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Second Prisoner Unconditionally Released from Washington State Civil Commitment Center

Washington State, for only the second time ever, has unconditionally released a prisoner from the Special Commitment Center (SCC), a facility for civilly-committed sex offenders located on McNeil Island near Tacoma.

John Henry Mathers, 56, was civilly-committed in July 1997. He was initially incarcerated at SCC but graduated to a less-restrictive SCC halfway house in 2002. There, under escort, he could leave the facility for treatment and work.

Mathers had been convicted of multiple violent offenses that included sexual assaults involving women and girls. The state petitioned to have him deemed a sexually violent predator when he completed his last criminal sentence in March 1996, and he agreed to be civilly committed.

Mathers participated in the sex offender treatment program with favorable staff reports during his stay at SCC. According to court documents, “he has continued to progress in his treatment and to comply with all the rules and conditions. Mr. Mathers has been viewed as a model resident.”

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend heard Mathers’ request for unconditional release on August 15, 2008. The Department of Social and Health Services had opposed any type of release, contending that Mathers still fit the statutory definition of a sexual predator. SCC’s superintendent had also opposed unconditional release, arguing for a gradual release.

However, in granting Mathers’ unconditional immediate release, Arend found that he no longer met the statutory definition of a sexual predator. See: In re Detention of John H. Mathers, Pierce County Superior Court (WA), Cause No. 96-2-07023-3.

Mathers is now residing in the Tacoma area and has registered with various government authorities as a Level 3 sex offender. The first person unconditionally released from SCC was Herman Ross Paschke, in July 2007.

Approximately 275 civilly-committed men and one woman remain incarcerated at SCC; they represent a growing trend of continuing to confine sex offenders after they have served their criminal sentences.


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Related legal case

In re Detention of John H. Mathers