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Sex offender supervision unit ending in WV


The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s intensive supervision office, which employs dozens of officers who have spent nearly a decade herding hundreds of sex offenders, will end in September.

The termination of the ISO program comes after a June 26 order signed by West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Justice Allen Loughry, which calls for “consolidation and reformulation” of the state’s probation office.

In 2003, the West Virginia Legislature passed a bill allowing – but not requiring – up to 50 years of supervised release for certain sex offenders. Through the Child Protection Act of 2006, extended supervision became mandatory for anyone convicted of a sex crime. In very special and rare cases, a lifetime supervised release is possible. The ISO was then created in 2008.

In the years since its implementation, the Intensive Supervision Unit had grown to 39 specially assigned officers whose only duty is to supervise offenders convicted of sex crimes and serious child-abuse offenses. More than 650 sex offenders living in the state had been overseen throughout the state.

Now the program will consolidate with local probation officers in a move Loughry believes will help officers better communicate with and supervise offenders.

“The program’s centralized, rather than local, administration means in many cases that the court’s ISO probation officers are not afforded the local knowledge and wisdom of the circuit judges and chief probation officers in the communities where the offenders reside,” Loughry wrote.

According to the administrative order, a decrease from 14,000 to 10,000 total supervised individuals, a one-third decrease from 2013 to 2017, led to the program’s end.

In area counties, Kanawha County has the most under intensive supervision with 75 offenders. Raleigh County has 38, Cabell 28, Logan and Wayne 14, Lincoln and Mingo 13, Putnam County 10, Wyoming six, Boone five and McDowell four.

Since the 2006 implementation of intensive supervision, offenders must follow the standard conditions of regular probation by reporting to the officers regularly and following any additional rules imposed. One rule the law stipulates is offenders are required to participate in offender treatment programs during their supervision.

If offenders show exemplary behavior while on supervision, they can be released from the requirements in as little as two years by the court that sentenced them.

If an offender demonstrates poor behavior, his or her supervision can be revoked and the offender can be required to serve all or part of the supervised release in prison without credit for time served under supervision.

The order said the reorganization would provide more effective and intensive supervision of offenders, while reducing individual probation officer caseloads in counties where non-specialized probation officers are overloaded. It was also ordered the offenders not see a reduction in the level of supervision applied to any sex offender.

Intensive supervision officers have worked out of their vehicles and throughout multi-judicial areas.

The order also allows for the hiring of eight new probation officers in areas with a high number of offenders to better help with the caseload. Boone County will add two new probation officers and Wayne County one. According to April Harless, deputy public information officer for the state Supreme Court, five of those positions so far have been filled by the ISO officers.

Harless declined to release a quote from the probation department on the matter.

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