Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Special Commitment Center

Dec.
8th

Lakewood is no place for sex predators

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Folks in Olympia may be soon looking for a new community to host 300 violent sexual psychopaths. Lakewood, call your home security service.

Those predators are now housed and supposedly getting treated at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island. They are the worst of the worst – a small fraction of the state’s sex offenders.

They wind up at the SCC only if a court has concluded that they have committed a violent sex crime and suffer from “a mental abnormality” that hinders their control of sexual violence and are “more likely than not to engage in predatory acts of violence again.”

There’s a reason they confined to an island surrounded by deep, frigid water.

The Legislature now faces intense financial pressure to move them to the mainland. The SCC began to look like an extravagance last year, when the state shut down the regular prison on McNeil Island. The prison had shared some of the Special Commitment Center’s costs, an arrangement that originally made a good argument for the location.

Now the SCC is sitting out there by itself with an annual budget of more than $30 million a year. A large chunk of that, $6.6 million, results from the island location. The center also needs repairs and improvements – an estimated $12.2 million worth of work in the 2013-2015 biennium.

Most lawmakers would dearly love to divert that money to their pet projects.
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Feb.
5th

Don’t waste state funds on predators’ ‘blank check’ defense

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

As state lawmakers grapple with how to close a $1 billion-plus budget gap, one place they’ve been looking for savings is the Special Commitment Center for violent sex predators on McNeil Island.

Some legislators want to save money by moving the SCC to a mainland site, cutting out the extra expense involved with ferrying to and from the island. But no community is clamoring to host 284 dangerous sex predators, and even if an existing facility could be found it likely would require expensive renovation and security upgrades.

A recent Seattle Times series suggests another strategy: Target the wasteful, uncontrolled legal costs associated with sex offenders either trying to avoid civil commitment to the SCC or to be released if they’re already there.
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Nov.
28th

There’s a high price to be paid for moving SCC from McNeil

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Some lawmakers are considering whether to move the Special Commitment Center for violent sex offenders off McNeil Island as a way to help close the state’s $2 billion-plus budget gap. It has become more expensive to run since closure of the state prison on the island.

The only two choices for relocation being discussed, according to a report Sunday by The News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader, are Western State Hospital in Lakewood and the shuttered Maple Lane School in Ground Mound near Centralia.

Lawmakers should consider a few facts about those locations that make it hard to see where short-term savings could be made – and short-term is what the state needs right now.

Consider:
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Sep.
23rd

SCC’s time running out on McNeil Island?

State Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Bellevue, visited recently to talk about the most recent revenue forecast (a shortfall of $1.2 billion to $2 billion) and provide some background on what can and can’t be cut when the Legislature goes into special session in November.

As chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Hunter is one of the Legislature’s main budget writers. So it’s worth mentioning that he said one revenue saver would be to move the Special Commitment Center for violent sex offenders off McNeil Island.

That’s been discussed before, but now seems all but inevitable with the closure of

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Nov.
19th

Prediction: SCC will move to WSH

The state Department of Corrections announced today that the state’s dire budget situation is forcing it to close the McNeil Island Corrections Center. So here’s my prediction for the next shoe to drop: The Special Commitment Center for the state’s worst sex offenders, which is also on McNeil Island, will move to Western State Hospital in Lakewood.

Why? The DOC’s costs related to running the McNeil Island prison (ferries, barges, fireboats, etc.) will shift completely to the Department of Social and Health Services, which runs the SCC and WSH. If I were running things at DSHS, I’d say it doesn’t

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March
8th

Resist these temptations, lawmakers

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Of the hundred-odd foolish things that might yet come out of Olympia this winter, three stand out:

Raise the sales tax

Some new taxes appear necessary to save fundamentally important state programs, such as compensatory funding for property-poor school districts and financial aid for college students with low incomes.

It now seems too much to expect that the Democrats who control both House and Senate will squeeze more out of their core constituents – for example, by reopening state workers’ contracts, canceling scheduled raises and requiring them to pay what their

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March
3rd

Stop enabling McNeil’s sex predators

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.

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March
1st

Good reason to be wary of McNeil closure

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

State lawmakers should take a hard look at how much closing McNeil Island Corrections Center would actually save the state. South Sound legislators ought to also keep in mind what the closure could ultimately cost this community.

On Saturday, the state Senate set the stage for a showdown by passing a budget that calls for the McNeil prison’s closure in exchange for keeping a Vancouver prison open. (The House favors reducing the island’s 1,200-inmate population by half instead.)

Members of the Senate have been trying for years to get the state to study closing the McNeil prison, which is expensive to operate due to its remote location. People and supplies have to be ferried to and from the island, which has its own ferry service, fire department and wastewater treatment plant.

The Legislature finally commissioned that study last year – but the report doesn’t seem to have told senators what they wanted to hear.
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