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What you need to know for 10/23/2017

Order reveals ongoing confinement of sex offender

Order reveals ongoing confinement of sex offender

Man remains in custody 10 years after release date
Order reveals ongoing confinement of sex offender
Central New York Psychiatric Center.
Photographer: Google Earth

ALBANY -- Saratoga County's first civilly confined sex offender remains in custody nearly a decade after his original release date, according to an appeals ruling issued Thursday.

The ruling concerns Andrew Pratt, now 54, and requests he's made for items while in confinement. He challenged denials of those requests in court, leading to Thursday's order. 

Beyond the details of the ruling itself, though, the order offers a rare confirmation of continuing confinement for a sex offender. Pratt was formally ordered confined in 2008, a designation allowed under state mental health law, which in turn prevents state officials from confirming that such people remain incarcerated, officials say.

The only public clue as to Pratt's situation is his address, as listed on the state sex offender registry. It's the same address as the Central New York Psychiatric Center near Utica, where the appeal order confirms he is housed.

Pratt was confined after three separate sex abuse convictions within 15 years, two of which sent him to prison. The case that made him subject to confinement involved a 9-year-old girl.

The civil confinement act went into effect in 2007, allowing the worst sex offenders to be held beyond their original release dates. A further trial then determines whether a sex offender has the "mental abnormality" that makes them likely to continue committing offenses. A judge then determines if they should be confined or placed under strict supervision.

A total of 317 offenders were civilly confined as of this past week. Each case is reviewed annually. 

Since the program's inception, 91 people who were ordered held were later released by courts to strict and intensive supervision, according to an Office of Mental Health report issued in February. In all, 314 individuals have been subject to an enhanced supervision order.

The state office has previously estimated the cost of housing civilly confined offenders at $175,000 per person.

A jury in 2008 found Pratt was likely to continue committing sex offenses, and a judge ordered him confined. Pratt pleaded guilty in 1986 to misdemeanor sexual abuse, and then in 1988 and 2001 to felony sexual abuse, records show.

As for the case ruled on this past week by the appeals court, Pratt sought two items that were denied him at the Central New York Psychiatric Center: a nature magazine and a battery-operated plastic and paraffin wax candle that he wanted for religious reasons. Pratt represented himself in the appeal and identified himself as a practicing Wiccan. He previously lost a lower court case that sought to reverse the denials.

The magazine request had been settled prior to the ruling and was added to the approved list of magazines. The court upheld the candle denial, agreeing with the center's contention that the wax would be a security risk. The court did not address Pratt's religious argument, as he did not repeat it in his appeal arguments.

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