Amidst the scandalous coverage of Anthony Weiner’s campaign for New York Comptroller and Eliot Spitzer running for Mayor, another case fraught with sexual offense and state politics has hit New York.
A federal jury acquitted former New York Governor George E. Pataki of any wrongdoing for confining sex offenders in state psychiatric hospitals after serving their prison sentences.
The six plaintiffs, who filed the initial lawsuit, argued their civil rights were violated by a 2005 initiative undertaken by the Pataki administration. The ‘Predator Initiative’ allowed state psychiatrists to review the cases of sexual offenders near the end of their term. It endowed them with the power to forcibly commit to an institution any person they deemed potentially dangerous with only the psychiatrist’s discretion as justification.
Of 800 inmates evaluate, 127 were forcibly interned.
The initiative survived only one year before a state Court of Appeals ruled that it violated the prisoners’ right to due process. The decision held that the prisoners were entitled to a commitment process with greater court supervision.
Proponents of the initiative probably look to the high rate of repeat offenders of sexual crimes. A psychiatric evaluation of potential repeat offenders could prevent future crimes from being committed. Because the initiative deals in the theoretical, preventing future crime from occurring, the benefits are not felt.
However, opponents will look to the misguided motives of state psychiatrists. If one offender reoffends, they will be held accountable and will therefore err on the side of over-cautiousness. Under the pretense of protecting crimes from being committed, any body legitimated by federal force, will be inclined to favor excessive caution.
For these civil rights violations, the New York State government, at least for the time being, is not being held accountable.