Where to put sex offenders is focus of special Legislative committee
As Hudson is finding out on a local level, the placement of registered sex offenders who've completed their prison sentences is a complex problem.
Meeting for the first time last week, a special state legislative committee is taking a look those problems hopes to come up with a statewide policy proposal for the Legislature.
"We are taking an overall look at how, where and when we place sex offenders in communities and how we notify the community," said Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbottsford, who co-chairs the special committee.
The 11-member committee is made up of three legislators and individuals from various government, private, law enforcement and university groups.
Suder says the group is looking at what current state policies are, what works, what doesn't and what other states are doing.
"We are getting input from advocacy groups, law enforcement and have asked for input from the U.S. Department of Justice to see what policies they have in place.
One of his big goals is to make sure that rural areas don't become the dumping ground for urban sex offenders
"I don't want to see a lot of sex offenders from Milwaukee being put into rural areas," Suder said.
In February, Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-West Allis, introduced a proposal which would have funded only treatment facilities in rural areas and then would have required the Department of Health and Family Services to only place sex offenders where they could get treatment.
Another group of Milwaukee lawmakers also attempted to cut funding for a controversial sex offender treatment center in the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin.
One of the items the group is looking at is the current state policy of returning sex offenders to the county where they committed their crime.
"We might take a look at making it (the policy) a state law," Suder said.
The 11-member committee has five members from the Milwaukee area and one from Madison, the rest are from more rural parts of the state.
Suder warned though the biggest difficulty the committee faces is making sure that this doesn't end up as a rural versus urban fight.
"I want to make sure we don't end up in a regional battle between large urban areas and rural areas," Suder said.
He added that one of the things the group wants to accomplish is standardized requirements for community notification that still gives local officials some control.
Right now how the community is notified, when and for what level of sex offender is all up to local law enforcement officials, according to Suder.
Other issues the group will address include setting criteria of where a sex offender can live.
"If for instance we say a sex offender can't live 3,000 feet from a school or a place where children congregate then you are going to make it hard to place sex offenders in urban areas," Suder said.
How often a sex offender has to report to law enforcement is also going to be looked at.
Suder says under current state law sex offenders only have to make contact once a year by mail.
"Most of us believe this should be done every few months face to face," Suder said.
The current system also creates a problem with offenders creating aliases. The lawmaker says the offenders simply send in their contact information then they create an alias and move on.
Suder says the group hopes to complete their work in time for the next legislative session, but that they will go longer in order to get things done right.
"This is a very complex and difficult issue, but I am confident we can come up with legislation that will work and not go too far," Suder said.
More meetings for the group are planned and all meetings are open to the public. To find out about meeting times and locations residents should contact Suder's office at 608.267.0280 or 888.534.0069.
Residents can also contact the office of the Joint Legislative Council at 608.266.1304.
Brady Bautch is the Internet Publisher for the RiverTown Newspaper Group. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org