- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

PETERSBURG, Va. (AP) — Residents angry that the Southside Virginia Training Center in Dinwiddie County will temporarily house the state’s new program for violent sex criminals have sued the state to block the facility’s opening next month.

“You don’t put an unreformed bank robber across the street from a bank, you don’t put an unreformed drug dealer across the street from a crack house, and you don’t put unreformed child predators across the street from neighborhoods where children play,” said the Rev. Peter R. Jeffrey.

Mr. Jeffrey, pastor of the First Baptist Church, is among a group of residents seeking an injunction against Gov. Mark Warner barring the scheduled July 1 opening of the Sexually Violent Predator Program.

The civil commitment program is designed to house convicted pedophiles, rapists and other violent sexual predators deemed by courts to be too dangerous to be freed after their prison sentences are finished.

State officials announced in mid-April that violent sex offenders would be locked away and treated in two buildings on the SVTC campus for as long as three years or until a permanent home for the program is built elsewhere.

The motion calls the SVTC site an unsuitable location, noting that the training center is across the street from a day care center that serves 85 children a day, and close to schools, churches and residential neighborhoods.

It disputes the selection of the SVTC over the Southwestern Mental Health Institution in Marion as the site for the program.

The state chose the SVTC over the Marion site in part because it was within 150 feet of a playground.

“The Governor refused to consider the one option that protects the safety of all Virginians at the lowest cost in public funds, namely sending these convicted pedophiles to a already established out of state program for Sexually Violent Predators,” the motion reads.

Mr. Warner’s press secretary, Ellen Qualls, said yesterday that the site selected by the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services is by far the most secure and economical option available.

“The governor has enough facts about this to assure him that by the schedule they face to get a facility open and secured that it is a good use of taxpayer dollars,” she said.

“This is one of those awful Hobbesian choices that someone has to make, but I don’t think anyone wants these sexual predators running loose,” Miss Qualls said.

The petition was filed Thursday in Petersburg Circuit Court, but because the SVTC is in neighboring Dinwiddie County, the case could be transferred to Dinwiddie.

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