Thursday, April 29, 2010

Very Expensive Babysitting

I always chuckle when I hear people complain about the "exorbitant" amount the state spends on corrections. "It's more than we spend on education" they always like to say. I always like to ask "when was the last time a teacher tried to sell drugs to your kids--or a third grader tried to kill his girlfriend?"

I think the vast majority of us want our neighborhoods to be safe--and would consider whatever cost is necessary to be justified. We hear all the time about the number of people locked up for "minor" drug offenses and how much we could save by not sentencing such offenders to prison or jail time. But think of the message that sends to the other people living in those offenders' neighborhoods? "We think it's fine that these men and women bring drugs into your area--using or maybe selling in front of your kids or committing other petty crimes to get money to buy their drugs." To someone five or 500-miles away from such crimes they may seem minor--but when it's right next door--you want something done--and cost isn't so important.

And that is the bind the DOC finds itself in with the release of a high-risk sex offender in Eldorado this week. Dennis Thiel is such a risk to the community that he requires 24-hour supervision. He will not be allowed to take a single step out of his house without a state agent looking at him. If he gets a job, the agent will have to literally watch him work. If he goes out to get the mail, the agent will have to come to the property--watch Thiel go the mailbox--and then watch him walk back into the house. And I should mention the Department of Health Services is paying for Thiel's rent as well.

The DOC doesn't have an estimate on how much it will cost to provide this "babysitting service" for Thiel--but I'm guessing it will be considerably more than the 30-thousand dollars if he had been kept behind bars--where he would have had NO opportunity to molest another child. Thiel had been committed as a sexually violent person--but Fond du Lac County Judge Robert Wirtz ordered him released earlier this year. Fond du Lac County residents will certainly have a chance to weigh in on that decision the next time Wirtz runs for re-election--but in the meantime the people of Eldorado will have to hope that state agents are doing their jobs in keeping an eye on Thiel. And for them--the cost is absolutely no objection.

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