There are few issues as serious as the risk of how to handle the 600 or so sex offenders in Minnesota treatment facilities, and the expected near doubling of this population in the next decade.
Yet, so far, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of serious consideration among lawmakers and others of what to do. Unfortunately, the issue has become so politicized that solid information is hard to come by.
The Pawlenty administration redacted and edited an in-depth report they requested on the subject last year. The report was supposed to lay out for legislators different options and risks and costs of dealing with this population. But suggestions from researchers that did not meet the Pawlenty administration’s political viewpoints on the issue were removed from the report.
Luckily, an authentic version of the first report has been recovered and now the issue can be considered seriously by legislators and the new governor.
A recent hearing at the Legislature focused on the expected release of two sex offenders from facilities in St. Peter. They have graduated to advanced treatment and were recommended by the appropriate legal panel to be allowed conditional releases as part of their ongoing treatment. These individuals were violent sexual predators and the public is understandably fearful of their release.
But in 17 years of the program, no offenders have been completely released. That puts the program on shaky legal ground, according to Program director Dennis Benson.
There have been court cases brought in other states that raise the risk of immediate release of many offenders if programs are shown to be de facto prisons and don’t offer a pathway to release for inmates. Those programs could be deemed unconstitutional on grounds of people being imprisoned twice for the same crime. These risks should be considered very seriously by state leaders.
Redacting and editing important reports will not help. Nor is it helpful for legislators like Glencoe Republican Glenn Gruenhagen to suggest barbaric solutions like castration and chain gangs. These would likely not pass legal muster, and they would not solve the problem.
Part of the financial problem we have with the program is that the number of people committed since the Dru Sjodin murder has tripled — not because there is necessarily more who should have been committed but because of political pressures.
— The Free Press, Mankato