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Sex Offenders Living In Nursing Homes

by Matthew T. Clarke

A recent study revealed that hundreds of sex offenders live in state-regulated nursing homes nationwide.

An Oklahoma-based advocacy group, A Perfect Cause, performed a computer search of the nation's sex-offender registries and cross-matched it with the addresses of the nation's state-regulated nursing homes. This revealed that 380 sex offenders live in 289 state-regulated nursing homes in 32 states. Five states had no sex offenders in nursing homes and the records in thirteen states could not be checked. The study found 70 registered sex offenders in Texas state-regulated nursing homes, 144 of them in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Although state and local officials were surprised at the results of the study, they were unable to say how much of a threat the sex offenders were to other nursing home residents. If the number of new crimes committed is any measure, they are little threat indeed. No new offenses by sex offenders living in Texas nursing homes have been reported. Although there were recent re-offenses in New York and Minnesota, such crimes are very rare nationwide.

Sex offenders end up in nursing homes the same way other residents do: they get old and/or infirm. Most nursing home residents rely on Medicaid coverage; so do the sex offenders among them. According to Jason Cupps, administrator at the Carrollton, Texas, Kirby Manor, nursing homes are required to accept qualified Medicaid patients. This means that nursing homes will have people with criminal backgrounds as residents just as people with criminal backgrounds reside in society in general.

Those people get sick and get old need help, too," said Cupps. It puts the facilities in a kind of a quandary. We can't turn those people down.

Texas sex offenders who are on parole or probation must get permission from their parole or probation officers to move into a nursing home. They remain under supervision there.

Those individuals have to live somewhere," said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Mike Viesca. If someone on supervision is placed in a nursing home, I would think the parole officer would work with the staff at the facility and make whatever accommodations needed to be made so that person would be supervised and would not be a safety concern to other residents.

Noting that offenders haven't been accused of any crimes in Texas nursing homes, Viesca said, That's not to say we need to wait for that to happen, but I think our parole staff would be vigilant and make sure they're supervising people correctly.

Nursing homes do not notify residents or their families about sex offenders living there. The reason, as noted by the Texas Department of Human Services spokeswoman Rosemary Patterson, is the high privacy standards for health care that are enforced by state and federal laws.

We're not allowed to release anyone's personal information to other residents or families, which would include any criminal background," according to Cupps. State and federal regulations say our residents have a right to privacy about their history or health issues. The question is at what point that right ceases versus the right of others who may be in danger.

Tela Mange, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety disagrees. She noted that, while there may not be a law requiring nursing homes to divulge whether registered sex offenders reside there, there are no privacy laws forbidding it either.

Sex offender registration is public even for juveniles and little old men and little old women," said Mange. There's not any privacy right to that.

Ms. Patterson maintains her position, noting that the standard of privacy in health care is higher than the standard of privacy in law enforcement.

Mostly, the nursing home residents depend upon the staff and administration to protect them from dangerous individuals, whether they are registered sex offenders or not. This is sufficient, according to Preferred Care Vice President Gary Anderson. Anyone who was dangerous would not be accepted as a resident. If a resident proved to pose a danger, he or she would be immediately discharged, according to Anderson. When asked about two registered sex offenders living at two different Preferred Care nursing homes, Anderson noted that both were disabled, requiring daily medical care and that the staff was aware of their status as registered sex offenders.

If we thought there was a potential risk, we certainly wouldn't take a person with this on their record," said Anderson.

Darrold Feller, one of the registered sex offenders living at a nursing home, was convicted of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in 1991, noted that the staff has always been aware of his history and that one other resident yelled insults about it at him.

My God, the thing happened a long time ago, and I'll be paying for it for the rest of my life," said Feeler. I'm not going to be a threat.

Source: Dallas Morning News.

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