The subject of sex offenders living in a community can sometimes cause confusion and most definitely causes concern among neighbors.
The subject came up locally last week when there was a community notification involving a man named William Antonie Dontae Meadows. He had plans to live in Hudson, but after the hubbub of community notification, he had already changed his plans and left the community.
Many people have asked when the community could or should be notified. Here are some answers to that question from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Sex Offender Registry Program.
Q: What is "community notification" about sex offenders?
A: Since June 1, 1997, when the Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Law went into effect, local law enforcement agencies have had the authority to provide information about certain sex offenders to the community if, in their opinion, releasing the information would enhance the protection of the public.
Q: Who determines whether a sex offender is a level 1, 2 or 3 and what criteria are used?
A: There are three levels of community notification.
Level 1 notification disseminates information about the offender to law enforcement only. Local law enforcement, in consultation with a core team consisting of sex offender specialists, probation/parole agents and victim/witness coordinators, make the final determination on the level of notification to be employed. The criteria considered by the core team includes such things as risk to the community, needs of the victim(s), needs of the community and the rehabilitative needs of the offender.
Level 2 notification provides information to specific individuals and groups, based on the particular facts in the case.
Level 3 is communitywide notification and may make use of the media and community meetings.
Q: Why are you telling me about this offender and not all of the others being released from prison?
A: The Wisconsin Community Notification Law applies only to offenders who have violated certain sex crimes or other related statutes that indicate victimization of children or vulnerable persons. The statute requires notification to law enforcement of the release of any offender twice convicted of a sex crime. The law gives the Department of Corrections and the Department of Health and Family Services discretion over the types of information released. The statute does not provide for notification to law enforcement upon the release of all offenders.
Q: Does the Department of Corrections send out a "Special Bulletin Notification" for every sex offender released from prison?
A: The law requires the Department of Corrections to notify local law enforcement of the anticipated release of any sex offender who has been convicted of two or more registerable sex offenses or the same registerable offense two or more times and also of any sex offender committed as a Sexually Violent Person under Chapter 980.
Obviously not all sex offenders generate a level 3 notification. In fact, if one were to check www.offender.doc.state.wi.us/public/, you would find 16 registrants under 33 names (various aliases) found in the 54016 ZIP code area.
The laws are clearly designed to protect the public, not the perpetrators of sexual crimes. It can make life difficult for a sex offender, but the welfare of the public should be of the highest priority -- and the system seems to be working.