In a special report, Newsline 9 investigates how much the state is paying for sex offenders. Some sex offenders are housed long after they're free from prison. That costs the state almost half a million dollars every year. You're footing that bill.
Chances are you don't live here. But, you're paying for it. The state sex offender supervised release program is under the microscope.
"Citizens had pointed out there were places where they thought we could save money. So an audit was done," said republican State Senator Rob Cowles.
It turns out, hundreds of thousands of dollars could be saved.
Here's how it breaks down: Many sex offenders are released on their own after serving prison time. A handful are placed in rented homes across the state. Right now, the state pays $44,000 a month to rent 29 homes. There are three homes in central Wisconsin -- Rhinelander, Eagle River and Loyal.
Sex offenders can petition for release after two and a half years in the program. Documents show four of the 33 sex offenders in the program have lived in rented homes for more than five years. Doing the math, that costs roughly $116,000 each year for each offender. That includes rent, supervised trips like to the laundry mat, and transportation. There's no law saying that ever has to stop.
“This is tough,” said Cowles. “There's nothing that says they have to go.”
Cowles is on a state audit committee that looked into this. He says legislation allowing sex offenders to stay on your dime is a problem.
“We need to do some things to push them, push them along to restarting their lives,” said Cowles.
Why do sex offenders stay in the program longer than they have to? Newsline 9 spoke with the Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Kevin Moore by telephone. He says some offenders don't feel comfortable being released.
“We have the ability to continue to monitor these individuals and continue to provide them treatment and services,” said Moore.
He adds, “It's truly a matter of public safety.”
“If people want to allow for a more expedited path, others can maybe have that policy decision. But, the department is not looking at that in any way shape or form,” explained Moore.
After the audit, the committee handed the Department of Health Services ways to cut costs. Moore says the department has already started making changes.
“Something as simple as installing washers and dryers in these particular homes has saved us upwards of $40,000 there as well,” said Moore.
But some say more can be done.
“It's still money. It's still a lot of money and if there's ways to do something better, why not do it?" said Cowles.
That's why a public hearing will be scheduled for this fall.
"We have to keep them accountable,” added Cowles.
Until then though, taxpayers will continue paying for sex offenders.
There's so much more in the state audit report. It goes into detail about how much workers are paid, how many social trips sex offenders take and cost of transportation. To view it click HERE.