A press release by Representative Sondy Pope about “missing sex-offenders” is being used by Democrats to criticize Walker and the Department of Corrections. Pope is referring to those not in compliance with sex offender registration requirements. However, Democrats and Pope fail to recognize that under Walker the noncompliance rates are lower than under Governor Doyle, and the Department of Corrections definition of non-compliance doesn’t necessarily mean the sex offenders are “missing.”
In Pope’s press release, she mentions that a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau regarding the sex offender registry has labeled 2,735 sex offenders on the registry as non-compliant, which she takes to mean that the DOC does not know where they are:
“I find it outrageous and unacceptable that nearly three-thousand sex offenders are unaccounted for and that many of them live in communities without citizens’ knowledge. These unaccounted offenders present a clear danger to communities as many are likely to re-offend. This is yet another example of the deteriorating state of our corrections system under Governor Walker.”
However, while Pope blames Gov. Walker for the “deteriorating state” of the DOC, under the Governor the percent of non-compliant registered sex offenders has decreased. In 2005 Governor Doyle touted in a press release that the percent of non-compliant sex offender had gone from 18% to 14%. Using the numbers provided by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau which is cited in Pope’s release, there are a total of 25,159 sex offenders on the registry and 2,735 are non-compliant, which would mean under Walker the non-compliance rate has dropped to 10.87%.
In Pope’s release she also makes the assumption that non-compliance is synonymous with the DOC not knowing where the sex offenders are. Media Trackers reached out to the DOC for clarification on what exactly non-compliance means. The DOC responded that non-compliance does not mean “missing:”
These sex offenders are not “missing,” they are non-compliant with sex offender registration requirements. As noted in the LFB memo, DOC defines non-compliance as:
Failing to mail back the registration or confirmation letter;
Failing to update a change of residential address, employment information, school information, or Internet identifiers;
Providing false information when the registration or confirmation letter is returned to the Sex Offender Registration program;
The sex offender fails to report or have their photograph taken for the Sex Offender Registry; ora registered sex offender is deported and fails to contact the Sex Offender Registration program within 10 days of their return to their country of legal origin.
Sex offenders are required by law to keep their information current. When a registered sex offender becomes non-compliant, the Department is generally able to contact the offender to quickly bring them into compliance to protect the public. A knowing or intentional failure to maintain current sex offender registration information is a Class H felony. When the Department believes a sex offender has violated state law regarding their registration requirements, we refer the alleged violation to the relevant district attorney for prosecution. In 2017, the Department referred 709 cases of non-compliance to district attorneys for prosecution and we’ve referred 404 cases of non-compliance so far in 2018.
The DOC also addressed the 2014 Fox 6 News article that Pope had included in her press release that reported there were around 1,000 missing registrants at the time. The release stated that in the four years since then, the number has nearly tripled. DOC responded to Media Trackers:
For context, there are more than 2,000 additional sex offender registrants now than in 2014, while there has only been an increase of approximately 200 non-compliant sex offenders, using the numbers from the Fox 6 story Pope cited.
Despite Democrats attempt to discredit the DOC and Gov. Walker, the DOC assured Media Trackers that they are proactively working to keep registered sex offenders in compliance with registration requirements:
The Department is extremely proactive about bringing sex offenders who have active non-compliance warrants to justice. Our Sex Offender Apprehension and Felony Enforcement team, comprised of eight retired law enforcement officers and a retired prosecutor, works closely with law enforcement agencies across the country to bring wanted sex offenders into custody. We also partner with the U.S. Marshal’s Service to identify and apprehend fugitive sex offenders. We also maintain a website of wanted non-compliant registered sex offenders.
We have 18 sex offender registration specialists who work proactively to keep sex offenders in compliance with registration requirements. Additionally, high-risk registered sex offenders are placed on a GPS monitoring bracelet that reports their location 24 hours a day.