No action on site to house sex offenders


Herald Writer

Folks in the Arlington and Monroe areas will have to wait another week to find out if their towns have been picked by the state to house sexual offenders who are beginning to work toward freedom.

A state advisory committee Tuesday took no action on slicing the 11 potential sites for the new facilities, state Department of Social and Health Services spokesman Gordon Schultz said.

The committee, which will recommend a primary site and two alternates to DSHS Secretary Dennis Braddock, probably will make its selection next Wednesday, Schultz said.

Two of 11 sites are in Snohomish County. Both are near correctional institutions, and both are in the district of state Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish.

The Arlington Heights site is near the former Indian Ridge Youth Camp. The second is near the intersection of Highway 203 and 203rd Street SE near the Monroe Reformatory Honor Farm.

Other potential sites are located in King, Spokane, Walla Walla and Yakima counties.

Dunshee said DSHS didn’t notify him that two Snohomish County sites were on the selection list.

Neither site meets criteria established by DSHS, Dunshee said.

DSHS is under federal court order to move sex offenders out of the Special Commitment Center, where 126 people have been undergoing treatment after being civilly committed. Civil commitment came after they finished prison sentences for sex offenses.

Offenders are supposed to be released from the center to a less restrictive location if treatment providers determine they have responded and are less dangerous. They are still to remain under close supervision

The commitment center is located within the walls of the McNeil Island prison.

The plan is to find an appropriate location on state property and move a three-bedroom modular home onto the site. There are now no secure facilities available for this.

The offenders would have one-on-one supervision most of the time, and the modular buildings would have alarm systems to deter escape.

"These are guys you can leave on McNeil Island," Dunshee said. "Maybe give them some additional freedom there. You just can’t plop those puppies out here."

The 11 sites were chosen with guidelines approved earlier to keep the facilities away from schools, child care centers, playgrounds and similar facilities.

They also are supposed to be within five minutes of law enforcement response in case of emergencies.

If either the Indian Ridge or Monroe site is chosen, the selection could violate the five-minute response guideline.

"DSHS would need to negotiate with the Snohomish County Corrections to determine whether their staff could respond," a DSHS summary said of the Indian Ridge site.

Snohomish County Corrections now is operating a minimum-security overflow jail at the former Indian Ridge Youth Camp on state property adjacent to the proposed site for the sex-offender facility.

At Monroe, the same problem exists, and DSHS would have to negotiate with state corrections staff to respond to emergencies.

That’s a critical element, Dunshee added.

"It’s incidents not so much (at the halfway house) but around there where you’d have to have the sheriff there instantly," Dunshee said.

He said he’s not surprised his constituents are upset they are in contention for such a facility.

"I think the process is moving awfully fast," Dunshee said. "I know I wouldn’t want them next to me."

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