By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – A sex offender, required by law to be monitored and driven to activities, boards a bus.
The bus service, having contracted with the Department of Corrections, gets paid $30.87 an hour.
That same bus service, having contracted with the Department of Health Services to do the same thing, gets $69.89 an hour.
That’s not a hypothetical.
And it’s real examples like that have legislators – Democrats and Republicans – looking at DHS’s program for supervising the release of sexual offenders into the community and thinking, “Hmm, something’s not right.”
“It’s apparent the Department of Health Services could benefit by analyzing the procurement strategy used by the Department of Corrections for monitoring sex offenders,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said in a statement.
Barca said he requested that the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau analyze the DHS program after a Racine news report indicated that, upon being released back into the community, a sex offender almost was housed near his victim’s home.
That audit, released Thursday, found:
- Supervised release costs increased by 33 percent from 2009-10 to 2011-12 — from $2.1 million to $2.8 million.
- DHS contracts with firms to find housing for sex offenders. Thirteen of 28 rental leases were for homes those firms bought specifically to rent to DHS to house the offenders. In some cases, DHS is paying rents high enough to allow those firms to recoup the entire purchase price of the house, and then some, within a couple of years.
- DHS lacks specific, written policies in a number of areas, including guidelines for finding housing for the sex offenders and for determining how frequently an individual can be bused to an activity.
The audit also concluded that some offenders likely could be discharged from the supervised program but weren’t petitioning for discharge, possibly due to concern about living without the “structure and support provided by civil commitment.”
DHS also has a April 1, 2014, deadline for updating the committee on how well the agency is implementing the audit’s recommendations.
Among those recommendations are negotiating better busing and housing contracts and devising written policies where none exist.
“This audit is a major step in the right direction to work towards reducing the cost of this program and apply some new practices to maintain better efficiencies when providing services for individuals on supervised release,” Cowles, R-Green Bay, said in a statement. “I feel that we can rein in a number of major costs associated with this program while maintaining the safety needed for our communities.”
As of March 31, 33 people were on supervised release as part of the DHS program.
Since January 1995, when the program began, through the end of March 2013, 96 individuals have been released into the community via the DHS program.
Contact Kirsten Adshead at firstname.lastname@example.org.