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Washington State Institute for Public Policy
July 2013
The 2011 Washington State Legislature passed two laws concerning innovative schools. The first recognized public schools that are “bold, creative, and innovative.” A second law sought to expand the number of innovative schools by allowing flexibility in state statutes and rules. At present, there are 34 designated schools and innovation “zones.”

For this study, we statistically analyzed school performance; conducted systematic literature reviews; and visited most designated schools. We learned that the designated innovative schools are extremely varied in their missions, student populations, strategies, and outcomes.
January 2013
Washington State law provides for indefinite civil commitment of persons found to meet criteria as sexually violent predators (SVPs). The Special Commitment Center (SCC) on McNeil Island houses persons who are detained and/or committed as SVPs. The Institute was directed to study several aspects of SCC. Major findings include:

Releases: As of CY 2012, 86 residents have been released from SCC.

Treatment: 37% of residents actively participate in sex offense treatment.

Annual Reviews: A survey of legal practitioners revealed concerns about the timeliness of reviews, with mixed reports regarding the quality.

Senior Clinical Team: SCC’s group of senior clinicians and managers plays a key role in residents’ treatment progression and decision-making regarding readiness for a less restrictive alternative. Some practitioners in the legal community expressed confusion and/or concern about the team’s role.

Less Restrictive Alternatives: Confinement at the state’s Secure Community Transition facilities costs significantly more than confinement at the main facility.

The report includes a response from the Special Commitment Center.

Revised on 1/28/2013 to modify Exhibits 1 and 17.
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June 2011
Published as:

Lieb, R., Kemshall, H., & Thomas, T. (2011). Post-release controls for sex offenders in the U.S. and UK. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 34, 226-232. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2011.04.006

In recent years, both the United States and United Kingdom have developed numerous innovations in legal efforts to protect society from sex offenders. Each country has adopted special provisions for sex offenders. In particular, governments have focused on forms of social control after release from incarceration and probation. These policy innovations for this category of offenders have been more far reaching than those for any other offender population. The two jurisdictions have adopted policies with similar goals, but the selected strategies have important differences. Generally speaking, the U.S. has favored an ever-expanding set of policies that place sex offenders into broad categories, with few opportunities that distinguish the appropriate responses for individual offenders. The UK government observed the proliferation of Megan’s Laws in the U.S., and deliberately chose to establish carefully controlled releases of information, primarily relying on governmental agencies to work in multi-disciplinary groups and make case-specific decisions about individual offenders. Although the UK policy leaders expressed significant concern that the public’s response to knowing about identified sex offenders living in the community would result in vigilantism, to date the results have not born out this fear. Both governments have turned to other crime control measures such as polygraphy testing, electronic monitoring, and civil protection orders as a means to prevent further sexual violence.
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May 2011
In response to a 2010 legislative direction, the Institute and DSHS are investigating options regarding the use of mental health assessment tools for two DSHS reports to the courts:

- Competency to stand trial assessments of criminal defendants whose competency is in question, and

- The Secretary’s recommendations to the courts concerning the potential conditional release of criminally insane patients from inpatient treatment.

This document summarizes results of an October 2010 survey of state forensic evaluators concerning their use of assessment instruments. Thirty-one (of the 35) mental health experts who conduct forensic evaluations for the three state psychiatric hospitals (Western State, Eastern State, and Child Study and Treatment Center) responded to the online survey; this represents an 89 percent response rate.

We present three options for assessment strategies and instruments, with advantages and disadvantages of each option. A detailed comparison of instruments is included.
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January 2010
The 2009 Legislature directed the Institute to “evaluate the adequacy of and access to financial aid and independent living programs for youth in foster care. The examination shall include opportunities to improve efficiencies within these programs.” In the past decade, the number of programs focused on Washington foster youth transitioning to adulthood has grown from three to 15. We estimate that 3,365 youth accessed one or more of these programs in 2009—roughly 60 percent of those eligible for the state’s Independent Living program (for foster youth ages 15 to 21). In this report, we review the research evidence on Independent Living programs.

In Fiscal Year 2009, approximately $3,300 per youth was spent on foster youth transition programs. Over $11 million in total was spent on these programs; the state spent close to $5 million. Almost half the state funding went toward housing programs, over a quarter toward college preparation and student financial aid, nearly a fifth toward health insurance, and 5 percent toward helping youth finish high school.

In Washington, 34 percent of students in foster care graduate on-time from high school, compared with 71 percent of their non-foster peers. We recommend the legislature consider reallocating funding to help more foster youth finish high school. The 2009 legislation (HB 2106) directing performance contracts for child welfare services offers an opportunity to consolidate foster youth transition services into the smallest number of contracts and emphasize key outcome measures.
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December 2009
This paper examines existing public and private programs that provide personal hygiene and cleaning supplies to low-income populations.

Based on interviews with knowledgeable people, three principal options are identified if the legislature chooses to increase access and availability. A hybrid approach is possible, as the options are not mutually exclusive: 1) Establish a benefit card or voucher program for personal hygiene and cleaning supplies; 2) Allocate additional support services’ funds to cover personal hygiene and cleaning products for recipients of TANF; and 3) Use existing governmental purchasing contracts to allow more community organizations to purchase products at lower negotiated prices.
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June 2009
The Washington State Institute for Public Policy conducts non-partisan policy research for the state of Washington. Originally conceived in 1982, the organization’s governance structure and operating practices have evolved over time. This paper reviews the history of the Institute’s structure and mission.
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June 2008
This paper reviews policies and practices regarding assessment of sex offenders for risk of reoffense among public agencies and private treatment providers in Washington State. Specifically, we reviewed the use of risk assessment instruments, which gauge the likelihood that individual sex offenders will reoffend.

We found that a diverse set of instruments are employed by public and private entities in making decisions about sex offenders. These decisions include sentencing, facility assignment, treatment, release, public notification, and community supervision. As expected, there was greater variability in risk assessment practices among private treatment providers than public agencies.
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March 2008
The 1990 Legislature directed the Institute to evaluate the effectiveness of the Community Protection Act. As part of this evaluation, the Institute contracted in 1997 with the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC) at Washington State University to conduct telephone interviews with a sample of Washington State residents regarding the community notification provisions of the Community Protection Act.

In 2007, the Institute again contracted with SESRC to conduct a nearly identical survey and learn how responses may have changed. The results from both surveys indicate that the vast majority of Washington State residents are familiar with Washington’s community notification law and consider the law very important.
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October 2007
Nine states have statutes that authorize the confinement and treatment of highly dangerous sex offenders following completion of their criminal sentence: Arizona, California, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin. These laws are commonly referred to as “sexual predator” laws. Other statutes authorize commitment and treatment for sex offenders as an alternative to sentencing. This paper reviews the four principle categories of civil commitment laws for dangerous sex offenders. Summaries of individual state statutes are also included.
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