Washington state sex offender policy board discusses possible recommendations for legislature

Graphic from Jefferson County Sheriff's Office

DISCLAIMER: none of the actions discussed have been passed as law, it is only discussion.

WASHINGTON STATE - The Washington sex offender policy board met Thursday afternoon to discuss what its next report to the legislature should include in terms of policy recommendations. 

The board was created in 2008 and its main goal has been to help make policy recommendations to the legislature that would be helpful to sex offenders trying to reassimilate into society after finishing their prison sentence. The board presents a report to the state legislature with all its recommendations.

Right now, the board is in the midst of discussing what recommendations the next report will include. 

One of the things talked about is reducing the penalties for sex offenders who fail to register. The board was in agreement that FTR shouldn't be considered a felony or added to the offender's record as another sex crime. They instead debated whether it should be considered a gross misdemeanor or an unranked felony.

Board member Shawn Sant, representing the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys said he didn't think his association would support a recommendation of changing the penalty to a gross misdemeanor. 

"I recognize the studies and discussions we've had on whether or not it's meeting its purpose of actual deterrence on a future sex offense," Sant said. "I don't want to see it as a gross misdemeanor. I don't think we get enough attention on that. I think it takes a little bit away of any kind of consequences."

After discussion, the board agreed failure to register should be an unranked felony. This means the offender would get a smaller sentence for failing to register - limiting the maximum sentence to 12 months.

A subcommittee that focuses on the placement of sex offenders on conditional release also recommended removing the 500 foot restriction to the rest of the board. This law restricts certain offenders from being where children spend time.

The subcommittees reasoning for the recommendation is the law is contradicting and makes it difficult for offenders in housing situations.

Chair and Representative of the Association of Defense Attorneys, Brad Meryhew, said the board also needs to take an in depth look at sex offender treatment options.

Most board members also agreed there should be access to more. 

"I think as a board we have the responsibility to scream real loud as Peewee Herman used to say," Meryhew said. "Make sure everybody understands that this need, needs to be addressed."

Treatment can be difficult to get because of the requirements in place, staffing and accessibility.

In its next report to the legislature, the board plans to outline possible solutions to this problem. 

At its next meeting on October 13, it also hopes to discuss how sex offenders can go through a process for review of their risk level of reoffending.

You can watch the full meeting here.