Arson Suspect Kevin Todd Swalwell Highlights Difficulty in Monitoring Homeless Ex-Cons

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Would housing have brought stability?
How do you keep a potentially dangerous ex-con on the straight and narrow when that person is zig zagging around the streets looking for a place to sleep? That's the challenge that perpetually confronts state Community Corrections Officers, charged with monitoring felons once they are released from prison, 13 percent of whom are homeless.

It's one we wrote about last February when Seattle police killed a homeless ex-con named Joseph Hradec in a dust-up at an Aurora Avenue motel called Seal's. Now it's apparent once again with the arrest of suspected Greenwood arsonist Kevin Todd Swalwell, a homeless 46-year-old.

At the time of his arrest on Friday, Swalwell was under community supervision (what used to be known as probation) after serving a one-year sentence on a drug charge, according to Department of Corrections (DOC) spokesperson Chad Lewis. Swalwell also served two prison sentences for arson. DOC categorized him as having a "high" likelihood of reoffending.

Yet, the state had trouble keeping track of Stalwell. Three times since he was released from prison in November 2007, he failed to show up for appointments with his community corrections officer and was jailed. The homeless aren't the only ones to violate the conditions of their release, of course, but as Lewis notes, "research has shown that homelessness contributes to instability."

Partly for that reason, the Legislature this year directed DOC to reinstitute a program that provides homeless ex-cons with temporary housing vouchers. But the vouchers are only for people who don't have the approved address necessary for early release due to good behavior. Swalwell wasn't eligible because he had already been released. Hence, taxpayers may end up paying again for a more expensive form of housing: prison.

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