Public safety is the central purpose of the Community Protection Act of 1990, which established the Special Commitment Center (SCC) program. To provide for community safety protection, the SCC employs a variety of stringent public and security measures in both the total confinement facility and in secure community facilities.
SCC Institution Public Safety and Security
The SCC's total confinement facility located on McNeil Island is the newest and most advanced technological facility within the state and was designed to ensure public safety and security.
- Total confinement. It has a computerized electronic security system that provides a constant means of surveillance for all its units and other areas within the perimeter of the facility. This includes a tamper proof security panel and an electrical system that has been specifically designed for the operation of the facility's security procedures.
- Intensive staff training. In addition to this system, staff receives specific training designed to heighten the awareness of their responsibilities and assist them in the performance of their duties. This training is designed to increase the margin of safety and survival for all staff, visitors, and residents. The training programs provide staff with the means to protect others and self from harm as well as repelling danger or dangerous residents.
- Intensive staffing. Beyond the facility's standard staffing model, the SCC maintains an 80 plus member security team whose members provide around the clock security for the facility. These special team members receive advanced and progressive training in the most current security methods through certified instructors from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. To assist with security operations, this team is provided with the most modern equipment available to the law enforcement community.
SCTF Public Safety and Security Measures
State law requires each Secure Community Transition Facility (SCTF) to provide a high degree of security and staff supervision. The coordination and teamwork of the SCTF program staff, sex offender treatment provider, community corrections officer, and local law enforcement are essential to assuring community protection. Security measures include:
- Specific conditions set by the court. To protect the community when a person is conditionally released, the court of commitment orders clearly defined conditions that the person must follow. State law requires sex offender treatment providers and community corrections officers immediately to report violations of court-ordered conditions to the court. If the person is not arrested and detained by law enforcement, the person must be transferred to the SCC total confinement facility pending the outcome of a court hearing. At the hearing, the court determines if the person shall continue to be conditionally released on the same or modified conditions or whether to have the person returned to total confinement at the SCC.
- Escape is a Class A Felony. An escape while on conditional release is a Class A Felony with a minimum sentence of five years imprisonment. Escape includes unauthorized leave or absence from the facility, place of employment, educational institution, or authorized outing; tampering with or removing electronic monitoring devices; or escape from an escort.
- Intensive staffing. The law requires the SCTF to provide intensive staffing ratios. At the McNeil Island SCTF, with six or fewer residents, the facility must provide a ratio of one staff on duty per three residents during normal waking hours and one staff per four residents during normal sleeping hours. At the King County SCTF, with six or fewer residents, the facility must provide a ratio of one staff per resident during normal waking hours and two staff per three residents during normal sleeping hours. At both SCTF sites the minimum staffing cannot be less than two staff per housing unit.
- Close supervision and escorts. Unless a court orders otherwise each resident must be closely supervised (on a one-to-one basis) by a trained SCTF staff or court-authorized escort (such as the community corrections officer or sex offender treatment provider) whenever the resident leaves the SCTF premises for any purpose. The staff/escort must supervise the resident closely and remain with the resident in close proximity for the duration of the outing.
- Household security systems. Both SCTF locations incorporate state of the art security systems. The building designs enable staff to have clear sight-lines within the interior common living areas. The buildings are equipped with closed-circuit cameras which monitor living areas and facility grounds. Staff control access to and from the buildings through doors electronically secured using sally port methodology. The resident outdoor areas and the parking lot adjacent to the SCTF in King County building is electronically secured and controlled by staff. Generators and failsafe security systems in both facilities assure power will be uninterrupted in the event of an outage.
- Intensive staff training. Before working with residents, SCTF staff must meet specialized in-service training on a range of topics, to include departmental orientation, sex offender issues, emergency response procedures, self-defense, and crisis de-escalation skills. Each staff member is required to pass a thorough state and federal criminal background check and may not have a history of any felony convictions.
- Informed staff and escorts. Staff and escorts must be fully informed about each resident’s offense history and behavior patterns. Although staff and escorts do not carry guns, they must be equipped with cell and police radios.
- Advance planning of community trips. Residents are allowed to leave the facility premises only for specific purposes, as authorized by the court order, and only with prior approval of the resident’s transition team. The members of this team are the assigned community corrections officer, the sex offender treatment provider, and the SCTF manager. Reasons for leaving the facility may include treatment, employment interviews, employment, training, and other activities, such as visits with family or friends and commercial localities that are specifically approved by the transition team.
- Individual electronic monitoring devices. Unless a court orders otherwise each resident must wear an individual electronic monitoring device.
- Proximity of SCTF site to risk locations. When a property is considered for an SCTF, the law requires DSHS to consider and address many factors. The SCTF must not be sited “adjacent to, immediately across a street or parking lot from, or within the line of sight of a risk potential activity or facility in existence at the time a site is listed for consideration.” Risk potential activities and facilities are defined as public and private schools, school bus stops, licensed day care and licensed preschool facilities, public parks, publicly dedicated trails, sports fields, playgrounds, recreational and community centers, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and public libraries. The law defines “within line of sight” to mean that it is reasonably possible to visually distinguish and recognize individuals. The Department of Social and Health Services uses 600 feet as the maximum distance at which it is reasonably possible to visually distinguish and recognize another individual.
- Natural and man-made visual screens. The law also requires evaluating a site to include determining if barriers exist or can be installed to shield visibility between the SCTF and adjacent properties, if electronic monitoring services are available to the area, and if there is reasonable access to community services such as treatment, employment, vocational training, etc.