Inslee issued the line-item vetoes for parts of Senate Bill 5187, which lay out this year’s operating budget for the state.
One of the sections Inslee vetoed required communities to be notified when sexually violent predators are being sent to Less Restrictive Housing Alternatives (LRA) by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
The proviso would establish a pilot program to run until 2025. A section of the bill reads, “The department must provide notice and opportunity to comment to any community in which the department intends to propose placement of a sexually violent predator.”
The bill would also have required DSHS to consult with federally-recognized Native American tribes before proposing the placement of a sex offender and take into account the distance of any LRA from the boundaries of reservations.
Inslee wrote in a letter to the Legislature, “Sections 207(2) and 207(3), pages 206-207, Department of Social & Health Services, Community Notice and Consultation on Placement of Sexually Violent Predators. These provisos are administratively burdensome for the Department of Social and Health Services Special Commitment Center program when siting Less Restrictive Alternatives in communities throughout the state.”
“These additional administrative tasks will likely result in the delay and availability of placement options for individuals ordered by a court to be moved out of the McNeil Island facility. For this reason, I have vetoed Sections 207(2) and 207(3).“
In January, it was revealed that Washington state was releasing Level-3 sex offenders from McNeil Island to be resettled into residential neighborhoods in halfway homes operated by a private company. The inmates were called "the worst of the worst" by the federal government and included convicted pedophiles that are the most likely to re-offend.
McNeil’s 200 residents have “been convicted of at least one sex crime – including sexual assault, rape, and child molestation. A court has then found them to meet the legal definition of a ‘sexually violent predator’, meaning they have a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes them likely to engage in repeat sexual violence,” according to The Guardian.
In 2021, Washington Democrats passed legislation that amended state law to make it easier to equally distribute the conditionally released sexually violent predators which they refer to as "residents" in counties across the state.
In response to Inslee’s line-item veto, House Republican Leader Drew Stokesbary and Caucus Vice Chair Eric Robertson released a joint statement slamming the governor’s removal of the community notification requirements.
The pair wrote, "After a sexually violent predator was placed in our district without advance notice to the community or the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, whose reservation is less than one mile away, we introduced budget language requiring DSHS to provide local government officials with notice and an opportunity to comment before placing a sexually violent predator within their communities. The same notice and opportunity for comment would also have been extended to federally recognized Indian Tribes before a sexually violent predator could be placed within one mile of their reservation.”
“It is unconscionable that DSHS isn’t already doing this, considering the public safety implications of placing sexually violent predators in established neighborhoods, often near school bus stops and other community amenities. And with alarming rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women, DSHS should be going out of its way to consult with Tribes that worry about the safety of their members.”
In Tenino, WA, five Level 3 sex offenders were scheduled to be placed in a house operated by Supreme Living LLC. Following community pushback, which included citing the facility for code and zoning violations, as well as the community constructing a neighborhood playground next to the facility, the project was halted.
However, in Enumclaw, residents were not informed when a sexually violent predator, Steven Knapp, was relocated to a house there in January, sparking a massive public outcry, especially since the facility sits among homes with young children and next to a school bus stop.
Stokesbary and Robertson continued, "So it is appalling that the governor chose to veto this common-sense reform, claiming simple notice requirements are somehow 'administratively burdensome.' Though perhaps it should be of little surprise that he would find basic notice requirements too 'burdensome' for an agency with a legacy of failure, staffed by his appointees, which has seen the loss of federal certification at multiple state institutions, from Rainier School to Western State Hospital. It is also deeply unsettling that the governor's own veto letter says he intends to continue prioritizing the ease of placing sexually violent predators in our communities above the safety of our communities. This stubborn approach to governing is exactly why so many of our constituents on the Enumclaw Plateau were thrilled to hear this would be Governor Inslee's final term.”
The locations of dozens of other facilities throughout Washington have not yet been revealed. In 2022, DSHS released 22 sex predators to LRAs.
According to MyNorthwest, the Department of Corrections (DOC) supervises approximately 85 sexually violent predators in 26 community-based LRAs and four secure commitment transfer facilities in King, Pierce, Spokane, Walla Walla, Snohomish, and Kitsap counties.
“Ironically, the governor vetoed this proviso with no notice to us or the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. Our communities deserve better. Washington's sovereign Tribes deserve better. We will continue fighting to keep sexually violent predators from being placed in Enumclaw or any other neighborhood across the state without notice, collaboration, and meaningful participation from local officials, Tribal governments, and community members. This veto is not the end. It is just the beginning of our efforts to hold DSHS and the governor accountable for their mismanagement of this issue," Stokesbary and Robertson concluded.
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