Senate backs O’Ban effort to limit release of sex offenders to Pierce County

Sen. Steve O’Ban won Senate support Monday for legislation intended to keep Pierce County from becoming home to more than its share of sexually violent predators released from custody on McNeil Island.

O’Ban’s effort came in the form of an amendment to House Bill 1059, which was adopted almost unanimously by the Senate. The underlying legislation concerns the annual review process for sexually violent predators being released from the state’s Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island. The amendment requires the courts to consider the release of sex offenders to their county of commitment. Senator Jennie Darneille (D-27th LD) and O’Ban co-sponsored Senate Bill 5099, similar to the amendment adopted Monday.

“I am glad that the Senate adopted this amendment because it is a fair and equitable way to address public-safety concerns,” said O’Ban, R-Pierce County. “For years our county has seen increasing concentrations of sex offenders due to its proximity to special commitment centers. This has led to an unbalanced concentration of offenders in our community even though Pierce County may not be where they originally were committed.”

The legislation looks at a practice used by the state Department of Corrections that releases inmates back to their county of origin. Of the 33 offenders released from the special commitment center in 2012-13 over half remained in Pierce County.

“This bill gives needed guidance to judges who are considering the release of these individuals and should be aware of the negative impact it will have on our community,” said O’Ban. “We are not being overly proscriptive, rather looking at a fair and equitable solution when offenders are released.”

The bill will now return to the House of Representatives to consider the changes made by O’Ban’s amendment.