FOX 11 Investigates state efforts to cut sex offender program costs
GREEN BAY - The cost to house sex offenders in Wisconsin's Chapter 980 Supervised Release program is expensive. But changes are being made.
The state currently pays more than $42,000 a month to rent 28 homes for 33 sex offenders in the Sandridge Treatment Center's supervised release program. That comes to an average of $1,500 a month in rent for each home. The state acknowledges the rents are grossly inflated.
"It is a very expensive program. As are many other programs though," said Jason Cram when questioned about the costs last fall. Cram heads up the supervised release program and has been working for nearly a year to address the cost concerns exposed in several FOX 11 Investigates reports that prompted a state audit of the program.
Among those who took notice of those reports is 50-year-old Roger Adamski, one of the sex offenders in the program living in Green Bay.
The Department of Health Services allowed FOX 11 Investigates reporter Mark Leland to speak with Adamski by phone.
"Do you think there was some wasted money before?" asked Leland.
"Oh a lot of wasted money, yes," answered Adamski.
As a result of the program being audited, Adamski was moved from a $2,000 a month rental property on Green Bay's east side where he lived alone. He now shares a $2,500 a month rental home on the city's west side with another sex offender in the program, who had previously lived there alone. By eliminating the one rental $24,000 a year in rent in saved.
"When they moved me to University Avenue I was alone and then to save money that's when they moved me over here, which makes sense," said Adamski.
Court records confirm the move was made to save money.
That $2,500 a month rental though is one of the most expensive homes the Department of Health Services rents for the supervised release program. Real estate records show similar homes in the area rent for at least one-third of the cost.
DHS officials indicate in their follow-up to audit recommendations to reduce costs that "property owners have refused to reduce the rent or deferred consideration because the leases were not due for renewal."
State Senator Rob Cowles, who co-chairs the Legislative Audit Committee, says DHS officials assure him that cost cutting efforts are ongoing.
"The big one we have to keep monitoring is when the leases come up to renegotiate those down to a more reasonable level and they claim they're going to try to do that but they've been unsuccessful so far," said Cowles.
Cowles expects an update from DHS in the coming months on its progress, and says a public hearing will eventually be held to review the developments.
"The audit was a good thing, it's not only making things safer we believe but also making things more efficient therefore saving money," added Cowles.
But the state only made cost-saving changes last year when recommended by the Legislative Audit Bureau. It recommended adding washers and dryers to the rented homes, to save the $70-an-hour it pays monitors to transport and wait for the offenders at the laundromat
Adamski says he solved that problem years ago.
"I have my own washer and dryer I purchased on my own," said Adamski. "I just hate being at the laundromat."
At $70-an-hour for a two hour trip to the laundry once a week, Adamski has saved the state more than $65,000 over the past nine years. DHS has now added washers and dryers to ten homes at a yearly savings, officials say, of $43,600 a year.
"I would say, Mark, this is one of those things that's going to play out over a long period of time. Although progress has been made, more progress needs to be made," said Cowles.
Cowles says even though the problems have been identified, saving taxpayer money will continue to take constant government oversight. And FOX 11 Investigates will be watching too.