More sex offenders: Jamestown home to more than other N.D. cities
A disproportionate number of registered sex offenders live in Jamestown compared to other cities in the state, according to Scott Edinger, Jamestown chief of police.
"We're by far the highest," he said.
Jamestown is home to 86 registered sex offenders, Edinger said. That does not include offenders in the James River Correctional Center, Stutsman County Correctional Center or the North Dakota State Hospital Sexual Offender Treatment Program.
Records show Jamestown makes up 2% of North Dakota's population but is home to 5.7% of the registered sex offenders not in prison, jail or committed to a treatment program in the State Hospital.
"You could see more (registered sex offenders) in Jamestown because more landlords are willing to rent to registered offenders," said Eric Hassebrock, sex offender specialist and probation officer for the North Dakota Department of Corrections of Rehabilitation in Jamestown. "If they don't tell the landlord, it would become known when the press release comes out. It is in their best interest to be up front with jobs and landlords."
Monitoring the population
The JPD has a more strenuous protocol for tracking registered sex offenders than required under state law, according to Lt. John Gletne, JPD officer assigned to manage the sex offender monitoring system.
"We have a system we think is working," he said. "We have officers assigned to make contact (with each registered sex offender) every month."
North Dakota law requires registered sex offenders make contact with the law enforcement agency where they live just once each year if they are not on probation. They are also required to make contact if they move to a new apartment or home, change jobs, change phone numbers or even change an email address.
Sex offenders who are on court-ordered parole or probation also deal with parole officers of the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Hassebrock said.
"Initially, it defaults to the maximum level which is an absolute minimum of one (visit) time per month," he said. "We also are in contact with their therapists, employers and others they are in contact with."
If the probation officer determines there might be a problem, daily reporting by the sex offender can be required. In addition, sex offenders are on GPS monitoring for at least the first year of probation, Hassebrock said. That can be extended if the probation officer determines there is a potential for problems.
Parole and probation officers also monitor any requirements included as part of the sex offender's sentence from the court. This can include following through with treatment, avoiding areas like parks, schools or the Two Rivers Activity Center where children gather and avoiding alcohol or sexually stimulating materials.
Hassebrock said the bulk of the problems he encounters with sex offenders on parole or probation are technical in nature and include things like not checking in or registering or notifying his office if they move or take a new job.
"Very few revocations are sex related," he said, referring to the number of sex offenders who have had their probation revoked. "It is not uncommon to see revocations on other issues."
Keeping the public informed
The public is notified through news releases whenever a high risk sex offender moves to Jamestown or relocates within the city. Other information about offenders is available at the North Dakota attorney general's website and paper copies at the Police Department.
Sex offenders check in so often at the Stutsman County Law Enforcement Center that a special room was added off the main lobby during a recent remodeling for those meetings. This allows officers to meet with registered sex offenders without taking them into the office area, saving time and keeping the area more secure.
"Because we are insistent on doing this, we have less problems," Gletne said, referring to the additional meetings. "They have the same freedoms as anybody else but they have to register and keep us informed."
Registered sex offenders are also eligible for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, or any other welfare program if they qualify under normal guidelines.
Gletne said few of the registered sex offenders reoffend and most problems reported are non-sexual infractions.
"The majority just want to get on with their lives," he said.
Who they are
Of the 86 registered sex offenders in Jamestown, 35 are high risk and are required to register for life as sex offenders, Gletne said. Of the rest, 22 are moderate offenders required to register for 25 years and 22 are low risk offenders who are registered for 15 years. There are seven sex offenders residing in Jamestown who have not been assigned a risk level yet by the North Dakota attorney general's office, Gletne said. Any offender with multiple sex related crimes is classified as a high risk offender.
The period of time a person is a registered sex offender often extends beyond the time he or she is in jail or prison or monitored by parole officers from the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Gletne said some, but not all, of the registered sex offenders living in Jamestown have been released from the State Hospital Sexual Offender Treatment Program. Others have been listed as a sex offender as a component of their court sentence. The North Dakota Risk Level Committee at the attorney general's office assigns the level of risk to each individual.
A review of the attorney general's listing for registered sex offenders residing in Jamestown shows about 70% committed the most recent crime listed in their history outside Stutsman County.
"That doesn't surprise me because of our location," Edinger said. "We have the prison, the State Hospital Sex Offender unit, the Human Service Center. A lot of them end up here. The Department of Corrections even has a parole officer that specializes in sex offenders here."
According to the North Dakota attorney general's website, the Department of Corrections has nine probation officers that specialize in working with sex offenders around the state.
Gletne said the registered sex offenders work in a variety of jobs including construction, agriculture and fast food in Jamestown. They have more problems finding housing than jobs, he said.
Gletne said the number of registered sex offenders residing in Jamestown "grows by a few each year."
Edinger said the process the Police Department uses to monitor sex offenders is working in Jamestown.
"I don't think we'd change anything," he said. "It takes a lot of time, but we've had very few incidents."
The State Hospital connection
There were 41 people committed to the Sexual Offender Treatment Program at the North Dakota State Hospital as of 2018, according to reports provided by the State Hospital.
That is down from a peak of 65 in 2012.
Individuals committed to the treatment program receive "psychosocial rehabilitation focusing on reducing risk for sexual reoffending and improving daily living skills," according to Rosalie Etherington, superintendent of the State Hospital, in an email response to a request for information.
"As an individual shows improved behavior, they progress through increasing privileges and expectations on the campus with gradual steps toward community outings," Etherington said. "If the individuals continue to show progress, they transition from the hospital setting into a home setting on the grounds (of the State Hospital) to further improve their skills and self-management."
Registered sex offenders residing at the transitional homes on the grounds of the North Dakota State Hospital are subject to monitoring by the Jamestown Police Deapartment, Gletne said. Individuals at the transitional housing at the State Hospital are on GPS monitoring and must follow all rules put in place by the State Hospital.
Determinations to commit an individual, or release an individual from commitment to the Sexual Offender Treatment Program, are made by the courts based on assessments by expert examiners including one assigned for the committed person.