Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry signed first-in-the-nation legislation Tuesday that takes registered sex offenders requiring long-term care out of standard nursing homes to prevent assaults, rapes and murders by offenders who live in the same facilities as their victims.
Wes Bledsoe, an advocate for this legislation, and a member of an elderly advocate group, A Perfect Cause, has worked to identify registered sex offenders in long-term care facilities across the nation since his grandmother, Eunice Allen, died in 2000 due to negligent acts inside an Oklahoma City nursing home.
Bledsoe developed the idea for the legislation last year following reports that a 43-year-old man accused of killing four people in 2005 had been ordered by a judge to live in a nursing home in Jones. The man had been found incompetent to stand trial due to a motorcycle accident after the murders.
The measure would authorize the state Department of Health to seek proposals for operating an existing stand-alone, long-term care facility for high-risk sex offenders. The facility would have specially trained staff and surveillance and security equipment to protect the public as well as other residents of the facility.
The cost of operating the facility would be paid principally by Medicaid payments to residents who qualify for nursing home assistance. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority would seek federal funds to pay for the additional security equipment, Steele said.
Currently, there are between 30 and 60 registered sex offenders in Oklahoma nursing homes. But that number is expected to increase as the number of registered sex offenders rises.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections estimates that 2,250 inmates convicted of sex crimes will be released from prison in the next 10 years. Twenty-six percent of those convicts will be 51 years old or older and potentially in need of long-term care.
Bledsoe has documented over 50 murders, rapes and sexual and physical assaults by criminal offenders while living in long-term care facilities across the nation, including several cases of rape and assault committed by offenders living in Oklahoma's long-term care facilities.