Monitoring of sex offenders increased
Gov. Bob McDonnell, during his 2009 campaign, made several promises to protect Virginians against sex offenders.
His public safety plan included a vow to "require a form of intensive lifetime monitoring of these violent sexual predators who are not eligible for civil commitment but pose a continuing danger to society.”
Civil commitment is a program that allows the state to indefinitely institutionalize chronic sexual predators after they have completed their prison sentences. They are detained at the 300-bed Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Nottoway County, where offenders receive psychological counseling and are rarely released.
The civil commitment program is designed to detain habitual predators. Toward the end of their sentences, all Virginia sex offenders are evaluated for their risk of molesting again. Recommendations are forwarded to the attorney general, who then decides whether to pursue civil commitment cases in circuit courts.
McDonnell's campaign promise was aimed at sex offenders who do not qualify for civil commitment. But since making the vow, gubernatorial spokesman Jeff Caldwell said McDonnell has decided stronger tactics are needed than just monitoring these felons.
Caldwell pointed to three steps taken by McDonnell and the General Assembly:
*A new law scheduled to begin Jan.1 will give the state more grounds for placing sex felons, at the end of their prison sentences, into the civil commitment programs.
*As PolitiFact Virginia has previously noted, McDonnell has signed a bill that imposes a mandatory minimum life sentence for an adult convicted of rape, forcible sodomy or object sexual penetration of a child under 13.
*The General Assembly, at McDonnell's request earlier this year, approved approved was $1.5 million for the Department of Corrections to hire 16 new probation officers to monitor sexual offenders. Also approved was $4.2 million for 43 compliance workers in the State Police to monitor sex offenders not on parole.
In 2006, the state created a Sex Offender Registry that today lists the names and locations of about 19,500 people convicted of sex crimes in Virginia. They are required to report any change of address or employment to the registry. Those convicted of violent or penetration offenses are on the registry for life; others can petition to be removed after 10 years.
About 7,700 people on the registry are not in prison or on parole. The additional compliance workers will help will help the state police officers monitor these offenders and handle paperwork.
So McDonnell has altered his course on violent sex offenders since making his pledge set up a lifetime monitoring system for them once they left prison. The governor -- by expanding prison sentencing and entry procedures to the civil commitment program -- has taken steps to ensure a greater number of these felons never walk free.
For the sex offenders who do leave confinement, McDonnell has successfully sought funding to hire additional probation and compliance officers.
McDonnell has addressed the problem of sexual predators and we rate this a Promise Kept.
Bob McDonnell, "McDonnell Unveils Public Safety Plan,” August 2009.
Email from McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell, Nov. 8, 2012.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Va.'s sex-offender center will fill up by 2012, officials say,” Sept.16, 2009.
Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, "Review of the Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators,” January 2012.
Gov. Bob McDonnell, "Governor McDonnell Signs Legislation to Toughen Penalties for Violent Sex Offenders,” Sept. 7, 2012.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Capitol Briefs: Bills increase penalties for dealers, predators,” Feb. 15, 2012.
Legislative Information System, HB1271, accessed Nov. 12, 2012.
Senate Finance Committee, summary of 2012-14 requested Public Safety budget, accessed Nov. 12, 2012.
LIS, State Budget page for 2012, accessed Nov. 13, 2012.
Senate Finance Committee, Overview of Committee Budget Amendments to the 2013-14 budget, March 26, 2012.
PolitiFact Virginia, Bob-O-Meter: Increase penalty for sexual battery of children, Sept. 17, 2012.
Interviews Corinne Geller, public relations manager for the Virginia State Police, Nov. 15-16, 2012.