By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer
— Perhaps no group of criminals incurs the public’s wrath more than sex offenders — so-called level three offenders in particular.
These are the people the state deems most likely to reoffend. It doesn’t mean they will; it means that in the clinical pecking order of sexual perversion these folks harbor the greatest propensity for such behavior.
And when they’re released from prison after serving their sentences, authorities are mandated by law to notify the public in whatever community they’ve chosen to reside in.
This is typically done by holding a public notification meeting, where local police and state corrections officials go over the ground rules of that person’s post-prison supervision and present data about sex offenders in general.
These meetings are where public wrath manifests itself because no one wants a level three living in their neighborhood and meeting attendees are rarely shy about saying so.
That’s why the public wrath-o-meter needle veered into the red zone Monday when a level three guy living in Waterville cut off the GPS monitoring device from his ankle and went AWOL.
He was unaccounted for until Thursday, when he turned himself in to authorities.
In conjunction with the guy effectively arresting himself, the Minnesota Department of Corrections news release contained this instructive statistic: 97 percent of fugitive level three offenders are apprehended within 72 hours.
The department would do well to emphasize more of these types of statistics, if only to quell some of the fears and misconceptions out there when it comes to convicted sexual predators trying to re-assimilate into communities.
The following Department of Corrections data may be dry stuff, but it places some needed perspective on a reviled group of people:
n Contrary to popular belief, the majority of Minnesota level threes under mandated intensive post-prison supervision programs do not reoffend sexually.
Of 1,763 sex offenders examined over a five-year period, the 155 level threes had the lowest rates of re-arrest (5.2 percent), re-conviction (3.2 percent) and re-incarceration (2.6 percent) for a new sex offense.
n Preliminary data on 1,245 offenders assigned level three status since 1996 show that 41 sexually reoffended with 16 of those offenses involving victims who didn’t know the offender.
n Of the 155 level threes released from incarceration over the aforesaid five-year period, 69 percent were returned to prison for non-sex-related violations of the terms of their release. (Those violations can range from consumption of prohibited alcoholic beverages to failure to notify the state when an offender acquires a different vehicle.)
n Public notification meetings rarely result in the loss of a planned residence for the offender. More often, changes in an offender’s desired place of residence may occur in the time period leading up to, or just prior to, the actual meeting.
Even in a recent Mankato-area instance of a landlord, during a public meeting, yanking his rental offer to a level three offender, department officials say the decision to retract the offer likely had already been made, and the landlord chose the meeting setting to announce it.
Brian Ojanpa is a Free Press staff writer. Call him at 344-6316 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.