Voting blocs, where people support candidates on specific issues, have long played an outsized role in New York politics – from labor unions that focus on workplace rules, to environmentalists who place clean air and water at the top of the list.
But now an unusual bloc is emerging from an unexpected place: the locked sex offenders unit at one of the state’s major psychiatric hospitals.
Convicted sex offenders at Central New York Psychiatric Center are joining a PAC, or political action committee, which could conceivably raise money for candidates they favor and serve as a vehicle to mobilize voters.
Rather than gathering cash, however, they are looking to form a voting bloc where they could back state – and even local candidates – based in Oneida County where the Central New York Psychiatric Center is located. The center houses 283 people who have been civilly confined after serving prison terms for crimes such as sexual assault.
Under the state’s 12-year-old Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act, convicted sex offenders can be kept in secure psychiatric hospitals indefinitely after their prison terms expire.
That happens if an offender is deemed to have a mental abnormality that makes the person likely to commit another sex crime. State officials can go to court and request the offender be indefinitely committed to a hospital.
Creation of a PAC is the latest chapter in ongoing efforts, mostly in court, by some of the confined men and prison reform advocates to protest what they view as vague, open-ended confinement periods after their prison terms have ended.