Dear House Appropriation Committee Members,
We understand you will be meeting to discuss the 2012 Budget including HB29 and HB30.
We reviewed the Governor’s Budget the day that it was released and we have two points of concern, http://www.governor.virginia.gov/utility/docs/2012-2014BiennialBudget_all.pdf
- B-190: Provide Funding for Re-entry Initiatives, which will expand the number of Probation Officers to monitor registered sex offenders.
- B-199: Enhance Sex Offender Investigative Unit, which would create 43 “surveillance officers” to monitor registered offenders who are not on Probation. This would allow the VSP to “redeploy” Troopers.
In reference to number 1. The increase of additional Probation Officers just for the registered sex offender population has us concerned.
The length of Probation for registered sex offenders in Virginia seems to be getting longer and longer with every new case, 5-10 years for many of our citizens. While under VA Probation supervision registered offenders must pay for and attend weekly or monthly offender treatment sessions and quarterly or annual polygraphs. They also can be prohibited depending on the district from dating or living with a female partner and of course with any minors sometimes of their own blood.
The RSOL of VA is wondering if Probation Officers cost less than VSP Troopers and to keep the costs down the state might leave more RSO’s on Probation for longer periods which means they would not require VSP monitoring. Also the more restrictions for those under Probation supervision there is an increased chance the RSO will have a technical violation (alcohol, no job, failed polygraph, dating) and be returned to jail, which increases the recidivism rate for RSO’s. Our goal is to allow success to those who wish to become productive citizens, but due to ignorance, let’s face it most people would prefer if RSO’s stayed in jail for ever and our state is willing to do just about anything to save money.
In reference to number 2. We know what it’s like to have a uniformed Trooper in a VSP patrol car to pull up to our homes twice a year and at our places of employment. It causes a scene, it has lead to lose of rentals and employment and it’s humiliating not only to the ex-offender but to their spouse, significant other, their children, their parents and roommates. Children are bullied and shunned because of this.
Two years ago a Virginia Senator suggested to us that retired VSP Troopers who want something to do part-time should do these checks in plain clothes and unmarked vehicles. We thought this was a great idea but there was no action on it even after our urging.
A process for these “surveillance officers” needs to be presented before being voted on.
Will they be under the training and direction of the Virginia State Police and retain professionalism? Or of local authorities with little to no training? Training is critical in this process in that it allows the visiting authority the ability to differentiate who may be in violation or a threat between those who are in compliance.
Will they be in uniform or driving a marked vehicle?
Will U.S. Marshal’s join them on home checks like on October 30, 31 and November 1 2011 when the Marshal’s wore flack jackets and weapons? A completely humiliating and unnecessary tactic, not to mention a potentially illegal tactic of intimidation.
Assuming that the goal is to have highly trained, professional persons doing this verification as we currently have with the Troopers, we fully support this initiative.
The problem and shortfall of the funding and staffing of the current system is problematic and will only increase with time. The facts are self evident; the state cannot maintain the Virginia Sex Offender Registry as it exists today. It’s become a behemoth and saturated with those who will never re-offend. More frightening is that its dilution with lesser risks has impeded the authorities’ ability to monitor and prevent crimes by those likely to recidivate. Please review the data listed in the following.
Per the VSP 2102 Monitoring Sex Offender Report the snapshot in time (December 1, 2011) there were 18,663 registered offenders.
- 3,461 registrants were under Department of Corrections Probation and Parole Services
- 7,075 registrants were incarcerated in jails or prisons across the state
- 8,127 sex offenders were monitored and verified by the Virginia Department of State Police.
That’s an additional 1,565 offenders from December 2010 to December 2011 who are being monitored by the VSP.
Both in 2010 and 2011 the VSP Monitoring reports stated the goal was 1 officer to every 100 offenders. Per the new 2012 VSP report they have increased “the goal” to 1 officer for every 120 offenders.
In the 2012 VSP Monitoring report, they claim they are 30 officers short to achieve the new higher goal of 120:1. Based on the number of registered offenders, the “perfect ratio” and the number of officers they are short they currently have 38 officers and the current ratio is 213:1 a far cry from 120:1.
As for the financial costs we asked what the VSP has actually spent for each year from 2005 to 2010 on the monitoring of offenders, mailing re-registration forms and maintenance/updates to the registry. Per their response**** $5,481,279.20 was spent in 2010 by the VSP for offender monitoring and postage.
The amount of $5,481,279.20**** was not for the entire RSO population at that time, 17,623. It was only for the 6,562 those who were not incarcerated and/or under probation supervision. The 6,562 at that time was 37.25% of all the registered offenders, which left 62.75%. The majority of this population will be released one day and the VSP will be responsible for monitoring them which means what’s currently being spent will need to triple to the astounding cost of $16,443,837.60. Yes, over 16 million dollars per year!
That would imply that $16 million will be spent on a group of citizens who have the lowest recidivism rate of 2.5% to 7.5% nationally and less than 5% in Virginia.
We know that there are not enough VSP Sex Offender Task Force Troopers today to do the home and employment checks so something does need to be done but what we do not want to see is “rent-a-cops” who have had 20 hours of training and a chip on their shoulder against those who bear the label sex offender.
We ask that the Appropriations Committee discuss these issues before voting on these 2 portions of the Budget bill.
Mary D. Devoy
* – 2010 U.S. Census Bureau web-site
** – 2011 VSP Report on Monitoring Sex Offenders
*** – February 2011 FOIA request from the RSOL of VA to VSP Lt. Maxey
**** – October 2011 FOIA request from the RSOL of VA to VSP Lt. Maxey
***** – In February 2011 we asked the VSP for the number of females on the Virginia registry and their response was they have no way to find that information.
For anyone who wants to contact the members of this committee
House Appropriations Committee Members: