Tuesday, May 7, 2013

PA - Bucks lawmaker wants broader community notification for registered sex offenders

Frank Farry
Original Article


By Jo Ciavaglia

A Bucks County lawmaker wants the state’s sexual offender community notification law broadened to include where registered sexually violent predators work and receive behavior health treatment.

Rep. Frank Farry, R-142, on Tuesday said he plans to speak with the executive director of the House judiciary staff to look at what options are available to give local communities more ability to regulate where sex offender treatment centers are located.

Obviously you don’t want it in proximity to residential areas or places where children congregate,” he said, adding he doesn’t have a timeline for introducing a bill.

Farry’s district includes Hulmeville, where residents recently learned about the existence of an outpatient center that treats sex offenders, including sexually violent predators. The center, Resources for Human Development, had been operating for a year without the knowledge of local officials or police or a use and occupancy permit.

Megan’s Law gives states the discretion to establish criteria for community disclosure, but they are compelled to make private and personal information on registered sex offenders publicly available.

Pennsylvania has no restrictions on where centers that treat sex offenders or sexually violent predators can be located.

The state’s Megan’s Law website lists the home and employer addresses of all registered sex offenders and sexually violent predators, but community notification is required only where a sexually violent predator or sexually violent delinquent child lives.

At a minimum, Farry said, outpatient centers treating sexual offenders should be required to notify local police and government officials that they are conducting business in a community. He plans to investigate whether other states have enacted broader public notification or distance provisions for sex offender treatment centers.

Pennsylvania has 403 registered sexually violent predators on parole or probation, according to the Megan’s Law website, which is maintained by Pennsylvania State Police. Five are registered as living in Bucks County including one incarcerated at Bucks County prison; Montgomery County has 28 registered SVPs (as they are known), including 17 who are inmates at Graterford prison.

Resources for Human Development is one of four behavioral health providers in Bucks County with state certification to treat individuals deemed sexually violent predators, according to the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, which licenses the centers.

Hulmeville council members on Monday said that RHD’s director claims no sexually violent predators are currently in treatment at its Reetz Avenue office. The center treats other individuals with deviant sexual behavior, including convicted sexual offenders.

RHD also provides other human and behavioral services, including programs for recovering substance abusers, the homeless and people with intellectual disabilities. It operates other treatment centers for people with “problematic sexual behaviors and family abuse” in Montgomery County and Philadelphia, and referral sources include probation and parole offices.

The newspaper was unsuccessful Tuesday in reaching Meghan Dade, executive director of the state’s Sexual Offenders Assessment Board.

Pennsylvania defines a sexually violent predator as a sexual offender who has been determined by the court, after evaluation by the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, to have a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses.

Under the law, SVPs, once released from prison, are required to attend monthly outpatient counseling sessions for the rest of their lives in a program approved by the state assessment board.

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