Editor’s note: This article has been updated with responses provided by the Department of Corrections and print publication.
Safety was one of the main concerns expressed by attendees at this month’s community meeting on Enumclaw’s group home for high-level sex offenders.
Many questions were posed to representatives of the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) about security at the Garden House group home during the Feb. 9 meeting: How does the community know resident Stevan Knapp is not a danger? What measures are in place to make sure the neighborhood is safe? And what sort of response time can Enumclaw expect if an offender there tries to escape or re-offend?
Though some answers were provided, it seems clear that the community — and maybe especially those who live close to this group home, located off 188th Avenue SE — will never feel safe until Garden House is shut down and its residents moved elsewhere.
“How scared do I have to be at night again?” one woman said during the meeting, who after admitting through tears she’s a survivor of sexual assault, wanted to know how many violent sex predators re-offend after being released into LRAs. “When this does happen, because in my soul I know something is going to happen, what are you all going to do about it?”
“We are the ones who now live in the prison instead of him,” one neighboring woman said. “I now keep my door locked all the time, and I’m the daughter of a Seattle Police Department policeman, so I know about security and I know about break-ins… if you don’t call that being in a prison, I don’t know what is.”
King County’s Department of Public Defense, which is representing Knapp, gave a rare statement about these concerns last Friday after about a hundred people picketed outside Garden House last Friday.
“It is understandable that people in Enumclaw are fearful, but that fear has no basis in fact. People released from the Special Commitment Center have extremely low re-offense rates. Their movements are monitored 24/7 by GPS. They cannot leave the property without permission and without law enforcement notification – and when they do, they’re accompanied by specially trained chaperones. There are restrictions about whom they can contact and who can visit them. There are cameras both inside and outside of their community houses. They continue to receive treatment. In short, people released from the SCC are the most surveilled people in our community,” Communications Manager Leslie Brown said in an email. “Our client is living in this house legally and with the extra treatment and strict conditions that this law provides. He has served his sentence and has had 20 years of treatment. His good behavior and progress in treatment earned him the opportunity to live in the community. We urge the Enumclaw community to understand the facts and the laws regarding release from the SCC. Our client has a right to make a safe transition into the community. He asks that he be allowed to live in peace as he begins to rebuild his life.”
Knapp is a Level 3 sex offender, which means he’s deemed to have a high-risk of re-offending. He has been convicted of numerous sex offense-related and sexual assault crimes since 1977, including communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, lewd conduct, first degree attempted statutory rape, and first degree child molestation.
After serving his last prison sentence, Knapp was in sex offender treatment for about two decades, either at the McNeil Island Special Commitment Facility or a “Less Restrictive Alternative” (LRA) on the island, before a court allowed him to move to the Garden House LRA outside Enumclaw.
IN HIS ‘BEST INTERESTS’…
King County Superior Judge Suzanne Parisien ruled on Dec. 2, 2022, that Knapp would be released into Garden House, provided he met the conditions of the court order.
According to the order, multiple DSHS and independent experts found that moving Knapp off McNeil Island into what’s known as a Less Restrictive Alternative (as opposed to a secure facility run by the government) would be “in [his] best interests”, and that “conditions can be imposed to adequately protect the community.”
The experts include Dr. Jennifer Rogers, Ph.D.; Dr. James Manley, Ph.D. an expert in sexual offender treatment who was hired by Knapp; Dr. Brian Judd, Ph.D., a certified sex offender treatment provider working with Knapp; Dr. Eric Fox, an expert in sexual offender risk assessment hired by the state; and Michael Stanfill, Ph.D., an expert in assessment and treatment of major mental illnesses and who wrote at least two of Knapp’s annual reviews.
While these experts recommended Knapp be moved to Garden House, it is unclear whether the McNeil Island CEO Keith Devos gave his endorsement; DSHS has said Knapp’s defense team petitioned the court for his conditional release, not the department.
The court order contains nearly 20 pages of stipulations that Knapp must follow, or risk being taken into immediate custody.
■ Knapp must be chaperoned for the first 90 days of his release into Garden House wherever he may go outside the home. After that three month period, Knapp’s transition team will determine if, and when, Knapp will require a chaperone while he travels elsewhere, “depending on [his] progress and needs.” As of the DOC report, dated October 2022, Knapp does not have his own driver’s license.
■ In order to leave Garden House, Knapp must get pre-approval by the court or his transition team, and provide departure and return time estimates a week in advance, and travel along pre-approved routes. Notice of travel includes any contact he may have with another person while out.
“DOC does not receive immediate alerts for ‘routes’ for example if Mr. Knapp where to be approved to go to Walmart,” DOC Communications Director Chris Wright wrote in an email. “If his departure time and return times where outside of what had been approved by DOC, it would elicit an immediate notification from the GPS, however the road he takes to get to Walmart would not. Routes are something we track daily but not in real time.”
■ For all trips outside Garden House, Knapp must have a fully-charged GPS/ankle bracelet and cell phone on his person; follow pre-approved routes; log the date and time of each trip; and make point-to-point contact with his correction specialist; and abide by an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, unless approved by his transition team.
It was noted by the DOC during the Feb. 9 meeting that if the ankle bracelet is purposefully tampered with or accidentally damaged, a specialist will receive an immediate alert and begin the process of locating Mr. Knapp.
“The ankle bracelet is extremely sensitive to any type of error, whether intentional, accidental, or environmental; however, this very rarely impacts the global positioning function of the device,” Wright said, noting “powerful shears” are needed to remove the device, and residents are not allowed to have those tools. “All errors are sent to the corrections specialist in real time… If the resident tampers with the device, DOC is immediately notified. If a device were to be removed, DOC is notified and responds immediately.”
At the Feb. 9 meeting, the DOC noted those specialists are generally stationed in same counties where their assigned sex offenders live.
■ Continuing sex offender treatment and any other treatment deemed necessary.
■ All media must be approved by Knapp’s transition team, and he must refrain from viewing any sort of sexually-explicit material or possess any images of children (photographs, drawings, etc.).
■ Refraining from accessing the internet on any device without written permission from the transition team. Additionally, Knapp is not allowed to possess any device that can access the internet without approval, with exception to a personal computer he received on McNeil Island. He is to not access social media on any device.
The Courier-Herald has asked the DOC and the King County Sheriff’s Department about what sort of response time law enforcement would have in regard to Knapp violating these conditions, specifically actions that would indicate a re-offense.
“It would depend on what part of a court order he violates. There are dozens of conditions and not all of them warrant an immediate response. If he does not follow a pre-planned route, DOC would be notified and the Corrections Specialist who is on call 24/7 would respond immediately,” Wright said. “If a resident were to cut the ankle bracelet, this is a specific type of alert which indicates this exact thing having occurred.
“Locating Mr. Knapp would depend on many factors, as is the case with any type of fugitive apprehension. The corrections specialist would start this process immediately via a command system that includes, but is not limited to: all available law enforcement, DOC personnel, inmate recovery tracking teams, and fugitive apprehension teams,” he continued.
Before Knapp moved into Garden House, the Department of Corrections reviewed the home and made conditions as to what security precautions should be made to protect the surrounding community.
Many, if not all, of those conditions were outlined in the court order.
Some security measures already installed by Garden House at the time of its review included security cameras in the common areas of the home, and outside.
The cameras are “just recording with available access.,” Wright said. “Corrections Specialists check the footage on the camera often to verify information.”
Nearby neighbors have said the few cameras, a lack of fencing, and a lack of adequate lighting around the home is not enough to make them feel safe.
The DOC report on Garden House also noted some concerns and possible risk factors when it came to community safety, like nearby licensed daycare center or preschools, which includes one that is approximately one mile away; nearby schools, including Enumclaw School District’s Westwood Elementary, about 1.8 miles away (the report mistakenly refers to it as Sunrise Elementary); and school bus stops.
A previous version of the report did not find several school bus stops on 188th Avenue SE, within 500 feet of Garden House. These bus stops have since been added to an updated report after community outrage during the Feb. 9 community meeting.
However, a DOC representative noted that even though their security review did not originally include that bus stop, there’s no statute requiring LRAs to be a certain feet away from school bus stops — just schools and child care centers.
Parks, playgrounds, libraries, bars, and marijuana retailers were also noted. Most were more than 3 miles away, with exception to Riverside Park, about a mile away.
One concern about Knapp’s release into Garden House included the effectiveness of GPS monitoring.
“GPS tracking does not provide definitive information on a person’s exact location, due to several variables which may produce inaccuracies with reported data points,” the report reads. “According to the manufacturer of the equipment currently in use by the Special Commitment Center (SCC), ‘under normal conditions, GPS is accurate 90% of the time within 30 ft.’”
Less than ideal conditions include Knapp being somewhere without an “unencumbered” view of the sky.
“For example, if Mr. Knapp is inside of a retail grocery store, the GPS device cannot be relied upon to provide information about his exact location within the store,” the report continued.
The GPS device can be programmed with an “inclusion zone”, a fixed location that can be between a 300-foot or 600-foot radius large.
It’s noted in the report that an inclusion zone of 600 feet, at the center of Garden House, would include several nearby homes and buildings that, a point brought up by several neighbors during the recent community meeting.
The court order allowing Knapp to be released to Garden House is heavily dependent on his 2022 annual review, an extensive document outlining Knapp’s criminal history and relevant background, treatment progress, psychological diagnoses, sexual violence risk assessment for future sexual violence, and more.
The Courier-Herald has not received a copy of the 2022 annual review, but has received copies of his 2019 and 2020 annual reviews.
The information maybe most pertinent to the Enumclaw community is the review’s assessment of whether Knapp is likely to re-offend while living at Garden House.
DSHS experts used two assessment tools — the Static-99R and the STABLE-2007 tests — which, when their results are combined, “produce estimates of sexual recidivism,” the 2019 annual review reads.
In both the 2019 and 2020 annual reviews, Knapp was considered “well above average risk” to re-offend. It’s unclear if this assessment is referencing Knapp’s risk of re-offending when placed in an LRA or is unconditionally moved into a community.
According to the annual reviews, when Knapp’s combined assessment scores are compared to 611 sex offenders with followup data, nearly 34 percent of those who scored similarly re-offended within a five-year time period.
When including statistical leeway, “This means that out of 100 sexual offenders with the same score as Mr. Knapp, between 24 and 44 would be expected to reoffend after five years in the community,” the review reads.
However, the annual reviews note that the comparative data relies on offenders with “relatively short institutional sentences” and “recent experience in the community”. Both these variables are different when it comes to Knapp, who spent about a decade in prison and nearly 20 years in the McNeil Island Special Commitment Center or on the island in an LRA while enrolled in extensive sex offender treatment. Additionally, the goal of placing him in an LRA is to slowly introduce him back into society, rather than granting him an unconditional release.
The Static-99R and STABLE-2007 tools are only one of multiple variables when experts decide to recommend an individual be released from the McNeil Island Special Commitment Center into an LRA.
Knapp’s 2019 annual review recommended him be removed from the McNeil Island LRA he was living in and be placed back into the special commitment center due to some recent offenses he was keeping secret from his treatment team. Those offenses did not involve children or any physical contact with another individual.
However, his 2020 annual review recommended he remain in an LRA he was moved back into earlier, given it appeared he made further advances in his treatment.
It should be noted that his Static-99R and STABLE-2007 risk assessment scores decreased, though he ultimately was still rated as “well above average risk” to reoffend.