September 8, 2015

City could ban sex offenders from DOC facility

9-8-15 Wisconsin:

The Shawano Common Council will take another look at sex offender residency restrictions with an eye toward keeping registered sex offenders out of a new Department of Corrections transitional living facility.

The city has an ordinance restricting where registered sex offenders can live, but officials were apparently under the impression that state statutes required an exception for DOC facilities.

“I guess we were thinking that there was nothing that we could do,” Mayor Lorna Marquardt said at a special meeting of the council Wednesday. That turns out not to be correct, she said.

“If we chose to do it, we could put in a stipulation in our ordinance that would disallow sexual offenders from being placed in temporary housing,” she said.

Milwaukee-based Matt Talbot Recovery Services has contracted with the DOC to operate a six-bed facility at 118 S. Union St. According to city officials, the facility is slated to open in mid-October.

The city cannot keep the DOC from contracting with a vendor to operate a transitional living facility, as long as the location is not within 2,000 feet of another community-based residential facility, but there is no state statute preventing the city from applying its sex offender residency restrictions to that location.

The city restricts convicted sex offenders from living within 1,500 feet of any facility where children are likely to congregate, including any facility used for or that supports a school for children, licensed day care center, library, park, recreational trail, playground or place of worship.

The Union Street location is within 1,500 feet of a park, library and the Shawano Recreation Center.

According to the city’s ordinance, an exception to the rule kicks in if the convicted sex offender “has been placed in a temporary living center by the Department of Corrections under electronic monitoring and said person meets with the Sexual Predator Ordinance Committee as requested.”

Though the Union Street facility could temporarily house a variety of recently released felons, most of those placed there are likely to be registered sex offenders.

Police Chief Mark Kohl said the bulk of recently released felons housed in transitional living placement facilities are sex offenders.

According to the state’s Sex Offender Registry website, the DOC has seven registered sex offenders housed at the New Era House, 105 E. Richmond St.

The DOC’s contract with New Era House expired last August, but the state has continued to house recently released offenders there until a new location could be found.

Marquardt said it is assumed at least six of those sex offenders would be moved to the new facility on South Union Street when it opens in October.

Marquardt said there are pros and cons to consider if action is taken to ban sex offenders from the DOC facility.

“Some people say it’s better if we know where they are,” she said.

However, Marquardt said, she has concerns about the lack of supervision proposed at the Union Street location.

“I would feel better if there was someone who actually was supervising these people in this home, but Talbot has told us previously that they don’t have an on-site person,” she said.

The residents will be on electronic monitoring, however, and will be checked by Talbot staff and DOC agents.

Marquardt said another option for the city could be to allow sex offenders at the site, but only if they’ve been approved by the sexual predator ordinance committee.

Council members were unanimous in their consensus that the city should revisit the ordinance when the council meets on Wednesday.

“With the outcry I have had on this from people, absolutely,” Alderman Bob Kurkiewicz said. ..Source.. by Tim Ryan

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