November 12, 2014

State officials will examine sex offender housing placements; no promises to close Broad Street Norwich facility

11-12-2014 Connecticut:

State Department of Correction officials today pledged to examine the policies surrounding placement of sex offenders in state-subsidized rental housing in residential neighborhoods, provide more information about placements to municipal officials and to hold quarterly meetings with leaders in the host towns.

Interim Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple said at the start of today’s hour-long meeting that he was “taken aback” by the number of registered sex offenders – 110 – living in Norwich, a city with a population of about 40,000. He said the number seems significantly higher than he would expect.

The nonprofit agency Connections, Inc. leases a two-family house at 152 Broad St. for convicts released under the REACH -- – Reentry Assisted Community Housing – program. According to the state Sex Offender Registry, Carlos Cruz and Christopher DePallo live at the Broad Street location.

Neighbors learned of the placements by talking to tenants, and brought their complaints to the Norwich City Council and local legislators.

Semple said he is not inclined to order that no further placements be allowed in the Broad Street house, but said he would examine the state’s approval of the site in the residential neighborhood near a school bus stop. Semple recently did order no additional placements in a similar situation in Manchester, but said he realized after that decision that he would face similar requests in other towns.

State Rep. Emmett Riley, D-Norwich, asked if the commissioner would make the same order in Norwich.

“When I walked out of that meeting,” Semple said of the Manchester decision, “I thought ‘now every community will want the same.’”

But Semple did pledge to re-examine the Department of Correction’s approval process for REACH beds. He said renting entire small apartment houses is a preferred situation to avoid affecting other tenants who live in an apartment house.

“We have to look at the bed placement,” state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said of the upcoming legislative session, “to ensure that we’re not impacting neighborhoods. While renting a full house may work better, but you have to understand the impacts.”

Osten said she also wants to explore increased penalties for convicted sex offenders, the length of time they must remain on the mandatory sex offender registry and a possible tiered registry system that would provide more details about an offender’s situation to the public.

In Manchester, Semple agreed to hold quarterly meetings with the community, and he said department officials would do the same in Norwich. He said a public hearing in Manchester, however, turned contentious, with residents demanding the house be closed down rather than hear details about the strict oversight and frequent supervision of sex offenders residing in the state-subsidized facility.

“It’s just such a difficult situation to manage,” Semple said. “I do believe in this program.” ..Source.. by Claire Bessette

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