The state’s Sex Offender Program has always been plagued with a confounding problem.
When some of the worst sex offenders have served all their prison time and probation there are only two choices: set them free into the community or ask the courts to indefinitely commit them as sexual predators and place them in a secure “treatment” facility like the one in St. Peter.
Increasingly in recent years, more have been committed. That’s led to an extremely costly treatment system. And one of dubious constitutionality: Can you commit someone for mental health treatment when no one has ever been “cured” to the extent that they have been released?
A bill sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, offers a way to bypass the dilemma in the future.
Cornish’s bill, which is moving through the Legislature, would allow for dangerous sex offenders to be held in prison for as long as they are deemed a great threat to society.
Convicted offenders would face open-ended prison sentences, known as “indeterminate,” if members of a jury found that them to be predatory, meaning they lack control over sexual impulses and pose a danger to others.
Such offenders would have to serve at least twice the recommended sentence and could be released only if the corrections commissioner determined they were no longer a threat to society. If they were released, they’d be under long probation periods and could be sent back to prison if they violate conditions.
Indeterminate sentencing was used in the past, but was replaced with sentencing guidelines.
The legislation makes sense. It would protect society from the worst offenders who do not demonstrate they have been able to change, allow for the release of those who do and reduce the need for the Sex Offender Program.