This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
The Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island exists for two reasons: to protect the public from sexual psychopaths and to get compulsive predators the treatment they need.
Both aims are undermined by residents’ continued access to computers capable of storing and viewing images of children being violated.
Despite harsh consequences, child porn continues to find its way into the commitment center. Last year, federal prosecutors indicted seven sexual offenders at the center, accusing them of possessing hundreds of digital images.
Now eight more residents are facing similar charges. They clearly aren’t deterred by the strong possibility that they will spend the rest of their lives in the Special Commitment Center, if not prison, for proving themselves so bent on reoffending.
Many of the illegal images are found on CDs and DVDs that have been smuggled into the center, where they can be viewed by residents whose privileges include computer access.
Commitment center officials have tried to curtail deviancy by prohibiting computers that can access the Internet or read flash drives. But since offenders are not prison inmates, authorities can only go so far.
State Rep. Mike Carrell likens the situation to keeping a stocked, open bar in a rehab clinic and then punishing the patients for drinking. Carrell, R-Lakewood, is trying for the third time to get further restrictions placed on residents’ computer use.
He wants McNeil’s sex predators prevented from accessing personal computers unless counselors determine that the offender can handle that freedom. Other offenders – only 40 percent of the population even tries to participate in treatment – would be able to use limited functioning devices capable only of word processing and limited data storage.
Senate Bill 6308 has the support of special commitment center officials frustrated by what they see as sanctioned temptation. The bill should also have the support of the House, where it is awaiting a vote.
These are offenders who have already demonstrated a proclivity for preying on innocence. Allowing them the means to continue to indulge their deviancy in confinement is counterproductive. It also is expensive. The state devotes two full-time staffers and $250,000 a year just to monitoring computer usage.
But the most compelling argument for cracking down on residents’ computer use is supply and demand. Predators who seek out child porn help fuel the demand that creates a market for crimes against children.
The Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island should be the last place on earth where sex offenders are able to victimize children.