Modern-day Gulag in the Golden State

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Back in 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that the practice known as civil commitment was legal. This meant that 20 states - which had passed laws permitting the ongoing incarceration of sex offenders - could continue to keep the men confined even after they completed their prison terms. [...]

All it took (and still takes) is for two psychologists to claim the men might commit a new crime and a judge to say their cases can move forward. They are then labeled sexually violent predators (SVPs) and reincarcerated in prisonlike facilities until new trials are held - supposedly to determine if they will be civilly committed or released. The result? Some men have been waiting for their day in court for 15 to 20 years. In the meantime, many have died. [...]

To document a system awash in double-talk and dollars, I interviewed 45 lawyers, psychologists, psychiatric technicians, rehabilitation therapists, nurses, journalists, prison reform advocates and civilly committed men over eight months. Nearly all feared retaliation and asked not to be named.

When the sex offender laws passed, some California mental health officials instantly grasped that the new measures were solid gold. Melvin Hunter, then director of Atascadero State Hospital, where the SVPs were sent, was elated. "Whoever came up with the term 'sexually violent predator' was a marketing genius." [...]

One psych tech I'll call Alicia Torres worked at Coalinga for years but quit because she didn't like the way the men were treated. She says, "The psych techs put negative statements in the guys' records, and the psychologists who evaluate the men don't know them, so they assume the notes are accurate and say the guys must stay." The men who are confined call it "cooking the charts." Torres says, "If a man complains about something the psych techs did, they'll write 'He's aggressive,' even though he isn't. One told me, 'When I'm through with his chart, he won't get out any time soon.'"

source: Article 'Modern-Day Gulag In the Golden State' by Barbara Koeppel;; Washington Spectator; 4 June 2019