As some of you may know, IAHR is a participant in the ReThink Justice DC Coalition. ReThink participants advocate for reforms for issues related to the D.C. jails, such as re-entry services for returning citizens, halfway houses, taking back DC control of its legal system, and planning for replacement of the jail. Galen Baughman was one of the original organizers First Friday of what became the ReThink Justice DC Coalition. He was the group’s first administrator, until his incarceration in Virginia three years ago based on a technical violation of his parole. I visited Galen several times while he was incarcerated in the Arlington, VA jail.
Galen remained incarcerated for nearly three years while awaiting the trial and disposition of the Virginia Attorney General’s petition to have him civilly committed. In August 2020, the court released him to intensive supervision, including 24/7 monitoring and prohibitions on the use of most forms of social media and communication, pending appeal of his civil commitment order.
Galen is now facing lifetime incarceration as a so-called “sexually violent predator (SVP),” even though he has never been accused of an act of violence and his only conviction dates back over 15 years ago. The Attorney General’s office of the state of Virginia is trying him to get him civilly committed to a state mental hospital prison for an indefinite period of time.
The case of Galen Baughman highlights how our society through its laws fails to discriminate among people who are accused of being sexual predators. Yes, there are people incarcerated who have committed serious crimes through sexual abuse. But there are others who are accused and convicted of sexual acts that are not violent at all but are punished severely. Galen Baughman is an example of someone who is being unjustly pursued by the Attorney General of Virginia. This Washington Post article tells Galen's story very well.
Fortunately, his appeals case has attracted a good deal of national support.
The recent support for Galen’s appeal case comes from the Center for HIV Law and Policy who recently filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of Virginia in support of Galen. The brief describes the deep homophobic bias embedded in the civil commitment assessment process and in the drive to confine him in the absence of credible evidence.