Thursday, January 21, 2010

OH: Harassing Elderly Sex Offenders in Nursing Homes

Columbus Dispatch: Bill shuts sex-offender notification loophole at nursing homes.

A loophole that allows more than 100 registered sex offenders to live in Ohio nursing homes without other residents and their families knowing about their offenses could be closed with state legislation unveiled yesterday.

Senate Bill 130, sponsored by state Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, would require nursing-home administrators to notify residents, family members and guardians when a Tier III sex offender -- the most serious level of offense -- intends to move to the facility. The hearing yesterday was the first on the bill.

Current law requires the notification of anybody living within 1,000 feet of a sex offender. However, the law does not require nursing-home administrators to inform residents, family or guardians.

Facilities that don't comply could be fined $100 a day per violation. Proceeds from fines would be used for adult protective services, Cafaro said.

A Dispatch computer analysis last year comparing state records of long-term-care facilities with the existing notification list found that 110 nursing-home residents and six employees were registered sex offenders. Ohio's number of offenders in nursing facilities nearly tripled in the past five years, according to Perfect Cause, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit group.

Nearly two-thirds of the offenders in nursing homes are Tier III cases, The Dispatch found. The category includes rape, sexual battery, kidnapping a minor and gross sexual imposition on a child younger than 12.

Beverley L. Laubert, the state's long-term-care ombudsman, urged state lawmakers to pass a law closing the loophole in a report released late last year.

Some argue that notification is unfair and would create unnecessary fear. Attorney General Richard Cordray supports the change, but Sen. Timothy J. Grendell, R-Chesterland, chairman of the committee in which Cafaro's bill is being heard, is skeptical. He said previously that nursing-home residents and their families can "check for themselves" to see whether an offender resides in the facility.

We urge Ohio readers to contact the above highlighted officials and their own representatives to chastise them for harassing elderly people in nursing homes:

"Re: Senate Bill 130
Stop harassing those elderly residents who have a sex offense in their history. It is more than enough to harass young and able citizens who have made such a mistakes sometime in their lives, but to carry on this harassment into a nursing home, where they live their last days, is shameful. Remember, someday you may wake to find out someone you love just became a sex offender."