Rights restoration may include sex offenders still locked up


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s order to restore voting rights to ex-felons may have included more than 100 sex offenders who’ve completed their sentences, but were deemed too dangerous to release.

The Washington Post (http://wapo.st/1Q7vIsc ) reports that Nottoway County Commonwealth’s Attorney Terry Royall said Wednesday that the director of the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation informed her that 176 of its 370 residents meet the criteria for restoration and a database showed 132 had been restored. The center is a facility where these individuals can be sent through a civil court proceeding.

In April, McAuliffe restored voting and other civil rights to more than 200,000 felons who had completed their terms of incarceration or “supervised release, including probation and parole.” McAuliffe spokeswoman Christina Nuckols said the governor’s order doesn’t cover the facility’s residents.

“The governor’s restoration order specifically excludes individuals who are under any form of supervised release, and offenders in this facility are clearly under 24-7 supervision by the state,” Nuckols said. “None of them had their rights restored, plain and simple. This is yet another partisan attempt to spread misinformation and hysteria.”

Royall notes that the residents aren’t under “supervised release.” The order doesn’t specifically exclude civilly committed people.

“Civil commitment is not part of a criminal sentence, even though they are still in custody,” said Steve Benjamin, a prominent Richmond defense attorney.

In a letter to county supervisors, Royall noted that such residents “are civilly committed because they have been adjudicated to be sexually violent predators by a circuit court judge. Moreover, they will have to be transported at taxpayer cost when they choose to exercise their Constitutional rights to vote and/or serve on a jury.”

Republicans have filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse McAuliffe’s order, saying governors can restore voting rights only on a case-by-case basis. Opponents have also said the process has been rushed and flawed. McAuliffe has said some errors were unavoidable with such a large undertaking and pledged to correct them.

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Information from: The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com