conley represents the clinical staff that works in civil confinement, and he has his doubts.
"There's no real proof that says a program like this works," says Kevin Conley, region 6 coordinator for Public Employees Federation.
We reached out to the NYS Office of Mental Health to find out why the program is so expensive. They did not want to speak on camera but they did give us a statement:
"Sex offenders under treatment in OMH secure treatment facilities are civil patients who require a broad spectrum of services and high level of security.
OMH must tend to their medical needs, psychiatric needs, and sex offender treatment needs, within the context of a secure environment. Due to the risk these individuals pose to the community, the security requirements are high. This includes a high level of security inside the facility, around the perimeter of the facility, and during resident transports. Staff monitor resident behavior 24 hours a day, this intensive monitoring being necessary for the security needs and the behavioral treatment component of the program. Treatment does not simply include group based therapy, but individualized treatment based upon level of need." - Ben Rosen, Director of Public Information at NYS Office Of Mental Health.
Conley says another problem with this program is space. We know there are at least 150 sex offenders inside the CNY Psychiatric Center in Marcy, and that number continues to grow each year. We also know there is a 225-bed maximum capacity in Marcy. It's a long term program so there's no telling when an offender will get out to make room for more people.
"What happens when all the beds are filled up?" asks Rachel.
"I would imagine they'll have to find more room someplace," says Conley.
Is the 'Civil Confinement Program' worth the money?
"I think that's outrageous," says Nancy Lafreniere, Utica resident.
"You scarred the victim for life. You should be in jail for life," says Darren Denicola, Ilion resident.
Everyone has their own opinions, but Frederick Parker says if it keeps offenders from re-offending, it's worth it.
"As long as theyre getting psychiatric counseling definitely, ya know, keep the kids safe, keep whoever safe," says Parker.
We asked the Office Of Mental Health why the 'Civil Confinement Program' is necessary, if offenders like Frederick Parker, got treatment in state prison? They said many offenders have re-offended in the past after finishing prison-based treatment. For that reason, they are now developing a more intensive prison-based program, that would reduce the need for civil confinement in the future, and that could mean less taxpayer spending for you.
There is no timeline on this new program. We'll continue to follow this story.
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