Dianne Hendrickson and her son Eric, a sex offender confined to Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center, inside the visiting area. The state committed Eric as a sexually violent person in 2002. The Hendricksons believe he has been denied discharge from the facility for rule infractions unrelated to the risk he poses to the community as a sex offender. Dianne Hendrickson is eager to see her son come home: “I have never prayed or wished for anything more than that.” Credit: Courtesy of Dianne Hendrickson
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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

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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Kate Golden, multimedia director and reporter, specializes in environmental stories and data visualizations.