After a newspaper’s investigative series questioned the effectiveness of Florida’s Sexually Violent Predator Program, the Department of Children and Families commissioned an independent study to gauge its effectiveness. The results of that study were debated by lawmakers and policy experts during a joint Senate session Tuesday.
The original Sun-Sentinel series focused on how some violent predators slipped through DCF’s fingers, were never committed to a treatment facility, and then reoffended. The paper reported almost 600 individuals escaped commitment and went on to commit another sex crime. DCF’s report shows those people were among more than 30-thousand released. Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo argued that the study shows the system is working but could still use more oversight.
“I think there is good management that needs to take place and there needs to be some changes which I think we’re making. I think by engaging outside experts and the community stakeholders we do a better job, instead of isolating ourselves in the department and so we’re in the process of doing that. You know, to whatever end policies or laws need to change, we’re there to help us get through that and implement those as well,” Jacobo said.
Jacobo noted offenders are just as likely to be inaccurately labeled “high risk” as they are “low risk” and that in order to better manage the state’s most dangerous predators, the state must ensure resources aren’t wasted on those who don’t require as much treatment. DCF has recommended a number of changes to sex offender statutes, including the creation of a board of experts that would oversee the Sexually Violent Predator Program.