Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Advertisements
Advertisements

Proposal aims to relocate sexual offenders

Courts may send violent sex offenders to less-populated areas if Milwaukee-area legislators prove successful in a proposal to change a state law.

State Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, and Rep. Mark Honadel, R-South Milwaukee, proposed to change the current Chapter 980 law that restricts the release of violent sex offenders to their county of conviction. The Milwaukee legislators want to keep the predators from densely populated areas by allowing placement in any county in the state.

“Public safety is the only placement,” Sen. Plale said.

Advertisements

The close proximity to schools, daycares, pools and soccer fields in urban, densely populated counties like Milwaukee County make proper placement difficult, the lawmakers said.

Offenders are required to stay a “safe distance” from places where children may be present, according to University of Wisconsin lecturer Michael Caldwell, even if the crime did not involve children. The proposal would give the courts the authority to look at statewide placement where there are less-dense populations.

“The Milwaukee argument is they don’t have room,” State Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, who opposes the bill, said. “The rural communities don’t have the resources to keep an eye on, track and prevent a sex offender from re-offending.”

The Department of Health and Family Services looks at the police presence, employment opportunities, access to treatment and monitoring options in deciding placement for the violent sex offenders, director of Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center Steve Watters said.

“Rural areas should not be the dumping grounds for the worst sex offenders,” Suder said. “Milwaukee needs to solve its own problems.”

Honadel says this is a state problem. He and Plale fear the state would lose Chapter 980 if the statewide placement bill is not accepted.

“One condition of Chapter 980 is the civil patient will be released,” Plale said. “If we can’t find an appropriate place for the people, Chapter 980 could be deemed unworkable.”

Prior to Chapter 980, violent sex offenders served their prison sentences and were sent directly into the community without warning to the population, Plale said. Madison received many difficult placements because of the access to resources in the city, Watters said. Under Chapter 980, violent sex offenders receive mental-health treatment in a secure state facility until the courts say they are no longer high risk to the community.

“If Chapter 980 is thrown out, it will only be a matter of time until they have [a sex offender] in their own county and they won’t know until it’s too late,” Plale said.

Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center is one of two mental-health treatment facilities for Chapter 980 patients in Wisconsin. It presently treats about 230 offenders. More than a quarter of them hail from Milwaukee County, Watters said.

“The reality is, there is no perfect location for high-risk sex offenders,” Watters said. “We have been able to make placements everywhere except Milwaukee County.”

Sand Ridge released nine people in 2003 and seven in 2004. Only one individual has been placed on supervised release under Chapter 980 in Milwaukee County, Watters said. Courts recently decided he was improperly placed in a residential area but concluded a transfer out of the county was unacceptable.

Advertisements
Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *