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Commissioners protest unfunded mandate

Local government officials said this week they aren’t too keen on obeying a state order to plan for housing violent sex predators in secured facilities here.

“This amounts to an unfunded mandate,” County Commissioner Chris Endresen said, referring to the so-called fair share law. “We aren’t going to do anything (one way or another) until the Legislature comes up with the money to fund the bill passed last year.”

The fair share law requires Kitsap and 11 other counties to designate sites for a secured community transitional facility — a halfway house of sorts for sex predators after they are released from the McNeil Island Commitment Center in Pierce County.

Convicted sex offenders must be reviewed and approved by state courts before being placed in a transitional facilities.

County commissioners, mayors and tribal leaders decided on the wait-and-see approach after a Feb. 5 Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council meeting, at which Beverly Wilson presented information on the law.

Wilson is the assistant superintendent of the sex predator special commitment center on McNeil Island.

Endresen said a bill to fund the programs through incentives and grants, and to protect counties in compliance with the law from lawsuits, was introduced in the Legislature recently.

It also sets an Oct. 1 deadline for compliance and gives counties a timeline to apply for grants — assuming the Legislature can fund them.

The bill also carries a provision allowing the state to “preempt” local officials and finish the planning effort if counties don’t comply by the deadline.

The fair share law was established after a federal court ruled in the mid-1990s that said the state had to change how it treats civilly committed sex predators.

Washington is home to 152 civilly committed sex predators, who courts have judged likely to re-offend if released directly to their communities without post-incarceration treatment.

These offenders have been committed to an indefinite mental health program at McNeil Island and other facilities, but the federal court’s ruling means less restrictive treatment alternatives must be created.

That led to last year’s legislation requiring creation of 12 community transitional facilities, which would be paid for and operated by the state.

Kitsap is required to provide space for three sex predators between May of 2004 and 2007. The number reflects many county residents were housed at the McNeil Island facility as of April 1, 2001.

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