SALEM, Ore. – Since the Oregon Supreme Court ruled last year that sexual offenders have a constitutional right to defend themselves from receiving the designation of “predatory,” not one inmate has received the label when leaving state prison.
Without the tag, families cannot receive a warning about such offenders entering their community.
“It’s tied our hands,” said Becky Wanless, director of the Deschutes County Department of Parole and Probation. “We have not been able to do any notification whatsoever.”
The justices issued their ruling in February 2005, noting that sexual offenders must be allowed to present evidence that they do not fit the criteria of predators.
Since then, roughly 75 offenders who would have previously been labeled as predators have been released from prison with no designation, said Michael Washington, chairman of the state Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision.
The parole board will institute new rules on Aug. 1 that will allow the state to again label high-risk offenders as predators upon their release. The rules also will give offenders the opportunity for a hearing if they want to dispute the label.
State and public safety officials approve of the development, but question the 17-month gap between ruling and rule changes.
“I don’t understand why they are dinking around. This could have easily been done a year ago,” said State Rep. Jerry Krummel, R-Wilsonville, who led the effort in 2005 to force Oregon officials to create a Web site identifying predators.
Washington, of the parole board, said part of the delay came because the board incorrectly believed that lawmakers would agree on a bill in the 2005 session.