Wisconsin authorities are rethinking their stance on imprisoning scores of sex offenders who were characterized as ‘sexually violent.’ Those offenders had reportedly committed sex crimes that were considered sexually violent offenses, and they suffered from mental disorders that made them dangerous to others. The offenders were released after new information showed that they were less likely to repeat their previous crimes.

State judicial authorities have involuntarily committed about 500 people since 1994, keeping them in custody even though their sentences for criminal convictions had expired. Two-thirds of those offenders reportedly remain in custody. Wisconsin is among the 21 states that permit sex offenders to be committed in such facilities after their sentences are complete. They are considered patients, not inmates, at that point.

In all, 114 people were released after they were involuntarily committed. Those offenders were released between 2009 and 2013. Just 31 such offenders were released during the previous five-year term. Those individuals had been housed at the Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center. Now, a growing number of those individuals are being subjected to supervised release, during which they receive ongoing treatment and continued monitoring.

New statistics show that of the 67 offenders discharged from 1994 to 2010, just five were convicted of another sex crime. Judicial officials say that communities are often shocked to hear that a violent offender has been sent to their area, but there are limits to keeping people locked up. One man said he is looking forward to his period of supervised release after being kept in custody for nearly 20 years.

Sex offenders do not deserve to be unfairly targeted just because of the nature of their crimes. Patients in these facilities are able to petition for their own release. Those offenders may benefit from the assistance of a qualified Wisconsin defense attorney, perhaps even after they transition into and out of the treatment center. Wisconsin lawyers can serve as advocates and allies for such individuals.

Source: Lacrosse Tribune, “Rethinking sex offenders: Wisconsin freeing more sex offenders; old recidivism data exaggerated risk” Nora G. Hertel, Feb. 02, 2014