Why the surprise?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

An AP story recently reported that the Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders (CCUSO), located in Cherokee, cost nearly $5 million to operate this year and is expected to cost $6.6 million next year.

Both of those figures include some facility renovation expense to accomodate a growing population, in addition to the regular operating expense.

There are now 67 offenders and the capaqcity is expected to eventually reach 150.

Iowa is one of 14 states with a civil commitment program for sexual offenders. The constitutionality of the program has been upheld in state and federal courts.

Violent sexual predators judged at high risk to reoffend are committed to the unit after completing prison terms. There is a treatment component. Those who successfully complete the treatment and are no longer considered at high risk to reoffend can be released.

The reality is that most of those committed will never complete treatment. Sexual offenders have a very high rate of reoffending. No one in Iowa's civil commitment program has yet been released to live among the general population.

The first person to be committed to a CCUSO unit in Iowa, originally at Oakdale, was committed in 1999. The program outgrew the Oakdale facility and was moved to the Cherokee Mental Health Institute campus in 2003.

As more sexual offenders are released from prison, the population at CCUSO will continue to grow as will the staff and the operating expense. This sould come as no surprise, nor should the fact that most patients of the program will only be released when they are dead or infirm with old age.

Although the AP article indicated that the cost should raise taxpayer concerns, most legislators understand that the expense is the expected consequence of a decision made back in 1998 to protect the citizens of the state, in many cases children, from incurably sick people.