Twenty-five surveillance cameras, 17 state employees, 12-foot security walls and a $1.6 million annual budget – all for one high-risk sex offender. That is the reality for Washington’s new six-bed halfway house for “sexually violent predators” in Seattle’s Sodo district, which is preparing to open its 1,800-pound magnetic-locked doors next week for a single resident, reports the city’s Times. The Department of Social and Health Services declined to identify the man.
The man will have finished at least five years of sex-offender treatment, and will be under 24-hour watch and GPS surveillance as he attempts to find work, therapy and – if he chooses – to occasionally pursue recreational activities such as fishing. The halfway house is the next step in Washington’s costly, 14-year-old effort to protect the public from sexual predators. The treatment program, based on McNeil Island, holds and treats 227 Level III sex offenders deemed too dangerous for release even after they finished their prison terms. In 1999, federal Judge William Dwyer ordered DSHS to build an off-island halfway house, as a means to reintegrate residents to society. Without such a release process, the judge warned, the island’s center could be considered an unconstitutional extension of prison. The Department of Social and Health Services hopes to eventually fill the halfway house’s other five beds with more graduates from McNeil Island.