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Padded Walls, Not Prison Cells, For Some Missouri Sex Offenders

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Southeast Missouri Mental Health Center
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Missouri locks up its violent sex offenders but not all of them are behind prison bars.

Some offenders are sent to mental hospitals to take part in a program aimed at treating the worst of the worst.

It’s called SORTS, Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services.

Currently, nearly 200 men are part of the program, not for what they’ve done but for what they might do in the future.

SORTS is a civil involuntary commitment for those the state deems to be sexually violent predators.

St. Louis University Law School Dean Mike Wolff served on the Missouri Supreme Court for 13 years. He says the U.S. Supreme Court rationalized an involuntary detention program based on the theory that medical treatment could reform sexually violent predators, eventually allowing them to reenter society.

“But if they’re not there for treatment and there’s no possibility they’ll get out then I’m not sure the rationale for a civil commitment is really met,” he says.

Wolff says prosecutors can override recommendations made by review teams as to whether a sex offender should be civilly committed, adding that gaining the right to a jury doesn’t necessarily help an offender’s chances.

“Any lingering doubts that this person might or might not be dangerous, I think most people would say ‘well, keep them in.'”

Since the SORTS program began in 1999 the number of patients discharged from the program is zero. During that time, 17 participants have died of old age or illness and only four have earned a conditional release without discharge.

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