Audit Request Approved
Last updated 7/21/2023 at 10:08am
Following more than two years of objections to Liberty Healthcare and the CA Department of State Hospital (DSH) practice of hiding Sexually Violent Predators (SVPs) in rural neighborhoods, an audit of the SVP Conditional Release Program (CONREP) was approved. Senator Brian Jones and Supervisor Jim Desmond and others refer to this program as “Hide the Predator.”
Using the Hide the Predator methodology, counties were precluded from making input to the process used by Liberty to select housing locations. We have observed that the focus is on rental properties in neighborhoods, without regard to where boys, girls, and women who fit the SVP victim profiles reside. Behind closed doors of the Superior Court, Liberty proposes the location as the “only and best” property, and has the judge visit it without notice to the neighborhood. By the time the location is announced with an opportunity for public comment, it is essentially a “done deal.”
Last July, Judge Theodore Weathers was taken out to the Zuni Trail property, saw the location, and when it was announced for public comment a month later, the decision had essentially been made.
The unanimous vote by the members of the CA Joint Legislative Audit Committee who agreed to Senator Brian Jones’ request to review the SVP CONREP is a huge step toward correcting an egregiously flawed program and placement system used by the Superior Court.
So what can we expect? The audit should last 12 to 18 months and the auditors will examine the contract between DSH and Liberty Healthcare, looking into seven specific requests that were approved by the Committee from Senator Jones’ letter.
Following is a brief summary:
1. Identify the number of SVPs placed through CONREP, including those who have reoffended, specifically those who have been convicted of a new felony or misdemeanor relating to sexually violent offenses committed within 10 years of release from custody, or committed within 10 years of placement on supervision for a previous criminal conviction.
2. Assess the Department’s process for contracting with Liberty Healthcare to manage SVPs placed in CONREP, including the following:
a. Whether the terms and conditions of the contract are consistent with the laws and regulations governing the placement and management of SVPs in CONREP.
b. Whether the Department provides sufficient oversight of Liberty Healthcare’s management of SVPs placed in CONREP. Is the Department ensuring that SVPs are receiving adequate treatment? If not, how could it be improved?
3. Examine the contracting process and determine how many other potential bidders the Department has considered to do the work relating to CONREP.
4. How much has California paid in total to Liberty Healthcare and all other vendors/contractors over the last twenty years to place SVPs through the CONREP program?
5. How have counties participated in the placement process? How has Liberty worked with counties to ensure placements? Please look specifically at San Diego (a large county), a medium size county, and a small county (based on population). Please include the following information:
a. How often are SVPs placed close together?
b. How often/how many “attempted placements” are made before a permanent placement is reached? How much money has been wasted on placements that fail?
6. Make policy and regulatory recommendations that would improve public safety outcomes and mental health outcomes related to the program, including legal assessments of those recommendations.
7. Review and assess and other issues and statutes that are significant to the audit.
By reviewing the contract from inception 20 years ago to present, everyone can understand how the contract has been fulfilled and is working. The last two items concerning policy, law and regulatory concerns are particularly significant for improving this broken SVP CONREP.
After the unanimous vote, Senator Jones said, “East Coast based-Liberty Healthcare sneaks into unsuspecting communities across California and employs a disturbing placement strategy where they try to secretly release dangerous SVPs and rapists into residential neighborhoods. We are thankful that the bipartisan Legislative Audit Committee understands the need to further investigate Liberty Healthcare’s poor management of SVPs. Today is the first step towards fixing this broken and alarming SVP release program.”
In Senator Jones’ letter to Assemblyman David Alvarez, Chair of the California Joint Legislative Audit Committee, he stated his deep concerns about the SVP CONREP program and hopes that this audit, “will provide some much-needed transparency as the program comes under increasing public scrutiny and criticism for its lack of accountability and transparency. The history of Liberty Healthcare’s attempted SVP placements has shown a severe lack of concern for public safety in our local communities. I have become too familiar with the CONREP process over the last few years with multiple attempts to place SVPs in San Diego County.”
Below is an excerpt from the letter:
“Liberty Healthcare’s practices are not in line with public oversight and fail to focus on safety that the program calls for. In fact, it appears full details of where Liberty Healthcare is leasing homes for sexually violent predators are kept secret from neighbors, schools, and local government officials, including even local law enforcement. It is only after Liberty Healthcare signs leases for homes and pays for them with our tax dollars, that they slowly release details to the community, making it almost impossible to stand up against inappropriate placements. County District Attorneys have gone to court to block these dangerous placements of SVPs, and many judges have recognized the threat to public safety and ruled against Liberty Healthcare’s placements. Through the several attempted placements during my time as a Senator, it has been very difficult, if not impossible, to get information from DSH about the operation of their 20-year exclusive partnership with Liberty Healthcare. This troubles me because it seems that DSH has delegated their authority and responsibility to a private contractor. I believe it is long past time to bring transparency to the SVP CONREP process operations.”
Keep Our Community Safe from Sexually Violent Predators: https://sr40.senate.ca.gov/keep-our-community-safe-sexually-violent-predators