By Emily Davies, WSAW
CRANDON, Wis. -- The Forest County Sheriff's Office said in a release Monday a man committed for treatment as a sexually violent person in 2016 will be placed at a home in Crandon Oct. 25.
Oct. 2, a hearing was held for Jeffrey Levasseur, 52, where a judge approved a supervised release plan placing him in a home off of Sand Lake Road in Crandon.
When convicted sex offenders finish serving their sentences, but still show a mental disorder that makes them a higher risk of committing sexually violent acts, a judge can commit them for treatment with the Department of Health Services at the Sand Ridge Treatment Center in Mauston. The involuntary commitment is possible due to the Chapter 980, or sexually violent persons law.
DHS representative, Elizabeth Goodsitt, said patients will not be placed back into the community on supervised release until a judge deems they are no longer have a high risk to re-offend.
This is the fifth time DHS has tried to place Levasseur back into the community in the last year. Attempts at placing him at homes in Hiles, Blackwell, and Lanark, and Plover ultimately failed. Residents in Blackwell and Lanark specifically went to hours worth of court hearings stating the placement did not fit within homeowners association rules.
Frustrated by patients treated for being a sexually violent persons being placed in the central and northern portion of the state, Democratic Rep. Katrina Shankland had been working on legislation since early 2017 addressing concerns, giving local counties more control of where a sexually violent person is placed in their county. It would also require those persons be placed first in the county they came from. Republican Rep. Scott Krug and Senator Patrick Testin drafted similar legislation in later that year after Shankland's bill was not included in the state budget. Most of the Assembly bill passed in May of this year.
Chapter 980 requires those treated as sexually violent persons to be placed and supervised by DHS once released back into the community, unlike other sex offenders not committed under that law. Sex offenders not labeled as sexually violent persons also are free to live where they choose, unlike those committed under Chapter 980.
"It’s important to understand that, unlike convicted sex offenders released from the prison system, and 980 patients released under direct discharge, Supervised Release clients are subject to strict oversight and monitoring, and must abide by an abundance of rules and restrictions, or their Supervised Release can be revoked," Goodsitt said.
She explained finding housing within the law's criteria is challenging. "DHS staff prefer to work together with local leaders and community members to identify potential residences to propose to the court. It is not uncommon for local partners to voice opposition to a proposed location, even in the absence of an alternative," she said. "This does not relieve DHS of the obligation to present the court with a proposal for placement at a potential residence which meets criteria under the law."
As of last week, 38 Sand Ridge patients are approved for supervised release, but remained at the center waiting for approved housing. Goodsitt said at times, a judge will order a patient to be discharged, meaning they will be released into the public without DHS supervision, like other sex offenders. This has happened 117 times since Chapter 980 was enacted in 1994. In that same time 197 supervised release placements have been made, including multiple placements of the same person and those on release have had their release revoked 75 times for violating terms of their supervision.
Levasseur, who is from Forest County, was convicted of criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota in 1992, and two counts raping a child in Forest County in 1999.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story had stated the Senate and Assembly bills related to this topic did not pass. Only the Senate bill failed to pass, while the Assembly bill was partially vetoed, meaning parts of the bill were not enacted into law.