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Sex Offenders in Bohl Investigation Were Carefully Monitored
Placements of men committed under Chapter 980 often erupt in controversy.

The two sex offenders Ald. Jim Bohl sought to keep out of his district on the city's northwest side would have been among the most dangerous classified by state officials, judging by the Journal Sentinel's story on the alderman's potentially criminal struggle. The story says the two offenders were to be placed in the home under the state's Chapter 980 law, which governs men (or women, but all, since the law's enactment in 1994, have been men) committed as "sexually violent persons." This means a court would have, at some point, found the men more likely than not to re-offend – and the state departments of Corrections and Health Services, after treating the men at a high-security facility in Mauston, Wis., would have then found them less likely than not to re-offend, making the men eligible for supervised release.

This is the state's preferred mode of dealing with these men, who are not being held on criminal sentences any longer but as civil commitments. They're essentially psychiatric patients being held against their will by the state, and to meet constitutional requirements, the state has had to provide an avenue for regaining freedom. Because these sex offenders are generally those with the sort of criminal histories that inspire fear (see the case of Michael W. Fink, as we covered in the November issue), placements are frequently controversial, willing landlords are difficult to find, and the state often ends up shelling out a premium for housing that fits within a patchwork of local laws. The offenders must also be supervised closely and escorted on any trips outside of their homes, and this adds even more costs.

The investigation led by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm's office is reportedly looking into whether Bohl improperly used housing code violations as leverage in his fight against the landlord working with the state, Jeff Stockinger. The theory is that Bohl promised to make the violations go away if Stockinger backed out of his agreement to house the two Sexually Violent Persons.

A statement from Bohl's lawyer in the case, Michael Maistelman, told the JS "it is disappointing to see these allegations made public before a full examination of the facts was completed" and that Bohl was cooperating with investigators.

Bohl is known around City Hall for his sometimes-unvarnished style and taking a strong hand in chairing the Licenses Committee for many years, one of the more demanding posts in city government. Its hearings can run into the wee hours of the morning, and decisions are sometimes challenged in circuit court by dissatisfied business owners. (Ald. Tony Zielinski now chairs the committee.) Bohl is also known for taking on unusual causes, including criticism of the practice of fluoridating city water.

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POSTED 1/12/2015