State recommendations for sex offenders would be a ‘tough act,’ says legislator
(The Center Square) – The state Sex Offender Policy Board in recent years has made recommendations to the state Legislature that would reduce sentencing for distributing or possession child pornography and loosen restrictions on housing for convicted sex offenders.
However, at least one ranking member of the House Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee says for now these recommendations are political nonstarters.
“No one is willing to run this,” Ranking Minority Member Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, told The Center Square in reference to a SOPB recommendation to favor treatment over prison regarding possession and distribution of child pornography. “It would be a really tough act. Our job is to protect communities. It’s not to make it easier for predators.”
The Center Square reached out to Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee Chair Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, multiple times over a six-day period for comment on recommendations made in SOPB’s 2022 report, but did not receive a reply. The Center Square also reached out to Goodman’s legislative assistant, who was out of the office.
Among SOPB’s more recent recommendations is to alter a state statute that at least one county claims would eliminate public notice and public hearings for permits needed to establish housing for convicted sex offenders, known as less restrictive alternatives.
During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers introduced House Bill 1734, which would have required Department of Social and Health Services to inform communities when less restrictive alternative, or LRA, housing is opening.
However, the bill died in Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry without receiving a public hearing.
Another related bill to suffer the same fate in that committee was House Bill 1813, which would have imposed a moratorium on LRAs and siting of future secure community transition facilities, while also creating a legislative work group to further study the issue.
During recent legislative sessions, Goodman has cosponsored numerous bills regarding sex offenses that included the following:
House Bill 1089, which offers assistance to individuals who were sex trafficked.
House Bill 1394, which restricts the convicted juvenile sex offenders who must register upon release. The penalty for a juvenile failing to register when required is reduced from a felony to a gross misdemeanor.
House Bill 1149, which removes a requirement that a petitioner allege “a reasonable fear of future dangerous acts” before obtaining a sexual assault protection order.
Earlier this year, Goodman sent a letter to SOPB requesting new sentencing guideline recommendations, which were finalized in October. SOPB is also working on an annual report containing recommendations on changes to the state’s sex offender policies. In addition to diverting those convicted of child porn possession and distribution, SOPB has also recommended a similar policy for individuals caught in an internet sex sting operation.
As with most of SOPB’s recommendations, Mosbrucker said she is opposed to that proposal, “especially with the trafficking we have now. Somebody is baited with a really good looking 15 year old who pretends he likes somebody and then convinces them to sneak out from their parents, and then they disappear forever. It reminds me a lot of the 'Sound of Freedom.'”
“I think sex offenses are a heinous crimes and the survivors and victims lives a life long sentence, so the harm that they do – they need to be accountable for it," she added.
While SOPB has repeatedly argued in its reports that recidivism among sex offenders is lower compared to non-sexual crimes, Mosbrucker disagrees. “These types of offenses, whether depictions or actions, are almost always serial. It’s not once. It’s not one time they usually feel the need to continue to share them. Rapist doesn’t rape just one time.”
She added: “I think anything we can do to restrict the ability of that to happen is a win.”