Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Florida Effort Sparked by a Grisly Murder

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Florida Effort Sparked by a Grisly Murder

Article excerpt

Byline: CAROLE FADER and BRANDON LARRABEE

Jimmy Ryce, a 9-year-old from a nice neighborhood in Miami-Dade County, was walking home from his school bus stop in September 1995 when a truck blocked the sidewalk. A man took out a gun and forced Jimmy to go with him.

Jimmy was raped, beaten and fatally shot when he tried to escape. Handyman Juan Carlos Chavez confessed, was convicted in 1998 and was sentenced to death.

Friends and family remember Jimmy Ryce as a budding artist and a kid who loved baseball. But he'll also be remembered for the Jimmy Ryce Act, Florida's civil commitment law named for the youngster and passed in 1998.

The law allows civil confinement of "sexually violent predators," after their sentences have been served, at a secure facility where they can receive treatment until they are deemed to no longer be a threat to society. The law applies only to people who have been convicted of a sexually violent crime.

The Ryce Act works like this, according to the Department of Children and Families, which runs Florida's Sexually Violent Predator Program: When the prison term of someone who committed a sexual crime is nearing completion, DCF reviews the case. After interviews with mental health professionals, eligible prisoners are recommended for civil commitment. This requires the offender to be declared - at a civil trial or by voluntarily entering the program - a sexually violent predator likely to re-offend.

Such predators are housed at the year-old Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia, a five-acre $6 million facility that replaced the former center, a prison in rural DeSoto County, in 2009. GEO Care Inc. has contracted with the Department of Children and Families since 2006 to operate the center, the company's website shows.

As of June 22, there were 673 residents at the center, according to Suzonne M. Kline, director of DCF's Sexually Violent Predator Program, who responded by e-mail to questions from The Times-Union.

As in other such centers in the nation, the population of Florida's committed sexual predators has grown. At the end of fiscal year 2004-05, there were 491 residents. In five years, that number has grown by 182. …

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