Hot Topic: Nursing Homes for Sex Offenders & Violent Offenders

Closure of Clarinda site has some seeking special care for older adults who are sex offenders

2-15-15 Iowa:

William Cubbage was a convicted sex offender when he confessed to assaulting a 95-year-old fellow resident at a northwest Iowa nursing home.

Cubbage, now 86, lives at the Clarinda Mental Health Institute. The proposed closing of that facility has many wondering what will become of Cubbage and three other sex offenders housed there.

A state official said this week that they won’t be placed in nursing homes but that the state hasn’t determined what will be done with them.

Among those most concerned are Ken and Becky Rassler of Rembrandt, northeast of Sioux City. They say Becky’s mother, Mercedes Gottschalk, was the woman Cubbage assaulted at the Pomeroy Care Center in 2011. Gottschalk died in October 2012.

Cubbage wasn’t charged in the assault. A judge dismissed a civil case against him in 2014 and committed him to Clarinda.

“I don’t know how they can close a place without knowing what they are going to do with them,” Becky Rassler said last week.

The Rasslers are working with Iowa State Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, on legislation aimed at creating a separate facility in Iowa for elderly sex offenders.

Under Miller’s bill (House File 170), a committee would be formed to explore creating a facility to care for sexually aggressive or combative elderly people. A similar bill has been introduced by another House member (House File 178), and a third has been introduced in the Iowa Senate (Senate File 142).

“I don’t care how old they are,” Miller said. “You cannot turn them onto a population that cannot protect themselves in any shape or form.”

Miller’s bill would require the committee to report its findings to the governor in December.

Thirteen other elderly psychiatric patients who are not sex offenders likely will be placed in nursing homes, Amy Lorentzen McCoy, department spokeswoman, said Thursday.

Miller said that the issue of placing sex offenders in nursing homes had been a concern of hers for some time.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad wants to close the Clarinda facility and a similar one in Mount Pleasant, in southeast Iowa. Branstad says that the closings would save the state money and that patients could be served better in community-oriented settings. The two institutions, which date to the 19th century, would be shuttered July 1.

The Rasslers were relieved to learn that Cubbage would not be placed in a nursing home. Even so, they are encouraging their friends to write letters to lawmakers supporting Miller’s bill.

Offenders “need a place where they can be controlled and treated with the properly trained help,” said Ken Rassler, 69, a former longtime mayor of Rembrandt.

The four Clarinda offenders, including Cubbage, recently were stricken from the Iowa sex offender registry, raising concerns they were taken off to make the facility’s closure more politically palatable.

Offenders would be placed back on the registry when they are released. Also, a sex offender on work release would remain on the registry because of potential interaction with the public.

In Nebraska, first-time sex offenders don’t have to register until they are released, said Nebraska State Patrol spokeswoman Deb Collins. If someone is already on the registry and is jailed or imprisoned again, they remain on the registry and must update it with their current location.

“You don’t have to be old to go to a nursing home,” said Becky, 64. “You could be a 16-year-old daughter who is in a car accident that leaves you in a vegetative state. That could put you in a nursing home. What’s going to happen to her?”

Miller has introduced similar legislation both sessions since the accusations against Cubbage were made public. She is unsure why the legislation hasn’t been successful in the past. But the closing of Clarinda and the attention the offenders there have drawn could mean this time is different. The Senate bill passed out of a subcommittee last week.

“I’m advocating for a separate facility,” she said. “This report would identify or make recommendations for the type of facility, what the needs are going to be for staffing the facility … (and) identify what types of individuals would be served.”

“I just think I can make something good out of something that’s so bad,” said Becky Rassler. “That would make her very happy.” ..Source.. by Andrew J. Nelson

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