FOX 11 Investigates sex offender audit shortcoming
GREEN BAY - A Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau recommendation to save money has gone nowhere since it was made nine months ago. The recommendation is part of the bureau's report reviewing the high costs to house sex offenders on supervised release.
The recommendation in question asks the Department of Health Services to come up with alternate ways to facilitate a sex offender in the program who is no longer a public threat.
Many convicted sex offenders after serving their prison time are set free. Those who pose a continued danger are committed to Sand Ridge Treatment Center in Mauston and held behind secured walls and barbed wire fences.
But after treatment and counseling some are then placed in supervised release in rented homes across the state at taxpayer expense as they transition back into society. The catch is, even when they no longer need to be held, they can stay in these state-paid rentals forever.
"This is going to be a thorny thing. Someone doesn't want to leave and the statutes say they don't have to leave," said State Senator Rob Cowles, R-Allouez. Cowles is co-chair of the legislative audit committee that ordered an audit of the supervised release program last year.
That audit was prompted by the high rental costs of the program uncovered by FOX 11 Investigates. Some costs have been cut, but the audit also revealed another potentially costly issue.
On average sex offenders are housed in rental homes for two and a half years before they file a petition for release and it is granted. But four of the 33 sex offenders currently in the program have lived in rented homes for more than 5 years. Each year the cost is roughly $116,000 for each sex offender in the program. Those four are costing $464,000 a year.
And through court records we discovered one man living in a home in Green Bay has been on supervised release for more than 9 years.
His name is Roger Adamski. He's 50 years old. At FOX 11's request, and DHS permission, Adamski agreed to talk with FOX 11 Investigates reporter Mark Leland by phone.
"It's my understanding you would have to petition the courts to be released from supervised release," asked Leland.
"Right. Yes," said Adamski.
"Have you ever done that?" asked Leland.
"No I haven't because in my mind and in my heart I know I'm not ready for it yet," answered Adamski.
"Do you think you might reoffend?" asked Leland.
"No. I'm not to that point yet but there's..." said Adamski.
In talking further with Adamski he revealed Green Bay's restrictive ordinance on where sex offenders can live is causing him some concern when he is released from the program.
"The only real thing I'm worried about is the ordinance and trying to find a place to live," said Adamski. "I like living in Green Bay because I know people in Green Bay. And if I had to live someplace else that's really not going to work out because I don't know anybody anywhere else."
Whether Adamski is ready to be released is a matter of private record. But the legislative audit states, "DHS believes that some of these individuals would potentially be discharged by circuit court if they filed petitions."
"I think we see that a lot in corrections. People used to being in the system and it's challenging to come out," said Cowles.
"And so whose problem is it then. It comes down to taxpayers will continue to pay for it because it's a convenient lifestyle," said Jack Lechler, a concerned taxpayer.
Lechler spoke out about the costs paid to house sex offenders at the legislative audit committee hearing last year. He remains frustrated by the lack of action being taken in Madison.
"Let's see who takes the bull by the horns, you know. And nothing happens," said Lechler.
Ultimately as it stands now Adamski and the others in the program would have to make the first move to be considered for release. Even if the staff at Sand Ridge, which monitors the progress of those on supervised release, felt they were ready to be released on their own, state law still says it's up to the individual sex offender to petition for release.
DHS secretary Kitty Rhodes declined to offer options, as recommended in the state audit, to facilitate a sex offender's release. Rhodes indicated in a response to the audit that..."should the Wisconsin Legislature choose to address this issue through legislation, the Department would be happy to provide technical and policy assistance in this effort."
"So who takes the bull by the horns and corrects this issue?" Leland asked Cowles.
"Well maybe somebody like me, maybe some other member of the committee who would investigate it further. When we have the public hearing that's one of the points we can create more articulation," said Cowles.
And as we wait for a hearing date to be set, sex offenders living in homes continues to rack up costs of $116,000 a year.