Politics & Government

Washington law aims to avoid clustering of sex offenders

A new law might reduce the chances that sex offenders are clustered in Pierce County or any other single part of Washington when they leave McNeil Island.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the law Monday, requiring courts starting in July to consider whether to place offenders in the counties they came from when they win supervised release from the island’s Special Commitment Center.

A News Tribune analysis last summer found 16 such supervised releases since 2012 included nine to Pierce County, even though none of the 16 came from Pierce County.

Counting all types of releases, there were 41 total in that period — including 15 to Pierce County, even though just three of the 41 came from the county.

“This is obviously unbalanced and unfair,” Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist wrote in a letter to Inslee citing some of those figures.

The new law deals with detainees who win supervised release, usually people who have made gains in treatment. It encourages but doesn’t require courts to place the released offenders in the counties where they were detained.

The law calls out exceptions to that recommendation, for example to keep offenders near treatment and away from victims. When offenders go to a different county, officials must now explain why.

Pierce County lawmakers added the proposal to H.B. 1059, a measure that originated with Attorney General Bob Ferguson and that aims to make it more difficult for Special Commitment Center detainees to win release without participating in evaluations and treatment.

The center is home to sexually violent predators who have finished their prison sentences but whom courts have deemed likely to return to crime.