State Dilemma: How to Handle Elderly Sex Offenders

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When state officials finally released octogenarian William Cubbage from custody in 2010, they predicted he was too sick to hurt anyone again. He became an even more notorious sex offender, molesting a 95-year-old woman in a nursing home. His case forced Iowa legislators to consider how to handle a growing population of sex offenders in long-term care facilities, The Atlantic reports. As lawmakers in Oklahoma and Ohio have found, isolating aging sex offenders is easier planned than achieved. Amy McCoy of the Iowa Department of Human Services says, “You’re … talking about building a place that isn’t a prison. It’s something entirely different from a traditional care facility. You want people in the least restrictive setting, but you also want to be able to respond if something does happen.”

California’s Department of Corrections notifies nursing homes if anyone on the sex-offender registry applies for residency, and the nursing homes are required to notify residents and employees. Illinois facilities forbid offenders from having roommates and tests them for any special care needs before sending the results to local police and the Department of Public Health. Just as Iowa is now considering, Oklahoma passed a law in 2008 to create a specialized nursing home for offenders. Not a single bid to construct the property was submitted. It’s hard to gauge how much of a danger sex offenders pose as seniors. Karl Hanson and Kelly Morton-Bourgon, sex-crimes researchers who work for the Canadian government, estimate that the average recidivism rate is likely around 13.7 percent.

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