Bill Aims to Open Talks About Sex Offender Placement

By Emily Matesic, WBAY News

Where to place sex offenders being released from jail has caused heated debates in recent months in two Northeast Wisconsin communities. A new bill in the state legislature is aimed at giving communities more of a voice when it comes to sex offenders being placed in counties they don't consider home. But not everyone is convinced the legislation is the solution to a bigger problem.

In the past couple of years, Fond du Lac County Sheriff Mick Fink has put in many hours tracking down information on two violent sex offenders the state Department of Health Services told him would be living in a house in the Town of Eldorado.

"This is what it took me, as a sitting Sheriff, in open records just to get DHS to tell me what's up," says Fink, pointing at a large stack of papers.

A new bill would eliminate that legwork and instead would open dialogue between the Department of Health Services and the communities where it wants to place these violent sex offenders.

Rep. Katrina Shankland from Stevens Point authored the bill. She says, "It allows the town and county and other people, like the DA, the Sheriff for example to sit down with these Department of Health Services employees to inform them about the potential consequences or if there's any mitigating circumstances, so it really gives them a voice."

Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney, thinks the flow of information in these sex offender placement situations is important. But, he questions the bill's overall impact.

According to Toney, "This has a prospect of maybe getting more on that information to us, but at the end of the day, it's not going to stop out of county placements because it just says that they just have to consult with the DA's office. It doesn't say that if I object and say as District Attorney no this isn't an appropriate placement that that 980 offender will not go there."

Sheriff Fink believes counties should only be responsible for the offenders from their area and not anywhere else, saying, "Have the legislators pass a bill that says, here it is, you offend in Fond du Lac County you're placed back in Fond du Lac County. Fond du Lac County, the owness will be on you to prepare a place for them to stay."