After 13 years behind
bars, Timothy Szad, 53, will be released from a Vermont prison later this
month. He sexually assaulted a 13-year-old boy in 2000 and police say he's
likely to commit a similar crime upon his release.
"I wouldn't want him
in my neighborhood. I don't think that you or anybody else would," said
Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington.
In 2007, Wright and
then-Governor Jim Douglas pushed for a law allowing the state to indefinitely
hold sex offenders unable to control their impulses to reoffend. But the
Legislature didn't pass the measure known as civil confinement. Wright says the
Springfield case could give the proposal new momentum.
"I don't know whether
the Legislature would be willing to go down that path. I've always believed it
was a mistake not to pass it," Wright said.
"Even though the
Supreme Court has said civil confinement is constitutional, it places a
tremendous burden on states," Vermont Law School Professor Cheryl Hanna said.
Hanna says 20 states have
civil confinement laws. She says the process is similar to committing a patient
to a mental institution but with a greater burden of proof.
"States have to prove
the person is highly likely to reoffend and that they can't control their
behavior," Hanna explained.
That requires significant
chunks of time and money. Expense and civil liberties concerns led the
Legislature to abandon the idea in 2007, though the House and Senate did
increase penalties and mandate greater oversight of high-risk offenders upon
"I think that dealt
with a lot of the problem, but it clearly didn't deal with the entire
problem," Wright said.
"Anything that the
Legislature and we can do to make this state safer from pedophiles, I'm
for," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.
Shumlin says the issue of
civil confinement poses a multitude of complex legal challenges, but isn't
ruling out the possibility of signing such a measure when the Legislature
returns next year.
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