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CBS News California identifies sudden spike in sexually violent predators set for release into communities, prompting concerns at state capitol | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

CBS News California has identified a spike in the number of “sexually violent predators” who are being granted conditional release by the Department of State Hospitals amid an ongoing struggle to find appropriate housing for the men. The original reporting prompted several proposed changes to state law but, one by one, the bills are dying inside California’s capitol.

The mind of a sexually violent predator

A 2006 CBS interview with Timothy Boggs gave a glimpse into the mind of a legally designated sexually violent predator, known as an SVP.

“I think that there’s always going to be an attraction (to children),” Boggs said, acknowledging that he had a sickness that cannot be cured.

A sexually violent predator is someone convicted of sexually violent crimes who served their time but who is also diagnosed with a mental disorder that a court ruled will make them likely to engage in sexually violent criminal behavior.

So instead of release, they’re sent to a state hospital for treatment until a state doctor determines they’re ready for “conditional release” back into the community. Then it is the state’s job to provide them with a home and supervision. 

“The worst thing that a sex offender can say is that ‘I’m cured,’ ” Boggs clarified. “You don’t want somebody to say there is no attraction because it leads to high-risk thinking.”  

What is “transient” conditional release?

At the time, a judge ruled the state’s contractor, Liberty Healthcare, was taking too long to find Boggs suitable housing. They have to consider things like nearby parks, schools, and victims.

So, Boggs was the first SVP to be conditionally released on so-called transient status without a permanent address. However, he certainly wasn’t the last because as more SVPs are being released across the state amid protest, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the state to find them homes.

“It’s more difficult supervision,” Placer County District Attorney Morgan Gire said describing the concern with transient release.

Gire explained conditional release includes weekly drug screenings, polygraph tests, and 24/7 GPS monitoring, which according to the state’s contractor, is easier and cheaper in a permanent home with hardwired phone and internet lines. Patients on transient release may be placed in a motel or mobile trailer which makes the supervision more difficult. 

However, if the state can’t find a permanent home, at some point, transient release becomes the only option under current law. 

“There are due process rights,” Gire said.

The state won’t reveal exactly how many SVPs are currently on transient release stating, “because the number of participants in this category is less than 11, data de-identification guidelines do not allow us to provide further specificity. To do so would violate the Safe Harbor Provisions of HIPAA and best practices for data de-identification.”

However, the state previously acknowledged in court that SVPs on transient release have a 50% failure rate, meaning they violated their terms of release and were sent back to the state hospital.  By contrast, data shows SVPs in traditional housing have a 30% failure rate. 


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CBS News California uncovers spike in sexually violent predators set for release

Historically, it was pretty rare for sexually violent predators to be released from the state hospital. By the end of 2022, only 54 SVPs had ever been granted “conditional release” into the community since the law took effect in 1996. 

As of June of 2023, there were only 20 SVPs out on active conditional release. The rest of the 54 had either died or graduated from the program, meaning they were released unconditionally into the community. 

State data indicates at least 22 additional SVPs have now been granted release and are pending placement in the community, meaning the total number could soon double. 

Plenty of taxpayer money with nowhere to go

Based on data from the Department of State Hospitals obtained through a Public Records Act request, sexually violent predators cost taxpayers 50% more once they are released from the hospital.

Each sexually violent predator on conditional release costs taxpayers over $400,000 a year. The median annual cost per SVP is $439,071, partly because the state pays a premium for rent, which can entice landlords. 

For instance, according to the Placer County District Attorney’s Office, the state was paying $7,000 a month just to put a hold on a possible house for one sexually violent predator pending release in that county. 

That man, a sexually violent predator with plenty of state money for housing but no place to go, is triggering action by state lawmakers.

Could one sexually violent predator change state law?

Court records reveal William Robert Stevenson has a long history of treatment and re-offenses dating back to the 80s.

During his trial for multiple violent assaults on a Tahoe beach in the 90s, “he estimated…he committed about 20 sexual offenses” before that.

After serving about half of his 31-year sentence followed by more treatment at a state psychiatric hospital, in 2014, doctors determined it was safe to “conditionally release” Stevenson into a Northern California neighborhood.

That’s where he was arrested again when officers found child pornography on his computer. He was sent back to the state hospital for violating his terms of release.

At the time, neighbors said they planned to build a daycare or park in the area so no sex offenders could move in.

Two years ago, state doctors said Stephenson was once again well enough for release, but this time, the state’s contractor can’t find anywhere to put him.

Because it was taking so long to find Stevenson a home, his lawyers asked for transient release, meaning release without a permanent address.  In court, the state’s contractor acknowledged that SVPs on transient release have a 50% failure rate.

Stevenson testified that he personally knows all the men who’ve failed so far, noting most were placed in motels where they were tempted by prostitution and drugs. The court was considering placing Stevenson in a trailer. 

Stevenson also argued that if lawmakers felt transient release was unsafe, there would be a law prohibiting it.

In response to our reporting last year, State Senator Minority Leader Brian Jones made multiple attempts to amend state law, and so has Northern California Assemblyman Joe Patterson.

“Stevenson has pointed out that there is a gap in the law and it should 100% be changed,” Patterson said. “I don’t think the legislature felt like they need to clarify that you can’t put people out on transient status, but we are definitely going to clarify that.”

Sexually violent predator legislation dies when Democrats on the Public Safety Committee decline to vote

Republican lawmakers introduced at least seven different SVP bills this session. Most died in the Democrat-led public safety committees, including one of Patterson’s bills that would’ve prevented sexually violent predators from being housed in motels.

Patterson’s bill died when every Democrat on Assemblyman Kevin McCarty’s public safety committee abstained from voting, automatically killing the bill without anyone actually voting against it on the record.

Another of Patterson’s bills passed the same committee on consent without a hearing and was referred to the appropriations committee. It would require state hospital representatives to be physically present at the meetings with local law enforcement to discuss the placement of sexually violent predators.

Bill aims to make public safety a priority

Meanwhile, the Senate public safety committee did pass Senator Jones’ amended bill, which requires the “Director of State Hospitals” to ensure public safety is “the primary consideration” when placing a sexually violent predator in the community.

“The point of stating emphatically that public safety is the number one priority underscores the ridiculousness of this whole issue in the first place,” Jones said.

The bill is now headed to the appropriations committee, where controversial bills often go to die. Any bill estimated to cost more than $150,000 is sent to the “suspense file” and can be quietly killed by the appropriations chair without a vote. Jones is the committee’s vice chair and even he’s not sure what his Democratic colleagues will decide to do with the bill.

Opponents like the ACLU and public defenders argue that his bill will add bureaucratic obstacles and make it even harder to find housing, which could also lead to more transient releases.

A success story?

Court records indicate Boggs, who is now dead, was never re-arrested after his transient release. He volunteered to be chemically castrated and said he understood why people still didn’t trust him.

“How can I look at somebody in the community and say, ‘You’re wrong. We don’t need to be locked up,’ ” he said. “But by the same means, I’m here. I’ve paid for my crime and I’ve done everything and more, I think, to show the community that I deserve a chance.”

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