About this series
The Center’s Nora G. Hertel teamed up with Gilman Halsted of Wisconsin Public Radio on “Rethinking Sex Offenders,” a three-day series examining Wisconsin’s changing methods of dealing with sexually violent persons. Find stories, audio, photos and data at this page: Project: Rethinking Sex Offenders. Involuntary commitment for crimes not (yet) committed. The men of Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center, known as “sexually violent persons,” have a strange in-between status. They are in treatment, learning to control their impulses so they can eventually be released.
Day 3. Eric, 39, has been locked up for more than half his life. He finished his criminal sentence and was committed to the state as a sexually violent person in 2002. He has been confined more than twice as long as his original sentence and is now held for the future risk he poses, not for past crimes.
From the outside, Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center looks like a maximum security prison. Inside, more than 300 men live there, committed there by juries and judges throughout the state as “sexually violent persons.” The challenge, for staff, is to treat and reintegrate them into communities.
Wisconsin officials have nearly quadrupled the number of offenders released from state custody after they were committed as sexually violent persons. The risks to residents are reasonable, officials say, because the state’s treatment programs are working and new data suggest these offenders are less likely to reoffend than previously thought.
Donald Henriksen is one of at least 45 registered sex offenders living among other nursing home residents, according to a Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism review of addresses for the state’s nearly 20,000 registered sex offenders and 399 licensed nursing homes.