ST. PAUL (AP) -- The Pawlenty administration says the state is not changing its criteria for releasing the most dangerous sex offenders.
"The state is doing nothing to change the status of someone getting out as a sexual predator," said Charlie Weaver, Gov. Tim Pawlenty's chief of staff, at a news conference Sunday evening in response to an article in Sunday's Star Tribune of Minneapolis.
Weaver's statement followed a news conference put on by Attorney General Mike Hatch in which Hatch suggested budget cutbacks were prompting the state to examine loosening restrictions on sex offenders, a charge Weaver denied.
The Star Tribune article said state mental health officials are looking for ways to release into the community some of Minnesota's 190 sexual psychopaths locked up in state treatment centers.
Repeat rapists and pedophiles, who served prison terms and have been declared sexually dangerous by judges, are confined at secure psychiatric hospitals in Moose Lake and St. Peter in the Minnesota Sexual Offender Program. The program costs taxpayers $310 per day per offender. The story said no sexual psychopath has been released since the program was expanded under a new law in 1994.
Human Services Commissioner Kevin Goodno said the state's budget woes have had no effect on the sexual predator program. He said the Pawlenty administration protected the program from significant cuts as lawmakers balanced a $4.23 billion budget deficit.
The story quoted people who run the program saying they must do a better job of giving the sexual psychopaths individualized treatment in the least prison-like settings.
That treatment might include halfway houses, other Department of Human Services programs, or long-term and intensive supervision of offenders in the community.
State officials say the state has a legal obligation to provide effective treatment. And to be effective, treatment must include the possibility of release, they said. "Hope is an integral part of it," said Dr. Michael Farnsworth, who runs the program.
No releases are imminent, and officials couldn't say when the first sex offenders might leave, the story said.
Weaver called the story "false, misleading and irresponsible" and said Pawlenty's office planned to have a discussion with Star Tribune editors about the article.
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