A new report says a state agency needs to develop better policies for placing sex offenders back in communities.
The Department of Health Services often supervises violent sex offenders after they are released, placing them in housing and providing them with transportation. A report from the Legislative Audit Bureau is taking the agency to task for not having written policies in place for determining where those offenders should be placed and for not taking steps to control costs in the program.
The audit accuses the agency of failing to negotiate lower rates for housing and transportation costs. For example, auditors say DHS spent $2,200 per month to rent a home that was specifically purchased to house offenders. Over the course of 30 months, DHS paid the owners $19,000 more than what they spent to buy the building. The report also found a vendor DHS contracts with to provide transportation and monitoring of offenders was being paid almost $70 an hour to provide those services. The Department of Corrections had a contract for similar services with the same vendor for just over $30 an hour, during the same time period. In both areas, the audit says DHS should work to negotiate lower rates.
State Representative Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) was among those who called for the audit, following an incident in his district where a sex offender was almost placed in a home just a few doors away from where his victim lived. Barca says things like that can’t be allowed to “fall through the cracks” and he’s calling on the agency to act quickly on the findings of the audit. The report recommends DHS work with Crime Victims Services to identify housing conflicts in the future.
DHS Deputy Secretary Kevin Moore says protecting the public remains a top priority. The agency is currently reviewing the report.