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Sex offender release renews calls for Vt. civil confinement law - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sex offender release renews calls for Vt. civil confinement law

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Timothy Szad Timothy Szad
BURLINGTON, Vt. -

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 release.

"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.

Related Stories:

Community placement for Vt. sex offender on hold

Springfield on alert after state warns of sex offender release

Vt. Corrections warns of sex offender release

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