Hurricane Plans for Sex Offenders

An accused sex offender who fled to Canada in the midst of Hurricane Dennis has prompted a wave of changes in Leon County.

They're not calling it the Richard Rightmire rule, but clearly they say they learned lessons from him that won't be repeated this hurricane season.

Amidst the flooding, power outages and confusion of Hurricane Dennis, accused sex offender Richard Rightmire fled to Canada and exposed a weak spot in the GPS monitoring system that was supposed to be keeping tabs on him.

Wanda Hunter, Leon County Probation Division Director, says, "The system itself, I wouldn't say it failed, but the storm did inhibit our ability to communicate properly as we would have expected it to."

Now the head of Leon County's Probation Division is working with judges to make sure it can't happen again. They're drafting a hurricane plan that could lock up sex offenders and others temporarily in advance of an approaching storm.

Grant Slayden, Leon Circuit Court Administrator, says, "You have plenty of advanced notice, sometimes three or four days, that a hurricane's coming, which gives adequate time for probation to make their determination whether someone should be held or not and bring it to the courts."

Some of the ideas on the drawing board are requiring some offenders to report their whereabouts or evacuation plans by phone before, and after the storm requiring others, including sex offenders, to report to jail until the storm passes, and having clear criteria for a judge to decide.”

Wanda Hunter, Leon County Probation Division Director, says, "We would not want to violate anyone's due process rights by making a blanket request that everybody goes back to jail, but we would sort of like to identify risk factors and ensure public safety."

Leon County has about 60 high risk offenders wearing GPS monitors at any given time. They can expect new rules to roll in before the 2006 hurricane season.