Sex offender center sparks protest

Associated Press

WALLA WALLA — A citizens’ group called "Enough Is Enough" held a boisterous demonstration to protest plans to put transitional housing for violent sex offenders next to the state prison here.

By the time protesters left the scene Saturday, 500 people had signed petitions opposing the Department of Social and Health Services plan. Many said the town doesn’t need a population of sex offenders in addition to state prisoners.

"It’s sick," Alyson Moreno said. "These people are sick."

The state recently announced a plan to site a halfway house for violent sex predators as early as March outside the Washington State Penitentiary. It would house three offenders who have completed their prison terms and treatment but are still deemed too dangerous to fully return to society.

The announcement of the plan for the halfway house sparked immediate outrage.

Myron Huie, owner of a furniture store, said a halfway house in Walla Walla could create problems in nearby towns. He cited statistics that show sexual predators who reoffend often do so within a 30-mile radius of where they live.

DSHS officials said predators would be guarded at all times and would be allowed to leave only during certain times and with supervision.

Walla Walla County Commissioner Dave Carey was one of several local officials who spoke in support of Enough is Enough.

"I think we’ve done enough" for housing criminals in the city, he said.

The Walla Walla City Council has sued the DSHS, and Walla Walla County commissioners are demanding state impact fees from the facility. Area lawmakers are building support to overturn the DSHS decision, if necessary, when the Legislature convenes in January.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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