from the Council of State Governments
On April 21, the Council of State Governments Justice Center convened a meeting of state agency officials, victim advocates, prosecutors, and national experts to discuss a draft policy guide, which reviews strategies for increasing public safety by ensuring that sex offenders released from prisons and jails have a place to live.
Suzanne Brown-McBride, executive director of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault and a Justice Center board member, stressed at the meeting the importance of addressing the reality of sex offenders’ living arrangements in the states rather than focusing only on the locations from which they are excluded. Brown-McBride explained:
Lawmakers should be made aware that homelessness and transience among this population is on the rise.
The group reviewed the upsides and downsides to housing strategies employed in states across the country from secure transitional facilities to rental units, to hotels and motels. The group also discussed the growing number of sex offenders showing up in shelters and residing under freeway underpasses. They then discussed how various state policies, including exclusion zones and community notification – in addition to parole and probation supervision strategies – influence the availability and appropriateness of these housing strategies.
State representatives Scott Suder (R-WI) and Stanley Gerzofsky (D-ME), both of whom have spearheaded significant policy initiatives in their states on the issue of sex offenders, chaired the meeting, contributing practical, pragmatic guidance to the discussion.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance, a division of the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice, is funding the development of this guide, and made it possible for the Justice Center to convene this meeting.
For more information about this project, please visit the Justice Center’s Reentry Policy Council website.