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Thursday, November 29, 2012

New York: A Far Better Model

Here is the very latest from New York, Hot Off The Press:

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20121125/NEWS01/311250023/Sex-offenders-civil-commitment-New-York?gcheck=1&nclick_check=1

New York's Program, while far from perfect, offers a far more rational, empirical based approach than the madness of the Witch Hunt. I hope Task Force members study the AZ, NY, TX & WI Models. New York's disciplined, professional approach is one Minnesota could learn a lot from.

Here are a few additional resources re the NY SVP Program/Scheme. I will post more as time allows.

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/24465959/2008%20NYreport.pdf

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/24465959/SOMTA_Report_2011.pdf

Here is how a progressive ruled in a thorny case:

More Support for Sex Offender if Risk Level Reduced, Judge Says



New York Law Journal

10-01-2012


A judge in Manhattan has reduced a violent sex offender's risk level designation after concluding that the offender and community would be better served if he is allowed to live with his family, despite the proximity to a school, and receive appropriate treatment and services.

Acting Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan (See Profile) said that if he classified Steven Vasquez as a high risk offender, as recommended by a state board and requested by the Manhattan district attorney, the offender would almost certainly wind up in a homeless shelter.

"Lack of adequate supervision and stability, along with the inevitable isolation from his family and poor living conditions in a shelter home, may greatly increase Defendant's likelihood to reoffend," Merchan wrote in People v. Steven Vasquez, 3487/2007. "At home and under the supervision of a family member, however, Defendant will be provided with a stable and supportive environment as well as strong encouragement to comply with treatment and parole conditions."

The case involves a now 20-year-old man who, when he was 15, bound and repeatedly raped a woman while armed with a BB gun. Vasquez pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree rape, second-degree burglary and second-degree robbery. He was sentenced to a 2 1/2-to-7 year prison term and was released to community supervision in August.

Vasquez is required to register as a sexually violent offender because of his convictions.

The Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders recommended a Level 3, or high risk, classification after a risk evaluation assessed Vasquez points for being armed with a dangerous instrument, because he suffers from a mental disability, because the victim was a stranger and other factors. Vasquez sought a downward departure in his risk classification, which was opposed by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

At the outset, Merchan said Vasquez was improperly assessed points for being armed with a dangerous instrument. The judge said that while a BB gun can qualify as a dangerous instrument, in this case there was no evidence that Vasquez threatened to shoot the victim. However, Merchan indicated he would have reduced Vasquez designation from high to moderate risk regardless of the BB gun issue.

The court noted that Vasquez has moderate brain damage due to lead poisoning, an IQ of 68 and a history of "mental health and behavioral, social and intellectual deficits." If designated a Level III offender, Merchan noted, Vasquez would not be permitted to stay with his family because they live within 1,000 feet of a school. According to the decision, Vasquez was recently informed by the state that his only housing option is the Bellevue Men's Shelter.

Merchan said Vasquez needs assistance with such tasks as remembering appointments and navigating the social service system and would not receive that help at Bellevue. Additionally, the court said that in a homeless shelter Vasquez would be "rendered particularly vulnerable to other residents, exposed to crime and most likely subjected to homelessness, thereby increasing his risk of recidivism. Accordingly, a Level III sex offender designation would be counterproductive and serve no societal benefit."

As a Level II sexually violent offender, Vasquez must register for life and verify his address annually. His name and photograph will be posted on a public website maintained by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. However, he will not be subject to a residency restriction that bars Level III offenders under parole supervision from living within 1,000 feet of a school.

"The Level II classification provides greater assurance that Defendant will engage in treatment and services," Merchan wrote. "It also allows for a comprehensive support system, and the possibility that Defendant will reside with his family, thereby enhancing the likelihood of successful rehabilitation and reintegration into the community."

Vasquez currently is living in a homeless shelter because the state parole board barred him, as a condition of release, from living with his family and near a school regardless of his risk level assignment, according to Lauren Stephens-Davidowitz of the Office of the Appellate Defender, which represents Vasquez. He will be subject to community supervision until January 2015.

"Statutorily, he can live with his mom, but we need to get the parole board to remove the restriction," Stephens-Davidowitz said. She said the board often imposes a residency restriction as a release condition even when the statute does not limit where an offender may live.

Richard Greenberg, attorney-in-charge of the Office of the Appellate Defender, said his office will ask the parole board to administratively withdraw the condition that stands in the way of implementing Merchan's decision.

"If they don't, we will have to go to court," Greenberg said. "I think we have a very good argument that what the parole board is doing is not only counterproductive and insane but going against what this judge has ruled. It just flies in the face of the decision."

In addition to Stephens-Davidowitz, Vasquez is represented by Avi Springer, also of the Office of the Appellate Defender.

Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Michelle Bayer argued for the prosecution.

Peter Cutler, spokesman for the parole board, said the decision is under review.

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