Two local sites reviewed for sex offender housing

By JIM HALEY

Herald Writer

Arlington Heights residents who thought they were passed over in the sweepstakes for sites to house sex offenders may have another thing coming.

Sites near Arlington and Monroe are among 11 to be reviewed today by a panel that will narrow down possible locations for secure residential treatment housing for sex offenders.

The local sites include:

  • State land behind the old Indian Ridge Youth Camp in Arlington Heights. The former youth camp is now being used as an overflow minimum-security jail by Snohomish County.

  • An area near the Washington State Reformatory Honor Farm near Highway 203 and its intersection with 203rd Street SE. The location is two miles south of Monroe.

    The former Indian Ridge Youth Camp near Arlington Heights came under Department of Social and Health Services scrutiny early this year as a possible location to house a sex offender program for those graduating from the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island.

    The center is home to 126 civilly committed sex offenders under various stages of treatment.

    The specter of turning the youth camp into a facility for sex offenders starting their return to society went away when DSHS dropped the idea and the county took over the facility for the overflow jail.

    Carol Lundberg said her neighbors will be alarmed. "They won’t want it in their back yard," said Lundberg, a member of the Arlington Heights Community Club.

    She said the club had a regular meeting Monday night, and she would deliver the bad news to her neighbors.

    A 13-member citizen committee, called the Secure Placement Advisory Committee, meets today to start discussing the sites, which are scattered in Snohomish, King, Walla Walla, Yakima and Spokane counties. The panel will recommend one site and two alternates to DSHS Secretary Dennis Braddock, who will make a final choice Dec. 1.

    The site is expected to house sexual predators who were civilly committed to the Special Commitment Center after finishing criminal sentences for sex offenses. The offenders are supposed to be released from the commitment center — under supervision — if experts determine they have responded to treatment and are less likely to reoffend.

    There are no secure facilities available for them to start re-entry into society now.

    "We don’t think any community is going to welcome us," admitted Tim Brown, DSHS acting assistant secretary. But, he noted, a federal judge has ordered the state to start releasing sex offenders, and they have to live somewhere.

    The 11 sites were chosen with several guidelines in mind, Brown said. Under the new rules, law enforcement must be able to reach the facility within five minutes, and the house cannot be seen from schools, child care centers, school bus stops, playgrounds and the like.

    Lundberg hopes the five-minute requirement from law enforcement might eventually disqualify the Arlington Heights site because it is remote.

    Brown said the state hopes to open its first three-bed modular home in March. A second might be needed as early as May. All the current sites are on state land, he said. The state might seek sites on private property in the future.

    Up to three offenders would live on the site, and they would have one-on-one supervision during day hours. Strict security measures would be built into the modular homes, Brown added.

    According to DSHS, here are the other proposed sites:

  • King County, Washington State Patrol Fire Training Academy. About 20 minutes east of North Bend and 2.5 miles off Interstate 90.

  • Spokane County, Airway Heights Correction Center, in Airway Heights. One proposed site is in the northwest corner of the prison property; another is in the southwest corner.

  • Spokane County, Medical Lake state complex. Two sites are within Medical Lake: one inside the fence of the Eastern State Hospital, one about a quarter-mile from the hospital. A third site is a quarter-mile northwest from the Medical Lake state complex.

  • Walla Walla County, Washington State Penitentiary. Two sites in Walla Walla, one on the northeast corner of the penitentiary property, outside the fence, and one across Highway 125 from the prison.

  • Yakima County, Yakima Valley School, city of Selah. The school is a state home for the developmentally disabled. The site is on the northwest corner of the property, on a bluff overlooking a residential area.

    The selection committee has scheduled a second meeting Nov. 29 in case a decision isn’t reached today, Brown added.

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