Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Sexually Violent Predators, Their Lawyers, Stuck on How to Move Forward in Legal Dispute

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Sexually Violent Predators, Their Lawyers, Stuck on How to Move Forward in Legal Dispute

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * A class of sexually violent predators and their attorneys had reason to celebrate in September 2015. After a six- year fight, they convinced a federal judge here that their treatment at a controversial Missouri Department of Mental Health program was a sham because nobody was being released.

But now they are wrestling with a new obstacle: How to best improve treatment at Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services, or SORTS, which has secure facilities in Fulton and Farmington.

SORTS patients have already served prison sentences for heinous crimes; they are held indefinitely in anticipation of what they might do.

In a twist of events in the case, alliances between patients and attorneys have split over suggested changes to SORTS treatment and guidelines.

At a hearing here Thursday, attorney John Quinn told U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Fleissig that 177 or so of the 227 plaintiffs represented in the class-action lawsuit object to the proposed settlement agreement with the state. Quinn said just one plaintiff has officially supported it, while the rest haven't weighed in either way.

Among the proposals, a special master and monitor would be required to oversee the SORTS program for up to five years and report on compliance to ensure reforms are implemented, which includes defined treatment phases that lead to eventual release.

Many of the patients, however, are concerned that the lawsuit they've fought hard for would merely be dismissed upon completing the five-year agreement and the state could revert to the old way of doing things.

"This is just a contract," Quinn, who is representing the 177, said of any settlement agreement.

He sought longer-lasting oversight and a legal mechanism with more teeth. He wanted more specifics about what merits conditional terms of release and the revocation of release. …

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