Madison – Today, there are 178 registered sex offenders in Barron and Washburn counties. Finding a place for sexually violent offenders to live after being released from prison has always been a difficult question. Although sexually violent persons (SVPs) are supervised after their release, communities are often highly concerned about being forced to host someone with a troubling history. Balancing the needs of the community and the resources of the state is always a challenging discussion. However, for many years, rural Wisconsin has unfairly borne the burden of housing a disproportionate number of SVPs, because judges can place SVPs in any county the judge chooses, without permission from the county.
This week, I voted for a bipartisan bill that helps to fix this problem. Assembly Bill 539 ensures that SVPs are returned to the county they lived in before being sent to prison. Under this bill, each county will be responsible for putting together a committee to review housing options that are safe for both the community and the offender. AB 539 ensures that rural counties do not become a “dumping ground” for sexual offenders from the bigger cities.
It is important to ensure that all of our communities are treated equally when having these difficult discussions. Ensuring that offenders are close to family support networks helps reduce the chance of future crimes, and putting counties in charge of placement makes them more responsive to local community concerns for safety. I am proud to have voted for a bill that safeguards the residents of the 75th Assembly.