East County News Service
June 27, 2023 (Sacramento) -- The Joint Legislative Audit Committee this week unanimously approved a request by Senate Minority Leader Brian W. Jones (R-San Diego) to audit Liberty Healthcare’s long-running exclusive contract to manage the Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Conditional Release Program (CONREPO) currently overseen by the Department of State Hospitals. A petitionin support of the audit request has almost 1,600 signatures.
"East Coast based-Liberty Healthcare sneaks into unsuspecting communities across California and employs a disturbing placement strategy where they try to secretly release dangerous SVPs and rapists into residential neighborhoods," said Jones. “We are thankful that the bipartisan Legislative Audit Committee understands the need to further investigate Liberty Healthcare’s poor management of SVPs. Today is the first step towards fixing this broken and alarming SVP release program.”
Numerous media reports back up Jones’ assertion. For example:
“The CA Department of State Hospitals (DSH) and their Conditional Release Program contractor, Liberty Healthcare have a history of improperly vetting properties regarding community safety . . . When measuring the success or failure of CONREP, consider that 70 percent of SVP’s released into communities in California were returned to custody. Why? In the words of the Liberty Healthcare Representative, Dr. Cameron Zeidler, they were returned for ‘technical reasons or sex not involving a human.’”
“Liberty holds a lucrative state contract to run California’s conditional release program for jury-designated ‘SVPs’ . . . Liberty is budgeted to get $6.75 million from the state in the current fiscal year . . . The amount DSH pays Liberty for CONREPO services has risen by $34,000 per client on average in the last two years, its newest estimate states. The department expects to SVPs will be conditionally released in the state at an average cost of $344,000 per client.”
a gross mistake to place him in Bonny Doon or any rural part of the county. He needs to be where services are easily accessible.’”
During an April 20 hearing before Superior Court Judge Theodore Weathers, Supervisor Joel Anderson testified that his East County District 2 has become “the dumping ground for the worst sexual offenders” while other districts “continue to get a pass.” He provided a chart showing that 67% of SVPs released in San Diego County have been placed in District 2. (District 4 has 25%, District 1 has 8%, while Districts 3 and 5 have zero.)…
Among the most compelling testimony came from Kathleen Hedberg, President of the Grossmont-Mount Helix Improvement Association. Hedberg asserted that laws have been violated and urged the judge to reject the placement (of SVP Douglas Badger) because “the County did not designate a county agency or program to provide assistance in determining an appropriate location for Mr. Badger” as state law requires, and because Liberty Healthcare did not reach out to the community. Second, Hedberg said the proposed placement also violates a state requirement to consider the “age and profile” of victims – all of whom were young, in Badger’s case. “Proposed placement in a neighborhood with 89 children that live within 2000 feet of the property is in conflict with the victim age and profile requirements of the placement statute,” she noted, adding, “There are six schools and three parks within one mile of the house, with over 700 students at Fuerte Elementary school. There is a daycare located right across the street…”
“The proposed plan of releasing Mr. (Joshua) Cooley as a transient Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) into Eureka motels is not in the best interest of the people of Eureka . . . Joshua Cooley was designated as a Sexually Violent Predator in 2010 and has a pattern of behavior that makes our residents and visitors targets of his deviant actions. Joshua Cooley’s criminal past and behavior has convinced experts that he is ‘most likely to re-offend’ . . . The proposed plan to release SVP Colley into as a transient with no stable or consistent place of residence is outrageous! . . . At this time, no one from Liberty Healthcare, the private provider of care for Mr. Cooley, has notified the Chief of Police for the City of Eureka regarding the proposed motel(s) placement or plans to monitor Colley’s actions.”
“Liberty Healthcare, hired by the state to handle sex predator releases, agreed to find temporary housing for (sex predator) Fraisure Smith in motels until a permanent residence can be located in the (Solano) county . . . the latest bizarre episode in California’s ‘sexually violent predator’ program.”
“Convicted sex offender nabbed after boy found with him in car. Police took convicted sex offender Cary Verse into custody on suspicion of violating a condition of his release into the community, authorities reported . . . As one of the conditions of his 2004 release from Atascadero State Mental Hospital, Verse is not allowed to drive with any male passenger without authorization from Liberty Behavioral Health Corp.”
Sarah Rogers, I/O psychologist and retired Commander, says, “Public perception is that Liberty Healthcare and the CA Department of State Hospitals are unresponsive to community concerns and threaten public safety. By not revealing the contract and ignoring requests by the press, public, and Senator Jones, the Department of State Hospitals fosters a dangerous precedent of being above public scrutiny and this must end.”
She adds, “An audit is the only means by which pre-release and conditional-release therapy and training practices may be fully understood. It is apparent that the contract is flawed and may be mismanaged. Conditional Release should be halted until the audit is conducted and the results are published for public review. Good governance and transparency are needed.”
Click here to download the full audit request letter. Below is an excerpt from the letter:
Liberty Healthcare’s practices are not in line with public oversight and fail to focus on safety that the program calls for. In fact, it appears full details of where Liberty Healthcare is leasing homes for sexually violent predators are kept secret from neighbors, schools, and local government officials, including even local law enforcement. It is only after Liberty Healthcare signs leases for homes and pays for them with our tax dollars, that they slowly release details to the community, making it almost impossible to stand up against inappropriate placements. County District Attorneys have gone to court to block these dangerous placements of SVPs, and many judges have recognized the threat to public safety and ruled against Liberty Healthcare’s placements. Through the several attempted placements during my time as a Senator, it has been very difficult, if not impossible, to get information from DSH about the operation of their 20-year exclusive partnership with Liberty Healthcare. This troubles me because it seems that DSH has delegated their authority and responsibility to a private contractor.
I believe it is long past time to bring transparency to the SVP CONREP process operations.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Liberty Healthcare declined to comment, directing questions about its operations to the Department of State Hospitals. No other companies have bid on the contract that Liberty Healthcare holds as the sole company placing SVPs for the state of California.
Jones represents the 40th State Senate District which includes the Cities of Escondido, Poway, San Marcos, Santee, San Diego City communities of Carmel Mountain Ranch, Mira Mesa, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Peñasquitos, Scripps Ranch, Sorrento Valley, and University City, along with the San Diego County unincorporated communities of 4S Ranch, Alpine, Bonsall, Fallbrook, Lakeside, Pine Valley, Rainbow, Ramona, and Valley Center.
Find additional information on the SVP problems on his website here.