Forensics: SOCP Frequently Asked Questions
When patients committed under the SVP statutes are granted conditional release by the court they will enter community treatment and supervision under CONREP. Generally speaking, all conditionally released SVPs receive an intensive regimen of treatment and supervision that includes individual contact by supervision staff, specialized sex offender treatment, weekly drug screening, surveillance, polygraph examinations, and active Global Positioning System tracking.
DSH cannot provide specific information on whether an individual is or isn’t a patient in a state hospital program. Doing so would violate both federal and state privacy laws.
In order to seek release, a SVP can petition the court (under Welfare and Institutions Code 6608) with or without the recommendation of DSH. Additionally, DSH submits an annual report to the court that includes a consideration of whether the committed person currently meets the definition of a sexually violent predator. (See W&I Code 6605.) DSH has no authority to release a SVP; only the courts have the authority to do so.
Any SVP in conditional release must have living arrangements approved by the court. If those conditions change, the changes must also be approved by the court.
In general terms, treatment, housing and supervision costs for SVPs conditionally released by court order into the community are provided by DSH. Conditionally released SVPs are expected to be self-supporting with regard to food, clothing, and personal expenses. Until such time as the person is self-supporting, funds are available as a loan which must be repaid.
The search for appropriate housing does not begin until after a judge grants a SVP conditional release AND has determined the individual's county of domicile.
The first step is to review any past housing searches that have been conducted in the identified county. If no searches have previously been conducted, then a new one will begin.
Next, the county is notified in writing by DSJ of the upcoming release. The county is asked if they want to create a housing search committee. A housing search committee may include representatives from local law enforcement, district attorney's office or other county administrators. The committee would meet regularly with the Executive Director of CONREP to receive updates on the housing search. Counties are not required to form a committee. If they decide not to, the search is still conducted and findings are relayed to the court.
The third step is the beginning of the actual housing search. Staff examines existing searches for properties that were previously identified. Such information is used only as a starting point. Staff uses many resources to find potential properties for rent including review of newspaper and Craigslist advertisements; visiting local real estate offices and even, driving through neighborhoods in search of "For Rent" signs.
GPS data is used to identify areas that meet legal distancing requirements.
Next, the staff begins contacting property owner to gauge their interest in renting the property to someone who is a SVP. When a property owner shows interest, the property in question is visited by the staff. They examine the rental property and also verify the measurements to any schools or parks. They spend some time in the neighborhood to gather information about the number of children in the neighborhood, their ages, and other factors that may be of interest to the judge.
Frequently, a property owner requires a deposit to hold the property while the court process is occurring. The deposit is refundable if the owner later withdraws from a rental agreement.
Each property that is visited is added to a housing report summary which is shared with the housing search committee (if one exists) and will later be presented to the court during a housing hearing.
If a property is approved by the court, a hearing date is set 45 days in the future to allow notification requirements of county officials and neighboring property owners. Even though a placement has been approved, a housing search does not stop. Staff continues to search for other possible properties. This is done because so many property owners back out of agreements because of public outrage and publicity.
Security is usually in place 24-hours a day and seven days a week when initially released. Security reduces over time depending upon behavior and improvements. The level of security is continuously evaluated based on the patient's behavior and improvements. The amount of time security remains in place varies from patient to patient. Security can be reduced and eliminated if and when two conditions are met:
- The patient demonstrates he is appropriately adjusting to the community.
- The risks are determined to be at a minimum.
The use of security does not change other requirements on the patient. In other words, the patient will remain under GPS monitoring; the home or living unit is still subject to searches; and the individual must still report to in-person meetings, etc. The close supervision is there to guard against the individual committing any new crimes.
Any failure to follow the rules regarding treatment, drug screening, surveillance and examinations may result in a return to a state hospital.
DSH contracts with Liberty Healthcare to supervise, treat and monitor all SVPs currently in the CONREP. The program includes individual contact, substance abuse testing, polygraph, and GPS monitoring. In addition to supervising released individuals, Liberty Healthcare tracks court cases throughout California for other SVPs seeking release and searching for housing for those who have been ordered released by a court, but awaits housing.