Forensics: Sex Offender Commitment Program
There are 35 sexually violent offenses that may qualify an individual as a sexually violent predator. By law, when an inmate in a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) with such a conviction comes within six months of parole, he is referred to the Department of State Hospitals (DSH) for a mental health evaluation as a potential sexually violent predator (SVP). The criterion requires a diagnosable mental disorder and the likelihood that the person will engage in acts of sexual violence without appropriate in-custody treatment for their mental disorder.
DSH designated this program the Sexual Offender Commitment Program (SOCP).
If a district attorney files a petition for commitment of an individual as a SVP, the mental health evaluators are called to provide expert testimony at court hearings.
A judge of the superior court reviews the petition and determines if it supports a finding of probable cause. The judge can require the individual to be held at a state hospital pending a Probable Cause Hearing or a trial.
The hearing or trial determines if the person is, by reason of a diagnosed mental disorder, a danger to the health and safety of others. In other words, that individual is likely to engage in sexual acts of violence upon his release from the jurisdiction of CDCR or another secure facility.
If the judge determines there is not probable cause, the petition may be dismissed and the individual shall report to parole.
When the court or jury determines, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the person is a sexually violent predator, the individual is committed for an indeterminate term to a secure state hospital.
As required by law, treatment is voluntary.Â While all patients do elect to participate in some level of treatment, not all of them choose to actively participate in the Phase Treatment Program, which is an intensive inpatient program designed to treat sexual mental health disorders. Treatment is provided by a team which includes psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, psychiatric technicians and nurses.
It is usually only through participation in the Phase Treatment Program that an individual can become eligible to be placed in the Conditional Release Program (CONREP).
Individuals in treatment at DSH receive an annual examination to determine if they continue to meet the SVP criterion. If DSH has reason to believe the individual is no longer an SVP, judicial review is sought. If the Superior Court agrees, the individual is unconditionally released and discharged.
If DSH determines that the individual may benefit from conditional release, or the court rules against unconditional release in favor of conditional release, the individual may be placed in CONREP.
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.
California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB)
In 2006, a 15-member California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) was created under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The purpose of CASOMB is to serve as a resource for the Legislature and the Governor in addressing any issues, concerns, and problems related to the community management of the state’s adult sex offenders.
CASOMB is required to conduct a thorough assessment of current management practices for adult sex offenders, submit a report of their assessment to the Legislature, and develop recommendations to improve management practices for those offenders.
More information on CASOMB can be found at their website at www.casomb.org.