Proposed law could increase transparency around release of sexually violent predators

OLYMPIA, Wash. — In recent years, the release of Washington’s sexually violent predators into the community has raised concern statewide, including Spokane. A bill proposed in the Washington legislature would increase transparency surrounding those releases.

Sexually violent predators are sex offenders classified with that label by the state. They are offenders who have completed prison sentences, then have been committed to the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island for indefinite periods. For years, no offenders were released from McNeil Island.

More recently, though, the state has authorized the release of some of those offenders. Many are released unconditionally and are free to move wherever they choose in the community. Others are classified under a Less Restrictive Alternative, meaning the state believes they are still at high risk to reoffend and they are still under strict supervision.

In Spokane, those under LRA live at the Lincoln House, a converted apartment building across from the Spokane Arena. As of Thursday, 71 offenders in Washington were released under LRA. Three of those men live in Spokane.

4 News Now has extensively covered the release of offenders under LRA. Specifically, when the community is not notified of their status within the community.

Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich have criticized the notification process and the practice of releasing these offenders here, even though some have no ties to Spokane.

One of the reasons they’re released here is that the Lincoln House agrees to supervise these offenders under LRA.

Senate Bill 6436 was proposed this week by Senators Rofles, O’Ban and Randall, all from western Washington.

It says that public safety and well-being shall be a primary concern in placing sexually violent predators in the community and that current procedures are “insufficient” to ensure that the public is aware and prepared for their release.

The bill requires the state to disclose information about the crime to the community, specifically holding a community notification meeting about a release. It also requires that disclosure to include information about prior offenses and the civil commitment status and history of that offender.

It also prohibits those under LRA from being placed in something legally defined as an adult family home.

The language in the bill also classifies the Lincoln House as a “secure transition facility” because more than one LRA lives in that one location.

One of the sponsors, Senator Christine Rofles (D), told 4 News Now that the bill is designed to be instructive. Since the process of releasing offenders under LRA is relatively new in Washington, she believes it’s important to set some guidelines on the community notifications of offender releases.

The bill was read for the first time Thursday; it has been referred to Human Services, Reentry and Rehabilitation.

Senator Rofles hopes the bill gets a hearing and says she welcomes people from Spokane to testify about their concerns.