Executive Director for WSPS Tricia Benson and Kitsap County Commissioner Robert Gelder testified in front of the Senate Human Services, Reentry, and Rehabilitation Committee on Feb. 4, 2020. (WA Legislature)

Executive Director for WSPS Tricia Benson and Kitsap County Commissioner Robert Gelder testified in front of the Senate Human Services, Reentry, and Rehabilitation Committee on Feb. 4, 2020. (WA Legislature)

Olympia considers legislation on SVP’s and LRA’s

Multiple bills concerning the placement and treatment of Washington’s Sexually Violent Predators, have been making their way through the House and Senate that could have a significant and direct impact on Kitsap County.

In the Senate are bills SB6436 and SB6640, each has a companion bill in the House, HB2910 and HB2851 respectively.

SB6436 is a bill sponsored by Senator Christine Rolfes, that concerns the conditional release of Sexually Violent Predators (SVPs) to less restrictive alternatives (LRAs) particularly as it concerns the placement of SVP’s into adult family care homes.

If passed, the bill would alter the definition of LRA to exclude adult family homes, require SVPs who are conditionally released to be placed in a secure transition facility before being placed into an LRA, they also must show that they are making progress in their treatment and that being conditionally released would not place the surrounding community at risk. The bill would also alter the information requirements for public disclosure of the SVPs.

Tricia Benson, the Executive Director for Washington State for Public Safety and Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder both testified in support of this bill to the Senate Human Services, Reentry, and Rehabilitation Committee on Feb. 4.

“Simply put, the current statute regarding the placement of sexually violent predators to LRAs creates an ambiguous process with no meaningful public notification and no involvement of local jurisdictions. It basically allows for the placement of secured facilities in residential areas without public involvement and thus creates unnecessary conflict and can put community and SVPs at risk. Kitsap County and other local jurisdictions have wrestled with the issues at a local level with significant effort and expense. Legal avenues haven’t been able to address it, so amending state statute is the only option,” Gelder said.

Benson spoke in favor of SB6436 and in opposition to SB6640.

SB6640, is a bill sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Lakewood, that if passed would require the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to take steps to develop placement options for SVPs that have been conditionally released to their county of origin, allows the state to site secure community facilities and other conditional release facilities in any county in the state, and requires DSHS to develop LRA placement options.

Benson said she was in opposition to this bill as the language in it would allow for SVP placement in adult family homes.

“The bill analysis fails to mention that it will allow the placement of sexually violent predators into adult family homes through the Community Protection Program. Allowing extremely violent and predatory people to be placed with more vulnerable people. Historically, SVPs by law, have been excluded from participation in the Community Protection Program, which is a volunteer program for developmentally disabled individuals, this bill removes that exclusion,” Benson said.

Benson said she was told by a staffer for Sen. O’Ban, that following her testimony, the senator had pulled the bill from committee.

Benson also spoke to the House Public Safety Committee in opposition to HB2851, the companion bill to SB6640.

“HB2851 formalizes many elements already in practice either as a DSHS policy or by legislation, such as the requirement for DSHS to create an individualized treatment plan or the requirement that conditionally released sexually violent predators be returned to the county of origin,” Benson said. “ One other thing that I’d like to mention, under this bill defense attorneys are also still allowed to find placements. It does not prevent them, it does not make it so DSHS won’t only find placements. It says DSHS will try to find a placement and if after a certain period of time they are not able to, the defense attorneys go back to finding the placement. This bill says that it is going to create fair disbursement, there is nothing in this bill that will change the fact that fair disbursement does not necessarily happen. It says that DSHS is supposed to do that and if after a certain period of time they don’t, they just have to tell the court why they weren’t able too. So there is good intention in this bill, but sexually violent predators cannot be put into adult family homes.”

Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Richland, a ranking minority member of the committee asked Benson if the bill could be amended to where she would be in support of it. To which Benson responded that if the provision that allows SVP’s to be part of the Community Protection Program was removed she could consider the bill.

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