Sex offenders allowed to live near campus in highly-supervised residence complex

Jaycee Kalama, News Contributor

Last term, the Benton County Sheriff’s department tweeted an alert about a registered sex offender living on Monroe Avenue, just outside the Oregon State University campus, causing some concern in the OSU community, but the tweet did not tell the full story.  

There is a Benton County Transition Center on Monroe Avenue a few blocks from campus, which sometimes houses recently-released sex offenders. This complex is supervised by the Benton County Adult Parole and Probation Unit. Additionally, when sex offenders are released from jail, the Oregon State Police notifies OSU, which is then able to remain vigilant.

Approximately 70 percent of all sexual assaults involve people known to one another, according to RAINN. 

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“Yet, we know that our community is also sensitive to the presence in the community of anyone convicted of a criminal offense, including sexual offenses,” said Steve Clark, vice president of University Relations and Marketing.

OSU works to keep the public safe, but is limited in its powers when it comes to sex offenders dwelling near the school.

“As part of its safety efforts, the university receives reports of registered sex offenders from the  Oregon State Police (…),” said Chief of Public Safety Suzy Tannenbaum, via email. “It is important to know that the authority of the university is limited to property owned by the university.”

Although it is out of the university’s hands when it comes to sex offenders off campus, the school does have ways of connecting with the state of Oregon and Benton County to ensure OSU students and staff are safe. 

Many practices and procedures are used within Oregon as it regards registered sex offenders. For example, the state of Oregon operates a system that requires convicted sex offenders residing in the state of Oregon to register with the state. As part of its safety efforts, the university receives reports of registered sex offenders from the Oregon State Police.

The Parole and Probation Division of the Sheriff’s Office run Community Corrections. They are responsible for supervising adult offenders on parole, probation and post-prison supervision residing in Benton County.

Captain Justin Carley, division commander of Adult Parole and Probation said, “In Benton county, we have 450 people on supervision, not all sex offenders. More specifically, we have a sex offender supervision program. A parole and probation officer is specially trained with sex offender supervision to oversee our sex offender supervision program.” 

When individuals are placed under the supervision of the Benton County Police Department, that supervision can either be under probation or post-prison supervision. If it is under post-prison supervision, the offender has been sentenced to prison and they are later released to the Benton County community.

Probation, which is sentenced in court, is imposed when the crime committed does not equate to a prison sentence. When somebody is placed on supervision, whether it be probation or post-prison supervision, the Benton County Parole and Probation division conducts a risk assessment to develop the offender’s case plan. The results of the risk assessment gives them a statistical probability that the offender would likely commit a new sex offense or engage in some sort of at-risk sexual behavior in the community.

Abraham Griswold, sergeant and supervisor of the Sex Offender Supervision program said, “We use the results of the risk assessment to influence our level of intensity in terms of supervision and treatment for that individual in order to manage them in the community.”

When an offender is released to Benton County, the Benton County Parole and Probation verifies and investigates their proposed release plan. When that person is in an institution, they are going to propose a list of streets to live on and with whom when they get out, this is their proposed release plan. A part of that investigation is to verify and either approve or deny that proposed plan. This means that the Benton County Sheriff’s Department has a say in where a registered sex offender can and cannot live. 

There are many precautions taken to ensure that, no matter where an offender lives, the community around them and the offender themselves are safe. 

In terms of community notification, there are three different levels. Level three is the most significant, meaning that the community will be notified through social media, the news paper and door-to-door notification. The level of notification is influenced on where the individual is going to be living and is also dependent on the offender’s case and target population. 

“When we do that notification, we notify any schools in proximity to the offender’s living situation, that way the administrators can let us know if that individual is frequenting the area on or around campus,” said Griswold. 

Carley noted that partnerships with OSU and other law enforcements organizations are important to his group.

 “One of the practices we have is to communicate with local law enforcement and that includes folks on the Oregon State campus,” Carley said. 

Whether on or off the Oregon State campus, the OSU Department of Public Safety and the Benton County Parole and Probation division are both working with the aim of keeping everybody in the Corvallis

This article has been updated to include the correct street name on which the Benton County Transition Center resides.