By BILL SHEA
Iowa would establish a specialized nursing home to house elderly sex offenders under legislation being drafted by state Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge.
Miller said Wednesday that her proposal would direct the state government to either set up the facility or hire a private company to do so.
''The 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to talk about is what are you going to do with these individuals if they're denied entry to a nursing home or are kicked out of one,'' she said. ''They've got to go somewhere.''
''My bill cuts to the chase and quits the dinking around because you've got to put them somewhere,'' she added.
She said the mental health facility at the old Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison might be an appropriate place for the proposed nursing home.
Miller first attempted to address the handling of elderly sex offenders last year in the wake of a 2011 incident at the Pomeroy Care Center in Pomeroy. In August 2011, [name withheld], a sex offender who was then 83 years old, allegedly raped a 95-year-old woman. He was subsequently removed from the center and placed in a state prison. He had been convicted of sex crimes in 1987, 1991, 1997 and 2000 before entering the nursing home in November 2010.
Last year, Miller introduced a bill that called for establishing a committee to examine the options for housing elderly sex offenders. That bill did not become law.
A very similar proposal for a committee has been introduced this year by two other representatives. Miller attended a subcommittee meeting on that bill and learned that it does not address how to handle elderly sex offenders who have been denied admission to nursing homes or have been removed from them. She is now writing her proposal to address that issue.