Concern Over MN Sex Offender Program

Posted at: 04/01/2013 6:58 PM
By: Brittany Lewis

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Concerns over whether the Minnesota Sex Offender Program is unconstitutional, has one local lawmaker working to make changes.

Nearly 700 people are in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program and in the program’s history, no one has been released.

The question is, should that change?

When a sex offender is placed before a judge for civil commitment, he or she can make one of two decisions.

“Essentially, yes or no. Should I put this person away for what amounts to a life sentence,” said Representative Tina Liebling.
"It makes for an all or nothing decision. Which is one of the biggest struggles we have with this system is there's nothing in the middle,” said Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem.

A bill authored by DFL Representative Tina Liebling, of Rochester, wants to provide something in the middle. Instead of just yes or no, a judge would first determine if a person met the standard to be committed.

"It's not unusual for a person that meets to criteria to be committed, but they don't need to be behind razor wire. There are ways that we can provide the treatment, and we can provide the supervision outside that facility,” said Ostrem.

That facility would be less restrictive. Something like a minimum security prison.

"Instead of being secure with a razor wire, being restrictive where it might have windows, but the windows don't open. That you can go out, but an alarm would probably sound, you can't just walk in,” said Ostrem.

Stressing the importance of reintegration, to complete the treatment.

"What we have to be careful is, not all sex offenders are the same. And certainly there are some very dangerous who will never be safe on the street, we all know that. The trick is, figuring out who those are and who can be safely managed in another setting,” said Liebling.

In addition, the offender would be given an annual review, taking a look at things like their progress and risk to the public.
In essence, it would create individual programs for each offender.