Since 1998, Florida has spent $150 million confining 825 men to
its treatment center in Arcadia.
But computer analysis by The Miami Herald of more than 100,000
sexual crimes -- along with a review of thousands of pages from
court cases, state records and documents from Florida's facility
and dozens of interviews -- found:
While the state has spent millions placing 825 men at the facility, at least 600 offenders who were passed over by the screening process were latter arrested for new sex crimes -- many against children.
Even when offenders are placed at the center, more than 60 percent still receive no treatment because the Legislature has not fully funded the program and because a loophole in the law allows the men to refuse therapy.
The treatment center -- the heart of the state's program -- is rife with troubles, including pedophiles receiving child pornography in the mail, rapists getting drunk on homemade alcohol and fights breaking out among the men.
Meanwhile, hundreds of offenders have been freed from the facility without completing a comprehensive treatment program -- including nearly 100 who, like Gray, didn't participate in even a single hour of therapy.
Once they leave, there is no specialized monitoring or follow-up to ensure predators keep their lewd and violent cravings in check. No halfway houses, no outpatient facilities, no ankle bracelets with satellite technology. In nearly 50 cases, the state doesn't even know where the men are living.
''The sad truth is that these laws get passed so that politicians can boast about the tough things they are doing and get elected. It's a sad trick on the public,'' said Ted Shaw, a Gainesville psychologist who has spent 25 years evaluating and treating sexual offenders.
LEGISLATIVE ACTION, THEN FAILURE
Failures in Florida's strategy for dealing with the most dangerous offenders is the latest setback in a long struggle to prevent sex crimes.
Cases like Jimmy Ryce in the 1990s and most recently the sexual assault and murder of Jessica Lunsford last February have snared headlines across the country.
Each time, indignation spurred action -- stiffer punishments, online registries, civil commitment.
Months after the Lunsford murder, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz proposed federal legislation that would provide $10 million a year to help other states pay for programs similar to the Jimmy Ryce Act. Having passed the House, it now awaits approval by the Senate.
''I believe this amendment will help many parents sleep better at night,'' the Weston Democrat assured constituents, touting Florida as one model for the rest of the nation.
But Florida's law falters at every stage: from the screening process that places offenders at the treatment center, to the level of therapy and counseling provided, to how the men are released back into the community.
Wasserman Schultz said that she may need to include some safeguards
in the federal legislation to ensure Florida's problems are not
duplicated in other states.