What to do with state’s sex offenders


Herald Writer

Instead of locking up sex offenders for longer periods of time, Washington should devote more attention to treating and monitoring them in prison and in the community.

That was the loudest message prison officials, attorneys and other criminal justice experts delivered to a panel of lawmakers in Everett Tuesday to tackle the thorny issue of what to do with the state’s most serious sex offenders.

"It’s really an issue more of resources than legal authority," said David Boerner, chairman of the state’s Sentencing Guidelines Commission and a Seattle University Law School professor.

The discussion was sparked by legislation to allow longer sentences for some sex offenders. In certain cases the proposed law would amount to "one strike and you’re out," putting sex offenders behind bars for the rest of their lives at the discretion of a state board.

The bill passed the House last year, but died in the Senate amid concerns about its impact.

The gathering swayed one of the bill’s chief backers, Sen. Jeanine Long, R-Mill Creek, not to pursue the legislation further right now. But Long remained concerned the current sentencing system was letting dangerous people out of prison.

"I think we are releasing people that we should not be releasing," she said.

The volatile topic of sex offenders has reignited here and elsewhere in Washington in the past week.

In Snohomish County, 32-year-old Anthony Snow was charged with second-degree rape Thursday, less than a year after he finished a prison sentence for an earlier rape conviction. Snow’s arrival in a Silver Firs neighborhood in March was greeted with widespread concern among neighbors.

Prosecutors allege he forced a 14-year-old relative to have sex with him, and that the girl said he choked her and threatened to kill her.

Snow has pleaded innocent to the charge.

Plans to open a half-way house for one or two serious sex offenders in a Thurston County neighborhood has also sparked an outcry from neighbors and local officials. One of the candidates for living there, Mitchell Gaff, was convicted by a Snohomish County jury of raping two girls in 1984.

Long’s proposal would revive the state’s parole system, giving an appointed board the power to decide when, if ever, certain kinds of sex offenders should be released.

That includes people convicted of rape, rape of a child, child molestation and forcible indecent liberties.

It would apply only when the victim didn’t know the attacker, or knew them only because the attacker sought to lure them into a relationship.

The parole system was scrapped nearly two decades ago in favor of fixed sentences, amid concerns the parole board could be too harsh or too lenient.

Some sex offenders considered "violent predators" are now also involuntarily committed to a special psychiatric facility after their prison sentence ends.

Christi Hurt, associate director of the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Groups, encouraged lawmakers to wait and see if a spate of recent laws helps answer their concerns.

"We need to commit to what we’ve already said we’re going to do," she said.

According to some, the current system needs that commitment.

Corrections officials painted a picture of a patchwork system of treatment and supervision, plagued by a lack of resources.

Treatment programs for sex offenders at the Twin Rivers Corrections Center in Monroe have a constant waiting list, and 30 percent of people seeking to enter the programs must be turned away, said Dr. Art Gordon, director of the program.

"Is it enough?" he said of the program. "Undoubtedly not."

Once sex offenders leave prison, they often can’t find housing, said Victoria Roberts, who administers the Department of Correction’s community protection program, which oversees high-risk offenders.

That makes it harder to keep tabs on them and provide them with the support that can help prevent them from committing more sex crimes, she said.

"The biggest challenge in dealing with our high-risk offenders is where are they going to live?" Gordon said.

You can call Herald Writer Warren Cornwall at 425-339-3463 or send e-mail to


Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Gold Bar in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Crash closes U.S. 2 near Gold Bar

The crash Wednesday afternoon at Reiter Road east of Gold Bar caused minor injuries. Traffic was backed up a half-mile.

A transit rider steps onto a Community Transit bus on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
What route should new Smokey Point bus route take through Marysville?

By 2029, the Gold Line will connect Everett Station to Smokey Point. Community Transit wants your input on the exact path.

Suspected impaired driver strikes patrol car on I-5 near Everett

No injuries were reported in the crash on northbound I-5 between Everett and Marysville early Wednesday morning.

Public Works Senior Engineer Randy Loveless looks out over Everett’s 101-year-old reservoir at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Reservoir 3 Replacement Project on Tuesday, July 23, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
With looming earthquake threat, Everett breaks ground on $80M reservoirs

Contractors will replace a 100-year-old reservoir east of Evergreen Way with two smaller ones.

Monroe High School (Monroe School District)
Former Monroe High teacher charged with sexual misconduct

In a police interview, Giles Stanton acknowledged relationships with former students, reportedly saying “he felt a bit like Bill Clinton.”

Lauren Davis, left, Lori Theis, Dunia Wabenga
Public safety is a central question in south Snohomish County race

Rep. Lauren Davis is running for a fourth term. Republican Lori Theis and Democrat Dunia Wabenga are trying to unseat her.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.