House Republicans Join Douglas to Push Civil Commitment Legislation

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(Host) House Republicans have teamed up with Governor Jim Douglas to push legislation that would allow the state to hold violent criminals after their prison terms are up. The legislation sets up a civil commitment procedure that would require sex offenders or other violent criminals to undergo mandatory treatment.

Representative Kurt Wright, a Burlington Republican, said the bill is stuck in both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

(Wright) “We urge the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate to take action on these initiatives. The safety of the citizens of Vermont must be our top priority. It is time that the House and Senate Judiciary Committees begin to take testimony on this issue, so that the full Legislature can help the people to protect themselves, their children, their families.”

(Host) Eighteen states have civil commitment laws on their books. But those statutes deal with treating sex offenders.

The legislation that Republican leaders support in Vermont is broader. It would allow the state to hold other violent criminals as well, after they complete their sentences.

House Speaker Gaye Symington, a Jericho Democrat, says the Republicans are politicizing the issue.

(Symington) “I think it’s time to begin to talk about the issue, rather than just talk across the microphones. If you want to be serious about civil commitment, there has to be a plan. How is it that we just passed a budget that had no mention of the facility and the treatment required for civil commitment if this is such a high priority?”

(Host) Governor Douglas wants the Legislature to pass a civil commitment bill by May so that the state could continue to hold convicted murderer, Kent Hanson, after his scheduled release from prison.

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