The following editorial by Patricia Warth was published in the Syracuse Post-Standard in April 29, 2010
To the Editor:
I applaud The Post-Standard for the April 21 editorial about civil confinement of sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences. Civil confinement is costly - more than $200,000 per year for each person confined. The recent Office of Mental Health (OMH) report lays bare some of the myths that are used to justify this extreme costly measure.
One such myth - one that pervades our public discourse on sex offenses - is the myth sex offenders are destined to re-offend. The OMH report reveals that re-offense rates for sex offenders have been over-estimated and that instead, as shown by information from the Bureau of Justice, people convicted of sex offenses re-offend at much lower rates than people convicted of other crimes.
The OMH report also reveals the folly of efforts to implement restrictions on where sex offenders can live. These residency restrictions make it virtually impossible for sex offenders to access stable housing or much needed treatment, thereby increasing the risks that they will re-offend.
Smart public policy is based on accurate information. People who want to get beyond the myths and learn the facts should go to the Division of Criminal Justice website.
Co-director, Justice Strategies
Center for Community Alternatives