Women working together to change sex offender notification process

Posted at 8:01 PM, Mar 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-31 23:06:41-04

Two North Valley women say they have their family lives and careers on hold, to fight for a safer community.

Julie Read and Ann O'Brien, who live in the Norterra subdivision of the North Valley, started this mission after an old juvenile detention facility re-opened as the Maricopa Re-entry Center, a place where former inmates who were drug addicts and sex offenders would come for treatment.

"It was literally 16 sex offenders came in one day, in addition to the dozens we already have living in our community," said Read.

The women said they were also not made aware of plans that the old jail would be back up and running, this time with adult offenders going in and out.

"Even though we knew there were sex offenders there, nobody had received notice," said Read.

This sparked a fire within the two women, to change state law.

After some research, the women learned that most police departments take between 60-90 days to provide community sex offender notification. That is the time it takes to print out flyers and get them mailed in.  It's also costing departments tens of thousands of dollars.

HB2200 would enable police departments to create an electronic database of sex offenders, so communities could get faster notification via email.

The women said they had met with the City of Phoenix council members, Mayor's office, and police department to figure out the best way to get this information out.

Read said Phoenix police have had to throw away more than 44,000 notices after learning sex offenders had already moved out of their jurisdiction, within the 60-90 days.

The women are also behind HB 2211 already signed into effect by Governor Ducey. 

The new law requires the Arizona Department of Corrections to submit a report regarding their drug treatment programs, with information including how many offenders were treated out of prison, how much it cost to do so, and the success rates of the programs.

"The passion is there because this is my home, I raised my children here. Community is something I really have always cared about," said O'Brien.

Neither of the two had any political experience.  They called this effort an eye-opening experience.

"On the first day when Ann and I were going to begin testifying, we walked into the House of Representatives and the lobby was flooded.  Ann and I looked at each other and were like, I guess that's why they're called lobbyists because they hang out in the lobby all day.  We're in the right place," said Read.

O'Brien added that there had been times they would get calls to come down to the State Capitol immediately, as a lawmaker had 5 minutes to meet with them between hearings, so they would have to get out of their sweats, stop cleaning the house, and rush over there.

"It's a lot like a roller coaster ride.  You go from angry to excited to happy to sad," said O'Brien.

HB2200 is now sitting on Governor Ducey's desk awaiting a signature. 

The women say their next mission is to start a non-profit organization "Uniting to Succeed for Arizona" that would empower and support people in the community to make changes and deal with the state legislature.

"It's to bridge the gap between the community and lawmakers.  Teach others about what we've been doing, encourage them to vote, and bring in bi-partisan experience to provide support as well," said Read.