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House: Limit computer access at sex-offender lockup

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on March 5, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
March 5, 2010 4:06 pm

Restrictions on sex offenders’ computer use at the Special Commitment Center cleared a deadline to advance today, passing the House. Now we’ll see if senators agree with the House’s scaled-back version.

The Senate had unanimously agreed to prohibit sex offenders’ access to computers unless they are deemed necessary for treatment. Sen. Mike Carrell pushed the restriction, outraged that 16 sex offenders were charged with or suspected in possessing child pornography over the past three years.

The objection in the House: That the restriction might make the Special Commitment Center look too much like a prison when the state has told judges it’s a treatment center.  It took years of court fights to allow the state to imprison people at the McNeil Island facility who are deemed too dangerous to release, even though they have finished their prison sentences.

“It’s imperative that we not imperil the Special Commitment Center,” Rep. Christopher Hurst said on the House floor today.

So the House voted to ban computers only when doctors find they would harm the treatment of a particular sex offender. Other inmates could still use computers. In any case, like the Senate version, the bill would allow all inmates to use simple word-processing computers that can’t view pictures and video. The bill passed 97-1.

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