Rehabilitating the incarcerated once they are released isn’t a new idea. Many former inmates need assistance in housing, food, and job placement. But what about sex offenders, especially those deemed the “worst of the worst” by officials? Should they be discharged into unsecured housing near bus stops, playgrounds, and schools? Washington state legislators seem to think so, but many residents are fighting back.
‘Worst of the Worst’ Sex Offenders to Be Set Free
In the 1980s, the Community Protect Act designated McNeil Island in the Evergreen State as a “first-of-its-kind” center to house residents who have “been convicted of at least one sex crime – including sexual assault, rape, and child molestation,” reported the Post Millennial news. The outlet continued: “A court has then found them to meet the legal definition of a ‘sexually violent predator,’ meaning they have a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes them likely to engage in repeat sexual violence.” The inmates here have been dubbed the “worst of the worst” by the federal government and includes convicted pedophiles “that are likely to re-offend.”
Glen Morgan of We the Governed was a guest on The Ari Hoffman Show on Talk Radio 570 KVI where he explained the situation:
“There’s a couple hundred of ‘em out there (on McNeil), 215 or so, and what they’ve decided to do is instead of keeping ‘em on an isolated island in the middle of Puget Sound where they used to have a federal prison, they decided, ‘Hey, this is a great idea. Let’s distribute ‘em equally … equal distribution throughout all the counties in Washington state. And we’ll stick ‘em in neighborhoods and we’ll hand ‘em over to for-profit companies who don’t have to be subject to public records, act laws, or open public meeting the rules.”
McNeil Island was used to house those who were still considered a threat to communities even after they finished their prison sentences. One such inmate, for example, was Calvin Malone. As the Guardian reported, Malone “worked as a Boy Scout troop leader in various states across the country, as well as with an organization that works with at-risk youth. In these roles, he molested numerous boys and was convicted of sex crimes in California, Oregon, and Washington.”
In 2021, the state’s Democrats passed legislation to amend the law so that it would be easier for “sexually violent predators” to be delivered to various counties. Sponsored by Sen. Christine Rolfes (D), the bill allows “people who are potentially dangerous, but not necessarily dangerous, back into communities where they can live safely and with their constitutional liberties protected.”
Now, Gov. Jay Inslee (D), the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), and the Department of Corrections (DOC) are putting the legislation into effect and depopulating the island institution, relocating sex offenders into neighborhoods where children are present. Part of the legislation allows the predators to petition for a Less Restrictive Alternative (LRA) program, an outpatient treatment option.
Eleven of those sex offenders were scheduled to be housed in Thurston County, but residents of the city of Tenino strenuously objected. The facility, a three-bedroom home on several acres meant to support five individuals as well as monitors, will be overseen by the company Supreme Living, which paid $1.1 million for the property and is looking to collect $107,858 per month, according to Fox 13. However, only a cattle fence, according to the news outlet that went to the property for verification, separates the predators from kids in the neighborhood.
Kendahal Tuttle, a mom of four, lives only a half-mile from the proposed facility. She told Fox 13, “My biggest concern is the fact that my children play outside all day every day” and that “the facility has no fences that will keep them in, they’re allowed to wander about the property.” The resident also said there is a ski park, lake, and playground nearby. About 35 children live within a mile, and a bus stops right in front of the LRA facility.
Residents were not even aware of the proposed housing until a meeting held on Jan. 11, and the first inmate was already scheduled to be relocated on Feb. 1. Keri Jeter, a local mother of five, started a petition against the LRA location that now has more than 2,600 signatures. She and others marched to Inslee’s office to complain. “Somebody needs to be accountable,” she said. “Lawmakers really need to take into consideration the public safety over anything when they’re making these law changes for sexually violent predators.”
What About Oversight of the Facility and Its Residents?
Inslee argued that the housing would indeed be safe, saying, “It still has a lot of security. People will not be allowed to leave unless they’re chaperoned, specifically. Period. They wear ankle bracelets. So, it has a lot of security features. It’s on a 14-acre location so it’s quite remote, if you will.”
But what happens if someone reconfigures an ankle bracelet, or there is a malfunction? Who will apprehend the sex offenders if they leave the grounds without permission? Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders said the changes the Democrats made to the legislation don’t empower authorities. “Law enforcement is not allowed to pursue an escaped resident,” he told the Post Millennial, unless he commits a crime other than leaving the grounds.
Supreme Living CEO Angela Rinaldo said the DOC will respond to arrest anyone who leaves the property and will be available 24/7. But, as Mayor Wayne Fournier of Tenino posted on Facebook:
“DOC did not appear to be aware of this sex offender house being installed, and, as suspected, they do not have a 24-hour responder to detain an individual who flees. They also acknowledged some of those clients may not even be under their jurisdiction.”
In 2022, DSHS relocated 22 sex offenders to LRAs, and this year two more have been released. A Level 3 sex offender resides in Enumclaw, King County. A nearby resident said detectives told him that more former McNeil Island inmates were going to move into the house, too. “This is outrageous,” he said, “there are children all over this area, including two that live right next to the house.”
For now, the facility in Tenino is on hold, but residents can’t breathe easily yet. They still may get an LRA near their parks and neighborhoods where convicted sex offenders will live practically unsupervised. “It’s not a matter of if they re-offend, it’s a matter of when they’re going to re-offend,” Sarah Fox, an angry local, declared.
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