MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- State judges are poring over the records of hundreds of sex offenders to ensure they don't evade conditions that could send them back to jail if they violate terms of their release.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections has identified 887 current or former inmates whose records don't indicate they were ordered to serve the extra period of conditional release required for sex offenders by a 1992 state law.
The department is asking judges who failed to impose the extended requirements to amend their sentencing orders. The revisions would add a five-year term required for first-time offenders and 10-year period for repeat offenders.
But it could be too late in some cases. The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in 1999 that additional sanctions cannot be imposed after an inmate's sentence has expired. Of the 887 sex offenders identified last week, the prison terms and probationary periods of 614 have expired, corrections officials said Tuesday.
And offenders who agreed to plea bargains that didn't include the conditional release period may be able to withdraw their pleas if state officials try to amend their sentences, according to a 1998 ruling by the state Supreme Court.
Many sex offenders are challenging the imposition of post-sentencing conditional release periods, said assistant State Public Defender Steven Russett.
In some cases, sex offenders have a strong incentive to oppose the change because ''if they (violate) conditional release they can serve more time in prison than they did under their original sentence,'' he said.
Court and corrections officials hope to find that conditional release was ordered in many cases, but that the proper paperwork wasn't placed in inmate files.
In such cases, sentencing information would be sent to corrections officials, who could then order that even offenders whose sentences have expired must comply with conditional release rules. Those would include completing sex offender treatment and avoiding criminal behavior.
Dakota County Judge Leslie Metzen and Ramsey County Chief Judge Lawrence Cohen said early reports from judges indicate that's what happened in many cases.
Metzen said she checked three sex offender cases she handled and found that she imposed conditional release but didn't include that information on paperwork.
Cohen said in eight sex offender cases he reviewed, he found only one case where a conditional release period wasn't imposed.
Judicial leaders and corrections officials warn that until all 887 cases are reviewed, it will be impossible to know how many sex offenders escaped the restrictions of conditional release.
Several judges and lawyers said they might have forgotten about the law because it switched to a different section of the criminal code a year after it was passed.
Metzen also said the language of the statute may have misled some judges to believe that the commissioner of corrections, not judges, must impose the conditional release on sex offenders.
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