Sex Offender Task Force Recommends Replacing Current System

Posted at: 12/04/2012 9:13 PM
Updated at: 12/04/2012 10:16 PM
By: Dietrich Nissen

(ABC 6 News) -- It's now up to Minnesota legislators to consider a recommendation to revamp Minnesota's Sex Offender Program (MSOP). On Monday, a state task force, ordered to study alternatives to the current program, suggested replacing the prison-like treatment facilities with a network of less restrictive regional ones.

Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem is one of the task force's nineteen members. He says with more than 600 people in MSOP, it’s time to take a look at what alternatives exist.

"They're level 3 offenders that are level 3 plus type offenders," says Ostrem. They are offenders that have already served their time but are referred for treatment.     

"Most of these people have multiple criminal sexual conduct convictions. Most of them have either not engaged in, or certainly not completed, sex offender treatment programming," says Ostrem.

He tells us the current law allows offenders to opt out of treatment programs while serving their criminal sentence. However, once they complete that sentence, it becomes a civil matter.

"What we do is…a county attorney petitions for civil commitment because they meet this criteria of having a mental illness of such that makes them a sexually dangerous person," says Ostrem.

The problem this program faces is it's an all or nothing deal. If accepted, offenders are put inside a costly, high-security treatment facility. Each offender costs taxpayers around $120,000 dollars a year. Otherwise, they can be released into the public with the possibility of no supervision, and right now, their numbers are growing.

"For every person we commit from Olmsted County going forward, we're paying $30,000 a year. And some of these people are very young so potentially we're talking millions of dollars per person," says Ostrem.

The task force he’s on has met four times in just six weeks. Ostrem says the group is currently developing a few alternative ideas they hope will lead to solutions.

"[One idea is] a restrictive residential so we know when they're coming and going. We can restrict their coming and going. The use of curfews, the use of GPS tracking devices that all couple with some sort of robust treatment program," says Ostrem.

But until these ideas are solidified, the costs to taxpayers continues to climb. In order to help legislators further develop a new system, the task force plans to meet before and during the upcoming session.