About 317 miles.
That’s how far Google says the drive is from the town of Sampson in northwest Chippewa County to Kenosha in southeast Wisconsin. Yet a Kenosha County judge signed an agreement that would release a sex offender into the aforementioned town with which he has no ties.
The man in question was committed to Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston. He was released from the facility in 2009 but rules violations put him back in four years later and he’s remained there ever since.
He was originally convicted of three counts of sexual assault, according to a story by the Leader-Telegram’s Chris Vetter, and is deemed a “sexually violent person” in online court records.
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A community meeting that drew an audience of about 50 was held Tuesday in New Auburn, a short distance from Sampson, to fight the judge’s ruling.
“We’d like this judge to come up and live next to this person,” said Lucy LaGesse in Vetter’s story.
Added Samantha King: “This is an area with several families and vulnerable elderly.”
Vetter reported that state statute calls for a sex offender to be sent back to the county of residence or back to the county where he or she was convicted. Sampson doesn’t meet either standard.
“Chippewa County is going to fight this tooth and nail,” said Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk.
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A hearing was scheduled for Friday that could have overturned the placement. Officials added that the man’s arrangement to live in the New Auburn area was temporary. Neither point carries weight as moving him to the location may have defied state statute and certainly defied logic.
On Tuesday, the Green Bay Press Gazette reported on a sex offender slated to be released on the west side of Titletown. He had committed all of his crimes in Milwaukee and was also committed to Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center.
“I can assure you when our police chief found out about this, we contacted the city law department,” Green Bay Police Lt. Matthew VanEgeren said during a community meeting the Press Gazette covered, “we contacted the district attorney’s office, and spoke to a circuit judge trying to find out what we can do to prevent this from happening here ... . We want to keep our community safe.”
We’ll be the first to admit that placing a released sex offender is no easy task. Officials have determined that these people have met the conditions for release and, though it’s a tough ask of any community, they need a place to live.
But such placements need guidelines to limit their subjectivity. Geographical considerations can be a variable that adds at least some objectivity to the equation.
The agreement concerning the New Auburn area placement fell hundreds of miles short.
— Liam Marlaire, assistant editor