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No Halloween for Sex Offenders

Wisconson- Thousands of sex offenders in Wisconsin will not to be allowed to answer their door during trick-or-treat this Halloween weekend, according to special set of rules imposed by the state Department of Corrections for a holiday geared toward children, officials said Thursday.While corrections officials touted the move as protecting children, a criminal justice expert said it was a “public relations” move that would protect against an almost non-existent threat. All of the 6,381 people convicted of any kind of sex crime who are still on probation or parole have been warned of the special rules, which also prohibit the convicts from attending any Halloween activities where children would be present, said Grace Roberts, supervisor of the state’s sex offender registry. Some 1,150 of those offenders live in Milwaukee County, she said.

Wisconsin has put restrictions on sex offenders on Halloween for at least 10 years, but they have not been publicized before, Roberts said.

Wisconsin isn’t alone in applying special rules to sex offenders at Halloween.

For the first time this year, New Jersey sex offenders must stay indoors during trick-or-treating and cannot answer the door, according to the Associated Press. In New York and California, parole agents and police officers do special monitoring of sex offenders on Halloween, according to the AP.

Roberts conceded that the Halloween rules are redundant for many Wisconsin sex offenders, who already are prohibited from any unsupervised contact with anyone under 18.

“But on Halloween you take down certain boundaries and allow children to go to houses where they do not know occupants and ask them for candy,” she said. “This is just an extra layer so offenders know their responsibility to the community and do not violate their rules.”

Wisconsin’s sexual predator law grew out of the case of Gerald Turner, now 56, the so-called “Halloween killer.”

In 1975, Turner was sentenced to 38 1/2 years in prison for sexually assaulting and killing Lisa French, 9, of Fond du Lac, after she knocked on his door while trick-or-treating in 1973. Turner reached his mandatory release date in 1992. In 2003, Turner was sent back to prison for 15 ½ years for violating parole.

Because of Turner, many Wisconsin communities hold trick-or-treating during daylight hours.

Stan Stojkovic, dean of the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said such cases of assault by a stranger are rare. Children are more often victimized by family members, he said.

“This is one day, a couple hours. Its impact on sex offenses will be minimal at best. It is more a public relations thing. At one level, that is OK, depending on what their purpose is. Will it make children safer? No,” he said.

Stojkovic served as chairman of a committee charged with recommending sites for a group home for sexually violent offenders in Milwaukee County. The committee offered no recommended locations after meeting stiff opposition when the sites were made public.

Besides the Halloween restrictions, the state has taken other steps recently to more closely monitor sex offenders.

Last month, Gov. Jim Doyle announced that Wisconsin was becoming the latest state to mandate satellite monitoring of its most dangerous sex offenders. The state will spend $500,000 to monitor about 200 offenders, including certain child molesters and those found by the courts to be sexually violent.

The initiative also calls for exact addresses to be available on the state registry ( www.widocoffenders.org) beginning Dec. 1, and a crackdown on those who fail to register their addresses with authorities.

The Department of Corrections has created a toll-free tip line and e-mail address for reporting on the whereabouts of sex offenders or suspicious activity by them. (877-234-0085 or [email protected]). Officials said people can call that number over the weekend to report violations.

 

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