copyright the Chronicle January 19, 2011
It would be distressing to think that a young man who is under closely controlled state custody for treatment of alleged sexual problems might be exposed to the advances of a convicted sex offender, 31 years his senior, whose crimes include lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor.
That such an offender would be delivered to the young man’s home and left with him in a tent overnight would be unthinkable, if it wasn’t the truth.
There is something deeply perverse about the Safe Choices program. And it’s time to shut it down.
There is a need for a program that does the job Safe Choices was created to do. That is to treat and closely supervise men who have committed serious sexual offenses and are so mentally handicapped that, as a constitutional matter, they can’t be brought to trial.
The problem is, none of the “clients” of Safe Choices we have talked to fit this category.
Safe Choices has been nibbling at the edges of its target group, bringing in people who, in some cases, appear to have sufficient intelligence to take care of themselves — and certainly to be held accountable, like all the rest of us, for any crime they might commit.
In other cases, Safe Choices has taken on clients whose worrisome adolescent behavior sent the adults responsible for them looking for help. Safe Choices was happy to provide it.
Safe Choices should be replaced with an organization — call it No Choices — to deal with sexually dangerous and mentally disabled men.
As for the Smokeys and Georges and Wendells and Donalds and Rodericks who lost years of their lives to Safe Choices, we’ll just have to figure out a better way to help them. — C.B.