Hook up with a sex offender
Albany For at least a year now, lawsuits challenging various aspects of New York's eight-year-old civil commitment law have been working their way through the courts.
In a new twist, one lawsuit includes a complaint that offenders are having their Fifth Amendment rights violated by being compelled to submit to polygraphs — more commonly known as lie detector tests — to see if they are thinking about reoffending if paroled or to learn what they may be thinking about while still confined. One of them is to submit to a lie detector test,'' said Charles Gerena, a sex offender who was released on parole but sent back to civil confinement at the Central New York Psychiatric Center in Oneida County.Gerena, 56, was convicted in 1984 of molesting an underage girl.In a recent phone interview, Gerena said he was recommitted after he made contact with an old girlfriend on Facebook and viewed pornography on his cellphone — both violations of his parole conditions.He's among the litigants who argue that they get little meaningful treatment while confined, and that confinement is not much different from being in prison.In April, Gerena filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Syracuse outlining the complaints and detailing the use of polygraphs.While there have long been concerns about civil confinement, Bowers said the issue of polygraphs is a new wrinkle in the debate.
Officials at the state Office of Mental Health, who operate the civil commitment program, however, stress that polygraphs are used in treatment and don't serve as evidence for deciding whether to keep someone confined or to let them go.
Submission to the exams is also voluntary, according to state officials, who said they began using polygraphs in 2014.
"Participation in the polygraph examination triggers a real danger of self-incrimination, not simply a remote or speculative threat,'' reads part of Gerena's lawsuit.
The use of lie detectors is especially perplexing when it comes to offenders who are still confined, said Wayne Bowers of Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, a national prison reform group.
Bowers heads up the CURE unit that follows sex offenders.
"I'm not sure what it is they are reviewing when (the offenders) are not on the streets," Bowers said, referring to the polygraphs given to confined individuals.