A proposal by the Kansas Department of Aging and Disabled Services (KDADs) to locate a halfway house for sexual predators in Dighton is drawing strong opposition.
Hundreds of residents attended a town hall meeting held by the state Tuesday night to voice their opposition to the project. The proposed reintegration facility would house up to 16 convicted sexual predators that have served their sentences, undergone rigorous therapy, and shown good behavior. Similar facilities already exist in Osawatamie, Parsons, and Larned.
Officials from the KDADS addressed the residents’ concerns.
At one point a man at the meeting shouted out, “We don’t want you!”
Dr. Mike Dixon, who oversees all of the state’s sexual predator reintegration facilities, responded to the man, saying, “I think that’s really clear. We’re not here to force this on you.”
Citizens raised concerns about the dangers of locating such a facility in the town of about 1,000. Many said they chose to live in Dighton because it is such a safe community.
When a man questioned the proposed site’s proximity to a baseball field where kids play, Dixon said a fence would be built to block the line-of-sight between the facility and the field.
“If at any time the individual was staring at that ball diamond or not avoiding it, we would take them back to Larned,” said Dixon, referring to the inpatient facility where most sexual predators are held. “We have a zero tolerance policy as far as when we pull someone back.”
Citizens also questioned the logic of placing the facility, which will require 20 full-time employees, in a town that already struggles to recruit and keep health professionals. Dighton was originally suggested as a site because KDADs owns a vacant residential building there.
Previously, the building was used as the Diamond View Estates assisted-living home, which had been given a loan by the State of Kansas to construct the facility in 2002. The operating body stopped paying the loan last year, leaving the building to the state, which is now looking for a way to use the facility.
Ultimately, Timothy Keck, the Secretary of KDADS, will decide where to locate the reintegration facility and what should be done with the unused building in Dighton.
“We’re here to answer your questions about it and take back information to the secretary of a different purpose for this facility,” Dixon said.
KDADS says the sexual predator reintegration program is outgrowing existing facilities, and a new facility is already on the state budget, so a facility will need to be opened somewhere in the state by Jan. 1, 2019.
This article has been updated to correct an error made about the loans the Diamond View Estates assisted-living home received from the state.