Proposal would ban offenders at Lakeland
The county-run facility is home to 119 residents.
Administrator Bernadette Janiszewski brought her concerns about registered sex offenders to the board and asked if they would support a ban. The board voted unanimously for the corporation counsel's office to draft an ordinance that the board could acted on as soon as December.
Janiszewski said earlier that the ban would protect the safety of residents and rehabilitating patients.
Board members asked if there's been a problem with sex offenders applying for residence at Lakeland.
Janiszewski said there had not been a problem, but she's concerned about offenders trying to get into the home in the future.
The measure would allow the center to do criminal background checks on applicants. Free sexual offender registries on the Internet sometimes miss offenders. Criminal background checks provide a safeguard against one slipping through, she said.
The cost of $10 for each background check would be paid by the county, she said. Figures for average monthly admissions were not immediately available, although center records reported 21 admissions in October.
The ban would affect admission for residents and patients seeking rehabilitation.
Walworth County Board Chairwoman Nancy Russell asked if the ban could expand to include those convicted of theft and assault.
Russell said her mother-in-law, who was a Lakeland resident, had items stolen from her room.
Corporation Counsel David Bretl told Russell that expanding the ban to include other criminals could create "an extraordinary slippery slope if going beyond registered sex offenders."
The vagueness and extenuating circumstances usually affiliated with theft and assault convictions would make it difficult for Lakeland administrators to determine who should be banned.
Banning only registered sex offenders would be simpler, the board agreed.
Last summer, Janiszewski saw in a newsletter from the Wisconsin Association of Homes and Services for the Aging an article that raised the sex offender issue.
The corporation counsel advised that a denial policy is allowable because registered sex offenders are not a protected class under the fair housing laws.
The following statement would be added to the center's admission agreement:
"It is the philosophy of Lakeland Health Care Center that all who enter and reside within the facility will feel at no risk being cared for by, or having contact with, any person who is a registered sex offender. Therefore, Lakeland Health Care Center shall deny admission to registered sex offenders. Walworth County shall conduct criminal background checks on each applicant prior to admission."