2011-05-12 / Local & State

Sex Offender Court Being Set Up In Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (AP) – State court officials are setting up Pennsylvania’s first sex offender court in Pittsburgh next month, a pilot program that could eventually be used in jurisdictions around the state to help reduce recidivism and speed up cases.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd and other judges announced the specialized court during a news conference in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, saying it is modeled after similar state efforts in New York and Ohio. The special court is slated to open June 23 and the Supreme Court will monitor its progress over the next year to see whether it’s a model that should be used in other parts of the state.

Under the system, three designated judges will hear Megan’s Law cases in an effort to increase expediency, lower the number of repeat offenders and more efficiently manage the county’s sex offender population, officials said. Last year, court officials said, about 300 Megan’s Law cases went through the county court system.

Regular case reviews and using designated judges experienced in sex cases should cut down on the number of convicted offenders who go on to commit the same type of crimes again, court officials said.

“Over the years, I am hoping that this truly will reduce recidivism,” Todd said, noting that the state already has special courts for DUIs, drugs, mental health and other types of cases.

Allegheny County President Judge Donna Jo Mc- Daniel, who will preside over the court, said it would take longer than a year to figure out how much the special court was helping to reduce recidivism, but that in that time span officials will know how much it is helping to expedite cases.

The court will initially handle only Megan’s Law cases, but screening for other types of sex cases could come up down the road, Todd said.

Along with McDaniel, Allegheny County judges Jill E. Rangos and Thomas E. Flaherty will round out the special court. They will be hearing these special cases in addition to having a regular caseload, McDaniel said.

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