The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 24, 2013

Minnesota task force looks at sex offender program

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A state task force is considering major changes to Minnesota's system for indefinitely confining its most dangerous sex offenders.

The 15-member panel is discussing the creation of a central state court that would be able to determine how sex offenders are selected for civil commitment and when they could be released. The draft recommendations reviewed Wednesday also would ask the Legislature to adopt a higher standard of proof and create a panel of professional experts to screen commitments, the Star Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1a9EJLu ).

"This (panel) is much more robust than what we have now," said Eric Magnuson, a task force co-chairman and former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. The task force is expected to deliver its recommendations by Dec. 1.

Minnesota has the highest number of civilly committed offenders per capita among the 20 states with such programs. A class-action lawsuit has been filed by a group of offenders who say the practice amounts to lifetime confinement without appropriate treatment.

Civil commitments to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program have soared since 2003, when the state's rules changed after Dru Sjodin, a college student, was kidnapped and killed by a convicted sex offender. The treatment program houses nearly 700 offenders at high-security facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter.

Proponents of the proposed reforms say they would make the commitment process less susceptible to political pressure by giving more authority to state-appointed experts instead of local elected officials. County judges and prosecutors sometimes fear the political fallout of releasing convicted rapists and child molesters, even if they have already completed their prison sentences and their risk of reoffending is low.

Recently, an offender won a provisional discharge from the program and is currently living under close supervision. But since the program was created in 1994, no offender has ever been permanently released.

"It's not an exaggeration to say the (program) is a de-facto life sentence," said Eric Janus, president and dean of the William Mitchell College of Law and a member of the task force. "What we're saying is, before we spend a huge amount of money to lock people up, we better be really sure that these people need this super level of protection."

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies at 90 Filmmaker Robert Drew, a pioneer of the modern documentary who in "Primary" and other movies mastered the intimate, spontaneous style known as cinema verite and schooled a generation of influential directors that included D.A. Pennebaker and Albert M

    July 30, 2014

  • Homeowner killed, another injured in Vegas crime spree LAS VEGAS — A horrific carjacking and home invasion spree ended with two people dead and a woman in critical condition. One victim, Richard Ramos, a 59-year-old father of four, “fought to his death” to protect his wife and children from their attack

    July 30, 2014

  • Officer Shooting Minnesota-9 [Duplicate] UPDATE: Suspect in Minnesota officer killing in custody WEST ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Police in Minnesota say a man wanted in the shooting death of an officer is in custody after being shot by police. St. Paul police spokesman Sgt. Paul Paulos says 39-year-old Brian Fitch Sr. got out of a minivan firing at

    July 30, 2014 4 Photos

  • Officer Shooting Minnesota-3 [Duplicate] Minnesota officer killed making traffic stop WEST ST. PAUL (AP) — A police officer in Minnesota was fatally shot Wednesday while making a traffic stop and authorities said they were searching for a suspect. Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick, 47, was shot about 12:20 p.m. after pulli

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Possible suspect caught in Minnesota cop shooting WEST ST. PAUL (AP) — A potential suspect in the shooting of a police officer in Minnesota has been captured. Minnesota Public Radio News reports that the officer was killed. Television news footage showed the man being pulled from his vehicle Wednes

    July 30, 2014

  • Police shooting reported in West St. Paul WEST ST. PAUL (AP) — Police are responding to the reported shooting of an officer in West St. Paul. Details weren't immediately available. Calls from The Associated Press to several police and city departments in the area weren't immediately returne

    July 30, 2014

  • Mars rover Opportunity breaks the off-world driving record Opportunity, the little rover that could, has broken a 41-year-old driving distance record that’s out of this world. The decade-old NASA Mars rover has crossed the 25-mile mark, surpassing the 24.2-mile record held by the Russian moon rover Lunokhod

    July 30, 2014

  • Minnesota officials consider high-speed rail ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota officials are holding public meetings on a proposed high-speed train linking Rochester to the Twin Cities. Transportation planners from state and federal departments are evaluating possibilities for the Zip Rail pas

    July 30, 2014

  • Study finds 5 servings of produce is enough, but we're not eating it How many times will we have to be told? Apparently we haven’t reached the point when we’ll change our habits, but here goes again: Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables every day can help us live longer. That comes from researchers’ analysis

    July 30, 2014

  • GOP gov hopeful Honour wants state spending cap Tells St. Cloud Times he wants a statutory budget cap linked to population and inflation.

    July 29, 2014