Keeping a wary eye on treatment center

While it may be true that good fences make good neighbors, as Robert Frost observed, for some nearby residents no walls can ever be high or sturdy enough.

Many people in Waterford and East Lyme were upset in the 1960s when Northeast Utilities decided to construct a nuclear power plant at Millstone Point.

Ledyard, Preston and North Stonington citizens also recoiled in the 1990s when the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation began building Foxwoods.

Likewise, any time developers propose a new shopping mall or housing subdivision they can count on angry opposition from abutting property owners.

Montville's initial outrage and subsequent lawsuit over plans announced in 2008 by the Connecticut Department of Corrections to locate a sexual offender treatment facility in town therefore is understandable.

However, as an article on the front page of today's paper indicates, fears expressed by residents and town officials have so far been unfounded.

Day Staff Writer Jeffrey A. Johnson notes that after Montville dropped a year-long legal battle it reached an agreement outlining how the state would keep the town informed of security issues.

The mayor says the state has honored the terms of this agreement, adding that he is pleased with client information shared by the facility with the town's police department.

Brian Garnett, a spokesman for the DOC, adds, "As was promised to the town of Montville, the facility has proven itself safe and secure with a careful vetting of the offenders."

Not everyone is satisfied, though, and Town Councilor Dana McFee puts it bluntly: "There's nothing we can do until one of those sick bastards breaks out."

At least he acknowledges that the 24 men housed at The January Center suffer from a disease, for which they are receiving treatment.

The center, built on the grounds of the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution, is the first of its kind in the state to treat moderate and moderately high-risk sexual offenders with intensive therapy. The program is designed to prepare convicted offenders for their return to the community and to reduce recidivism.

While after only seven months of operation it may be too soon to assess the long-term effectiveness of the treatment, early indications are encouraging, based on comments by corrections officials, therapists and the inmates themselves.

This newspaper welcomes corrections programs that try to rehabilitate rather than simply incarcerate.

Too often offenders serve their sentences and then are released with the same criminal impulses that sent them to prison in the first place. Therapy at least gives them an opportunity to change their behavior.

Even though the new center has tight security, including 12-foot-high chain-link fences topped with razor wire, alarms and cameras, no community would welcome such a facility to the neighborhood.

But Montville already is home to a prison and has learned to cope with the intrusion - just as surrounding towns have learned to deal with Millstone, Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun and other institutions over which they have had little control.

Perhaps that is what has rankled most - the notion that the state, or a tribe, can come in and order a town to accept a significant development or program that impacts an entire community.

Montville may have to acquiesce to such state authority but it must hold officials to their word, making sure they report regularly on the successes - and failures - of the program, and to continue to take adequate measures so that residents can feel safe in their homes.

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