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n the afternoon of Jhon Sanchez’s 18th birthday, three parole officers showed up at his home in West New York, N. Sanchez was in his slippers and shorts, and when his mother asked if she could grab her son something else to wear, an officer assured her that Sanchez would be gone only for a little while. Sanchez is behind bars, but he is not in a regular prison.He is considered a resident, one who is detained involuntarily and indefinitely at the Special Treatment Unit for sexually violent predators, commonly known as Avenel.
A third victim reported that Sanchez grabbed her and tried to kiss her in the hallway of her apartment building.Thirteen states allow this practice for people who committed their crimes as juveniles, like Sanchez.Despite having no adult convictions, they are being held years into adulthood, which, according to some psychologists, does more harm than good to the development of their minds.Months before a resident completes his sentence, a committee produces a pre-release evaluation of his progress and a release plan, which might recommend that a resident go home unconditionally, attend outpatient therapy, or receive services from other state agencies.If a resident is considered to be at high risk of sexually reoffending, his case is referred to the attorney general’s office for review, and civil commitment proceedings can begin.Every time, Sanchez ran away after his victims screamed or fought back. I’ll never understand it.” Sanchez was convicted of two counts of criminal sexual contact, aggravated assault, and attempted sexual assault.
“I handled my emotion in a bad way at that age,” Sanchez said. At 14, he was ordered to complete an 18-month inpatient program at a residential community home for juvenile sex offenders called Pinelands.
“I hurt somebody, and I hurt not just that person but their loved ones and my loved ones.” When Sanchez’s sister, Karina Sanchez, learned of the attacks, she was angry: “That’s not how his mother and I raised him,” she said. He stayed for a year and a week at the 18-bed treatment facility before escaping through a window. After that violation, Sanchez was sentenced to 30 months at the New Jersey Training School for Boys, commonly known as Jamesburg, which has a resident population more than 10 times the size of Pinelands.
Within the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission, treatment teams comprised of social workers, psychologists, and therapists, monitor the progress of approximately 50-75 juvenile sex offenders, said Rob Montalbo, the commission’s deputy executive director of programs.
Sources: State civil commitment program administrators, Society of Civil Commitment Professionals Network and court records.
All data is from 2015, except Texas and Iowa, where the most recent data available was from 2014.
Public defenders and attorneys for the residents put the number at 30.