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Isolated island where Washington state houses the most violent sex offenders

January 17, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Isolated island where Washington state houses the most violent sex offenders

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McNeil Island, which is located off the coast of Washington State, is occupied by 236 “sexually violent predators” who have completed their prison sentences but who the state does not want to release.

These inhabitants are, from the state’s perspective, the worst rapists and child molesters who are more likely to re-offend.

After sex offenders complete their prison sentences, an End of Sentence Review Committee determined whether or not they believe the individual will be a repeat offender.

Anyone who satisfies the definition of a “sexually violent predator” is sent to McNeil Island, founded in 1991, for an indefinite period to receive treatment. Once they are there, it is next to impossible to persuade a court to re-release the person.

The island – call “pedophile island” by some – is only accessible by a ferry that operates every two hours.

For a brief time in the 1960s, the island was the home of notorious cult leader and serial killer Charles Manson.

Vice News interviewed with a man named Justin, who spent five years behind bars and has spent ten years at McNeil Island. He recently convinced the state he should be released.

He began molesting children when he was a child and was found guilty of first-degree child rape at 13-years-old for molesting his half-sister for over a year.

Like many sex offenders, he was also abused both physically and sexually.

“I will tell you it took forever for me to forgive myself for what I have done,” Justin said to Vice. I don’t have urges towards children; I don’t have any struggles about urges. I am baffled because it’s like I just stop thinking about it.”

Justin is scheduled to be released later this year, and he will face significant restrictions and monitoring.

Rachel Forde, who worked as Justin’s lawyer for the last five years, said the treatment center on McNeil island does not provide any benefit whatsoever.

“If our society says: ‘We want life sentences for sex offenders,’ then we should just be honest and say that and change our laws,” Forde said.

However, the staff opposes. Elena Lopez, the clinical director at McNeil Island, said the treatment offered is group therapy, although they do provide “case management” which is an hour of individual therapy.

“The purpose of our program is to manage risk. It’s not to eradicate or get rid of, because most of our residents may always have a proclivity for deviancy whether that’s for children or non-consensual sex or other,” Lopez stated.

Bill Van Hook, who has managed the center for close to two years, said the only way people get out of the center is if they immerse themselves in treatment.

Special Commitment Centers have been the target of controversy for many years because of the involuntary confinement of sex offenders who have already completed their prison sentences.

Nineteen other states have facilities like McNeil Island. Despite the lack of research as to whether these centers decrease sex offenders’ risk of committing additional crimes, the Supreme Court ruled that these facilities were legal in 1997. The court refused to revisit the issue in 2017.

In September, roughly 200 residents filed a federal suit claiming that the facility is violating their rights by making them drink the cloudy, brown water.

The residents said the contaminated water causes stomach pain and skin rashes and has been blamed for mysterious deaths. Health reports indicate that the water treatment plant has been “on the verge of failure” since 2013.

Calvin Malone, a resident leading the legal fight, said the water contains a significant level of chemicals and fecal matter.

“None of the staff drinks the water,” he stated. “If the water was fine, why would they carry water from the mainland onto the site or use bottled water when the residents have to drink water from the pipes?”

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