VIEWPOINT: SVP Lessons Learned
Last updated 9/7/2021 at 10:41am
Our collective work to oppose the placement of a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) in our community was rewarded. Letters and email appeals to the Sheriff’s SAFE Task Force, the Judge and our elected officials made an impact. As good as the news is, Borrego Springs remains a target for future proposed placements.
To consider release of Sexually Violent Predators in a house next to a park, in a community with slow law enforcement response time, with no psychiatric care available would require application of a standard of leniency that does not exist. Proposing the placement of SVPs in Borrego Springs would be a complete disregard of community safety.
This article is about lessons learned. We do not know precisely what caused Liberty Healthcare to withdraw the proposal. Let’s examine what we do know and what we learned.
Lesson 1: Liberty Healthcare and the CA Department of State Hospitals (DSH) view rural communities as suitable for Sexually Violent Predator placements. The most recent six proposed SVP placements were targeted towards five rural and unincorporated suburban locations. Four were denied (two in Mount Helix, Wilton, 29 Palms), 1 is pending in Ranchita, and the Borrego Springs proposal was withdrawn.
Victorville Daily Press writer, Charlie McGee, reported that the SVP who was denied placement in 29 Palms is now proposed for placement in Newberry Springs, California, a community with 3,000 residents in High Desert. Sound familiar? Borrego has a full-time population of about 3,200. Newberry Springs is closer to Barstow and psychiatric care than Borrego Springs is to Palm Springs or San Diego.
The Newberry Springs Sheriff’s office conducted notification of the residents by going door-to-door to let everyone know. The community is reportedly in total opposition to this placement for several reasons. The SVP committed rapes in Orange County, Los Angeles County and Florida. Liberty states that they “cannot find housing” in Orange County and an Orange County judge agreed, using “extraordinary circumstances” in CA Welfare and Institutions Code 6608.5, to shift the proposal to a neighboring county.
This should sound familiar because SVP Wakefield committed crimes in Marin County.
Lesson 2: 67% of all SVP’s placed in San Diego County have been housed in rural areas – Jacumba, Campo, Descanso, Alpine, Boulevard, Borrego Springs (he moved recently to live elsewhere). To quote Assembly Member Randy Voepel, “East County has become a dumping ground.” Senator Brian Jones and County Supervisors Jim Desmond and Joel Anderson agree with him.
Lesson 3: Law enforcement and fire rescue response times in rural East County locations average 30 minutes or more. Response time can be more than one hour, depending on many factors including time of day and if more than one incident has occurred in the huge area assigned to them. Superior Court judges in Wilton and 29 Palms cited similar long response times as having a substantial negative impact on community safety should an SVP be placed in remote locations.
Lesson 4: Sexually Violent Predators have victim profiles based on the type, or types, of victims they preyed on. SVP victim profiles often include children under the age of 14 or women who were raped, and men who were robbed or raped.
Jessica’s Law was written to preclude Sex Offenders from living near places where people who fit that profile congregate, live or play. However, in 2015, the Supreme Court of California found that Jessica’s Law has too broadly written and harmed persons required to register as Sex Offenders – non-violent, not the same as SVP. Applying Jessica’s Law to every registered sex offender was deemed unreasonable.
However, it is not unreasonable that persons designated Sexually Violent Predators by a court or jury should be subject to restrictions of Jessica’s Law, which is applied on a case-by-case basis in the courts. The house proposed to place SVP Wakefield in Borrego Springs has a backyard on the De Anza Golf Course. The golf course is designated a park and recreation area on the San Diego County Land Use map. It is a place where children under 14, women and men of all ages, play and congregate.
Lesson 5: The CA Department of State Hospitals (DSH) is responsible for managing the Conditional Release Program (CONREP) for the state of CA. CA DSH contracted exclusively with Liberty Healthcare in 2003 to provide administrative and clinical direction for CONREP. Since that time, Liberty has become synonymous with CONREP which is now called Liberty CONREP. Liberty’s contract is to “supervise, treat, and monitor” every SVP who receives conditional release from a state-run psychiatric facility.
Lesson 6: SVPs require constant monitoring, including being driven. As of 2006, the approximate costs to house an SVP in the state hospital was approximately $37,000 annually and approximately $150,000 in a community. The cost for housing in a community has escalated and now ranges between $639,000 and $1 million dollars per SVP annually.
Lesson 7: When an SVP placement is being proposed in a community, it should be to that person’s home of record or where the last crimes were committed. There is a great deal of discussion in California on this subject, and the list of what may qualify to allow an SVP to choose their ‘preferred’ home of record is extensive.
The Victorville Daily Press confirmed from Liberty that 21 SVPs will be conditionally released into the community by June 30, 2022. That means that we should expect to see more SVPs proposed for release in San Diego County in the next 10 months.
Should we be concerned? The California DSH website states that a person designated by a court or jury as a Sexually Violent Predator “ … is likely to engage in sexual acts of violence upon his release.”
In the CA Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) 6608.5 (d): “The county of domicile shall designate a county agency or program that will provide assistance and consultation in the process of locating and securing housing within the county for persons committed as sexually violent predators who are about to be conditionally released under Section 6608.”
San Diego County designated the Behavioral Health Services office to provide this consultation. We know that the SD Behavioral Health Services office did not talk with anyone in the community of De Anza Estates about the property on Yaqui Road and important factors were missed.
So why does it matter where the proposed house is located? Per 6608.5(e) “In recommending a specific placement for community outpatient treatment, the department or its designee shall consider all of the following:
(1) The concerns and proximity of the victim or the victim’s next of kin.
(2) The age and profile of the victim or victims in the sexually violent offenses committed by the person subject to placement. For purposes of this subdivision, the “profile” of a victim includes, but is not limited to, gender, physical appearance, economic background, profession, and other social or personal characteristics.”
The neighborhood and house on Yaqui that the San Diego Behavioral Health Services should have reviewed for specific placement, has a designated park in the back yard where children play, women play golf, and the community goes for walks in the morning and late afternoon in a Dark Sky community. The house is two doors down from children under the age of 14. Children and women were in SVP Wakefield’s victim profile, which would have precluded Liberty from recommending the house on Yaqui.
To conclude, we have a core group of volunteers who are joining together as an informal group: PeopleSafeBorrego.org. We will focus on concerns from the community about safety – including assessments submitted by Liberty Healthcare/DSH/CONREP for Sexually Violent Predator Placements to Behavioral Health Services. We will ask them to work with us any time an assessment for SVP placement in Borrego is received. People make the process – it hasn’t been working well to date. Our group can aid in providing needed demographic and other information.
In the meantime, we must prepare in case Liberty Healthcare/DSH/CONREP proposes another placement.