February 11, 2014

Podcast: On the indefinite commitment of ‘sexually violent persons’

About this series

The Center’s Nora G. Hertel teamed up with Gilman Halsted of Wisconsin Public Radio on “Rethinking Sex Offenders,” a three-day series examining Wisconsin’s changing methods of dealing with sexually violent persons. Find stories, audio, photos and data at this page: Project: Rethinking Sex Offenders.

Involuntary commitment for crimes not (yet) committed. The men of Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center, known as “sexually violent persons,” have a strange in-between status.

They are in treatment, learning to control their impulses so they can eventually be released. It feels, and even smells, says Center reporter Nora Hertel, “like a hospital.”

At the same time, says Gil Halsted of Wisconsin Public Radio, “They talked like inmates I have interviewed.”

In this podcast, Hertel and Halsted talk about what it was like touring Sand Ridge, this institution somewhere between treatment center and prison, and talking to the patients there. They were the first journalists to access the facility in six years.

The hard part for the men there, Halsted said, is what he called the “indefiniteness.”

“How you draw the line between where the worst of the worst ends and the not quite worst of the worst begins is very frustrating for the guys that are in there,” he said.

One fact mentioned at the end of the podcast, cleared up here: twenty-one states have involuntary commitment statutes like Wisconsin’s.

See Hertel’s photo tour of Sand Ridge: Photos: Inside Sand Ridge, where the sexually violent are treated