New bill seeks to restrict community release for sex offenders

SB 6436 would seek to provide additional restrictions for offenders released to community housing

New bill seeks to restrict community release for sex offenders

On Thursday, Jan. 16, Senator Christine Rolfes introduced Senate Bill 6436, concerning the conditional release of sexually violent predators to less restrictive alternatives.

According to Sen. Rolfes, the draft and the concept for the bill originated from the work done by the group Washington State For Public Safety (WSPS), which began in Poulsbo. WSPS has been working to understand and change Less Restrictive Alternatives (LRA) in residential areas and the process surrounding the placement of sexually violent predators in residential settings.

“I met with them before the holidays and they had done a lot of work to create some legislation that would reflect what they have seen and what they have learned in all of the work that they’ve been doing. We talked through that, I made some conceptual changes and that essentially the bill that we’ve introduced,” Rolfes said.

If passed, the bill would:

  • Require law enforcement agencies to disclose information related to civil commitment status and hold community notification meetings for risk level III offenders who are civilly committed as SVP’s.
  • Alter information requirements for the statewide kidnapping and sex offender website for level III offenders
  • Restrict the kinds of residence settings that qualify as LRA
  • Require a court to determine that an individual has progressed in treatment and release would not place the community at risk
  • Require a person who is conditionally released to be placed in a secure community transition facility (SCTF) before being released to any other placement type, even if the release is revoked and the person is later granted another conditional release.

The last point is the most notable piece of the bill. This piece of legislation particularly targets SVP’s who have violated the rules of an LRA or SCTF previously and were subsequently returned to total confinement and then later became eligible for LRA placement, despite the prior violations.

“A person who is granted conditional release shall be placed into a secure community transition facility before the person may be conditionally released to any other placement. If conditional release to a less restrictive alternative is revoked under RCW 71.09.098 or 71.09.112, and the person is remanded to the custody of the secretary in a total confinement facility under RCW 71.09.098(8), and the person becomes eligible and is subsequently granted another conditional release to a less restrictive alternative, the person shall be placed into a secure community transition facility before the person may be conditionally released to any other placement,” reads the legislation.

According to Rolfes, the bill reflects what has been happening in North Kitsap and is happening in other parts of the state.

“The bill doesn’t prohibit people from living in communities after they’ve served their time on McNeil Island, but it does strengthen the placement rules on where houses can be and it does improve community notification,” Rolfes said.

Rolfes is working to get a hearing on the bill which is currently in committee for Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation.

Other sponsors of the bill are Sen. Steve O’Ban, D-Lakewood; Sen. Emily Randall, D-Gig Harbor; Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Auburn.

“I think this bill could help untangle the system so that its clearer for everybody and we all feel safer,” Rolfes said.

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