Though its failed efforts to find a new Milwaukee home for Billy Lee Morford might suggest otherwise, Wisconsin actually has placed far more so-called sexual predators into neighborhoods than any other state, accounting for nearly a third of all people nationwide who have been released under similar laws, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.
While those in the treatment field consider that an achievement, others were surprised and concerned to learn of the Badger State’s distinction.
While public objections have blocked most placements in Milwaukee County, state officials point to successful placements outside Milwaukee. Yet, 15 of 32 men released on supervision since 1994, when Wisconsin passed Chapter 980, the law that allows civil commitment of some sex offenders after they serve their criminal sentences, have been returned to secure facilities – or face pending efforts to return them – because of rule violations.
Seven men were discharged outright, without supervision (including two into Milwaukee County in the past year), meaning Wisconsin has released a total of 39. The release under supervision of another six is pending.
California, with nearly twice the commitments, has released only one person into the community with supervision, and 22 overall.
Laws such as Wisconsin’s Chapter 980 allow 16 states to commit certain sex offenders, which some states term “sexual predators,” for treatment after their criminal sentences are served. The laws vary somewhat, but they typically target those who victimize children and who suffer a mental disorder and are likely to re-offend.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled twice that predator laws in other states are constitutional, largely because they involve civil commitments designed to provide treatment, not extra punishment. But if communities continue to reject treated offenders entitled to supervised community placement ordered by a judge, such as Morford’s case in Milwaukee, the laws likely will face another legal challenge.
“People in the (Milwaukee) community have got to realize we have to put them somewhere,” said Rebecca Dallet, one of two prosecutors who handle such cases in Milwaukee County. If they can’t, she said, it could lead to more constitutional challenges.