Methods For Housing, Tracking Sex Offenders Under Scrutiny


State legislators are looking for ways to save money by improving Wisconsin’s system for housing and monitoring released sex offenders.

The joint legislative audit committee plans to investigate the cost of housing released sex offenders and tracking their whereabouts. The audit will also assess the effectiveness of the community notification system that alerts citizens that a sex offender is moving in to a neighborhood.

Don Mogenson of Manitowoc told the committee that in his community, the state is paying exorbitant rent to house offenders and doing a poor job of alerting the public about changes in an offender’s supervision status. He suggested the state put offenders on a farm where they can earn their way back into society: “We need to get these people into a productive life. Then maybe they can make a life for themselves. Walking around and having somebody watch them is not a way to make them productive.”

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But the committee chair, Representative Samantha Kerkman, says even rural residents have a “not in my backyard” attitude about having sex offenders as neighbors: When we have those discussions, even in my rural district, about placement…Even if they’re in the middle of a cornfield in a farm, nobody wants them there either.

Senator Kathleen Vinehout says she hopes the audit will produce solutions that previous legislatures have failed to come up with.

“We have a lot of legislators over the years that have been very concerned about sex offenders and we’ve added laws on top of laws to try and deal with the problems; but maybe this is a good time for us to look into it in detail and see if we’re getting our money’s worth.”

The Department of Corrections has asked for a $2 million increase in sex offender program funding over the next two years.