House OKs restrictions on siting for sex-offender treatment

The state House of Representatives voted unanimously just hours before the midnight Wednesday deadline to impose new restrictions on the siting of treatment facilities for sex offenders.

The House voted 149-0 to approve the bill, which includes an amendment requiring state agencies to consider proximity to schools, roads, day cares, businesses and other facilities when deciding where treatment centers will be placed. The amendment also requires that any bid received for such a facility include five potential locations for the program.

The Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the same legislation.

The proposal came from the five legislators representing the region around Montville - Reps. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, Tom Reynolds, D-Ledyard, and Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, and Sens. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, and Edith Prague, D-Columbia.

Some residents and Montville officials have rallied to block the creation of a sexual offender treatment center on the grounds of Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center, saying it was too close to sensitive areas and in the heart of the town's economic corridor.

"Basically, a vendor came in with an offer to site these beds at one specific location and no other locations were put into consideration. In fact, the departments don't even have any criteria when it comes to finding a location for the facilities," Ryan said.

"Our legislation compels the departments to consider a number of locations throughout the state and to consider specific criteria on community impacts before a location is finalized," Prague said.

Stillman, Reynolds and Ritter added that while the state does need such a facility, the concerns of the municipality in which it is proposed to be located and the entities that surround the proposed location must be considered before a decision is made.

Last Saturday, dozens protested outside the entrance to the correctional center on Norwich-New London Turnpike (Route 32) in opposition to the proposal to locate a 24-bed center for offenders about to complete their sentences and those who are currently part of the judicial system's adult probationary program.

Town Council Chairwoman Donna Jacobson, with the support of the council and Mayor Joseph Jaskiewicz, has collected about 2,500 signatures on petitions she and others have circulated throughout town over the past two weeks in another effort to prove the community's opposition.

Officials from the state Department of Correction have said that during the negotiation process with The Connection Inc., the nonprofit organization chosen to negotiate a contract to run the facility, the state will ask the group to consider locations other than the Corrigan property where it currently runs a half-way house. The treatment facility could open after July 1.

The amendment is attached to a bill backed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell that clarifies the ability to strip assets from those convicted of sex-related crimes or possession of child pornography.


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