Governor Branstad is introducing a bill, on the first day of the new legislative session, that would require residential care facilities in the state to issue notifications when an individual who’s on the sex offender registry becomes a resident of the facility.
“The bill will also require a written safety plan to be in place in a facility where a registered sex offender has been placed,” Branstad said. “The safety plan must address the facility’s plan to handle an offender and maintain the safety of the residents, staff, visitors and the community.”
The proposed legislation is in direct response to an incident at a nursing home in Pomeroy last August. An 83-year-old man, a convicted sex offender who suffers from dementia, was caught assaulting a 95-year-old woman in the facility.
A judge had ordered the man be placed in the nursing home after he was released from the Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Predators in Cherokee last year. “So we’re trying to carefully balance the rights that (convicted sex offenders) have with protecting the safety and well-being of the citizens of the community and especially those who are residents in these facilities – many of whom are elderly and are the most vulnerable,” Branstad said.
The governor convened a working group to review state laws related to convicted sex offenders placed in care facilities shortly after the incident in Pomeroy. He talked about the bill today with reporters at the statehouse. “We anticipate, because of the interest on the part of the public in protecting the safety of the citizens of our state, this is something that hopefully can be approved through the legislative process and be put on a fast track,” Branstad said.
The Iowa Department of Human Services estimates 55 registered sex offenders currently live in Iowa care facilities. Branstad said he believes some facilities may choose to set aside a “section or wing” focused on registered sex offenders.
“I could see this, just as we have Alzheimer’s wings and other facilities that are kind of more specialized, we may see some facilities that will want to specialize more in this area,” Branstad said.
Branstad made his comments during his weekly news conference. Find the audio here.