In August 2003, the Pennsylvania Legislature enacted Act 21 for adjudicated youth, aging out of the juvenile justice system who have a "mental abnormality" that renders them unable to control their violent sexual impulses. The Act mandates DPW provide mental health and sex-offense specific treatment to an identified population that had been adjudicated of certain sex crimes, received treatment in a juvenile program, yet remains a significant risk to sexually re-offend after reaching the age of 21, an age when oversight by the juvenile justice system typically ends. The Act requires the referral of such individuals who have committed these specific crimes to the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board (SOAB) ninety days prior to their 20th birthday for purposes of determining if the individual has "serious difficulty in controlling sexually violent behavior." If so determined, a petition for a mental health hearing will be made for determination of civil commitment to the Sexual Responsibility and Treatment Program (SR & TP) on the grounds of Torrance State Hospital.
Frequently Asked Questions
ACT 21 Forms
Act 21 established an advisory committee for the purposes of developing a treatment program and standards of care for individuals civilly committed under the Act. The advisory committee is made up of individuals representing the Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF), the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS), the Juvenile Court Judges Commission (JCJC), the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board (SOAB), probation officers, and private providers. Copies of the program standards are available by contacting OMHSAS on Harrisburg.
Stakeholders and Roles
- Sexual Offenders Assessment Board (SOAB) - Will act upon referrals, complete initial and periodic assessments, make recommendations to the court and testify in court proceedings. The Board will also provide on-going training to the assessors as well as other stakeholders when appropriate.
- Juvenile Court Judges Commission (JCJC) - Will oversee and process the initial court proceedings.
- Chief Juvenile Probation Officers - Will identify potential clients for referral and assessment. They will also be responsible for providing information to the SOAB and ensuring the Board has access to the records and the individual.
- Juvenile Detention Facilities - Will provide secure housing for clients during their initial assessment and court proceedings. It is understood that any "housing" of individuals in detention facilities is a disruption of their treatment and so every opportunity to minimize the use of detention facilities should be attempted and that when detention is utilized it should be for the shortest time period possible.
- County Solicitors - Will process the referral, assessment and commitment process. They will also prosecute any subsequent reviews, such as the mandatory yearly recommitment process.
- County Commissioners - Will provide oversight to all county responsibilities including, but not limited to; identifying potential clients, processing referrals & commitments (this includes the arrangements of transportation, the hiring of expert witnesses for the client and financial resources necessary to accomplish same), and planning for aftercare.
- County MH/MR Administrators - Will plan for supportive services and aftercare for this special population as part of the "Service Area Planning" initiative with their respective State Hospital.
- Public Defenders - Will likely be assigned to provide legal representation as appropriate.
- Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) - Provides the leadership and program oversight for the SR & TP.
- Department of Public Welfare (DPW) - Has the responsibility for all aspects of Act 21 implementation and oversight.
- Pennsylvania Legislature - Provides direction and guidance as well as addressing changes/amendments in the Act as needed.
- The Governor's Office - Provides the leadership and vision for DPW.
- Bureau of Community and Hospital Operations - Provides the direct supervision and liaison to the SR & TP. Also provides technical and resource support for the facility.
- Department of Corrections - Provides consultative and technical advice on issues related to safety and security.
- Treatment Providers - Design and implement programs to meet the program standards as delineated through contracts with the Commonwealth.
- The General Public - Provides input and feedback about efficacy of the program.
- The clients and their families - Provide input and feedback to protect the rights of the clients and to improve the services provided over time.
- The victims and their families - Provide input and feedback into the efficacy of the program and services needed to provide safe and effective aftercare.
- Our clients are individuals with very specific treatment needs first. Treatment and habilitation are our primary goals.
- Treatment interruptions should be minimized however and whenever possible.
- Aftercare is a critical component of treatment and planning begins at the time of referral.
- All services and interventions should be culturally sensitive and specific.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorders are prevalent in our client population and treatment must have a specific and intensive plan to address this fact.
- The SR & TP will strive to achieve the highest quality of service while updating initiatives consistent with evidenced-based and best practices in the field of sex offender treatment.