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The Process of Releasing CSO into society

I came across this article about the process of releasing convicted sex offenders into society. There is a personal story to this at the beginning, but what caught my eye was the actual process. I decided to write a post about this. It is specific to the state of Wisconsin, but many states do the same thing.

The release and the public notification After serving a debt to society, along with a successful completion of counseling, convicted sex offenders are released from prison or a mental health institution. But before release, the public is notified, thanks to the Wisconsin Sex Offender Registry Program. According to the Department of Corrections, the Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification law was passed in 1997, allowing the public to collect and distribute information about a certain sex offender coming to the area. But public notification has been a national law for several years. In 1994, the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act was enacted, requiring all states to establish stringent registration programs for sex offenders by Sept. 1997, including the identification and lifetime registration of sex offenders. Megan’s law, the first amendment to the Act, was passed in 1996, requiring all states to develop notification allowing public access to information about sex offenders in the community.

The federal government requires each state to have in place procedures for notification. Some states are better at this than others though.

David Hatch, a parole supervisor for the Department of Corrections (DOC), said the DOC will be required to post the addresses of convicted sex offenders on its web site beginning in December. “That information will be used to better track an individual and indicate where they’re located,” Hatch said. Wisconsin law does not require notifications for all offenders released from prison or a mental health facility. It only highlights certain offenders who may pose a significant risk to the community. A year prior to the offender’s scheduled release date, the criminal history is screened by staff in the law enforcement area to see if it meets the statutory requirement of a Special Bulletin Notification. Some of the cases undergo a special purpose evaluation to determine if they qualify for civil commitment under chapter 980, which classifies people as being too mentally unstable to be in society. Approximately two months prior to the release date and following the special purpose evaluation, the same staff will receive a final notification from the program, including the DOC’s intentions to distribute a special bulletin notification. The DOC sends a recommendation of what level of notification the offender should be. There are three levels of community notification. Levels of community notification process •Level I, is strictly limited to law enforcement. •Level II is targeted notification. This may include schools, neighbors, community groups, day care centers, parks, recreation areas and libraries. •Level III is expanded notification to the general public. A variety of methods are used to inform the public, including face-to-face notification, media releases and community meetings. Hatch said the Department of Corrections determines the levels based on the original offense, institutional treatment and institutional conduct. But law enforcement has the final say about level notification.

It’s facinating to learn how it all works, and I didn’t know the Dept. Of Corrections starts this process. This is common in all states.

Pre-parole plan After the DOC discusses a pre-parole plan about the offender’s residency, employment and support following prison, a residency is selected for the offender. The DOC investigates the proximity of schools, churches and other public places he or she may be deemed as a threat. “But there are some problems finding a place,” Hatch said. For example, the DOC finds an apartment for the offender. But in the complex there’s a mother and three children — which is not an appropriate place. “There’s no perfect place wherever you put a high risk sex offender,” he said. But once housing is found, the DOC is responsible for preparing and distributing the special bulletin notification for the community.

This is where many communities are having a hard time of it…no one wants a CSO to live in their neighborhood. Cities and towns have rules about how far CSO must live within schools, day care centers, shopping malls…and of course CSO are upset because they are limited. So they should be. The next section of this article describes what is done to track CSO…this is very different in each state. Don’t forget to check out this site, which will show you on a map, where RCSO (registered convicted sex offenders) live in your area. Be prepared; educate your children, be viligant.

Cross Posted @ ARS