2 bills seek better control over released ‘sexually violent predators’

It’s a situation Missouri law officers may be facing more often: How to deal with people who’ve been identified as “sexually violent predators,” but who have been conditionally released from state custody.

“We have one out now, and a second is being considered very soon,” state Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, told the Senate’s Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Monday night.

Romine’s district includes the state’s main “Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services” (SORTS) facility in Farmington.

The Fulton State Hospital also has a SORTS program.

The law allows people who have been placed in the Mental Health department’s sexually violent predator program to petition to be released from the hospital and into the community.

Romine noted lawmakers last year required the department to notify the prosecuting attorney in the county where a sexually violent predator would be located, if released from the SORTS program with the director’s approval — only to discover that another section of state law also allows a predator to be released without the director’s OK.

And it wasn’t covered in last year’s bill.

So Romine’s new bill would make it clear that the prosecutor is to be notified no matter how a predator seeks a conditional release.

Rick Gowdy, a Mental Health department forensic psychologist, told the committee that passing the new language means “that county prosecutor gets notice, and has the ability to appear at a hearing” where the predator’s request is considered.

Gowdy noted the situation involves only a few people, “who were in the Department of Corrections (and then) were committed to the Department of Mental Health.”

The attorney general’s office files the request to require a sexually violent predator to be transferred to the SORTS program, rather than be released from prison.

So the law already requires the AG’s office and the original sentencing court to be notified of the person’s request to be released.

Romine’s second bill would give the local law enforcement agencies the ability to request access to the GPS monitoring system required when a predator is given a conditional release from the SORTS program.

“This is new territory for us and is a new concern,” Romine explained.

The Missouri Police Chiefs Association supported the first bill, and the group Missouri Kids First sent letters supporting both of Romine’s proposals.

No one testified against either bill, and the committee took no action on either measure Monday.


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