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Vt. Corrections Changes Sex Offender Policies - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. Corrections Changes Sex Offender Policies

Brooke Bennett Brooke Bennett
Michael Jacques Michael Jacques
Rob Hofmann Rob Hofmann

Waterbury, Vermont - July 16, 2008

"This tragedy is so profound and offensive that we all have to step back and see what we could do to make our communities safer," says Vermont Corrections Commissioner Rob Hofmann.

Hofmann unveiled changes Wednesday that he hopes will prevent a tragedy like this one case from happening again. Brooke Bennett's uncle, Michael Jacques, was released from probation seven years early for raping and kidnapping a Rutland teen in 1992.

Hofmann wants to change the system-- requiring more corrections officials to weigh in on the decision to release violent sex offenders into society.

"Are there certain crimes that are so severe that it requires us to have a higher level manager, perhaps the head of probation and parole, review those most severe cases?" asks Hofmann.

Among other changes being outlined by the Corrections Commissioner-- a change in sex offender supervision. Sex offenders are currently supervised based on the geographic area they live in. Hofmann wants to change the system so that sex offenders are supervised only by parole officers that specialize in sex offender surveillance, which he acknowledges is a challenge in the state's most rural communities.

"Sex offenders are very cunning, very manipulative, very secretive, and having staff that specialize in that would probably improve our chances of cutting through the lies, deception, and secrecy," says Hofmann.

The majority of convicted sex offenders are not incarcerated, especially lower level offenders.

Many prosecutors that deal with sex offender cases would like to see that change, but Hofmann says that may be unrealistic given the constraints the corrections system is facing-- specifically budget and space issues.

Hofmann says it's up to the community to help rehabilitate many of these offenders.

"It's educators, people who work in youth groups, families, it's law enforcement. It's corrections," says Hofmann.

Hofmann also says he's also actually pushing for less supervision of non-violent sex offenders that are just being released from prison. He says he'd rather divert more resources to supervising people like Michael Jacques-- sex offenders who have been convicted of high-end crimes like aggravated sexual assault.

Hofmann said the judge did not order a pre-sentencing investigation in the Jacques case.

Keagan Harsha - WCAX News

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