The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 4, 2012

Panel looks to change sex offender rules


Associated Press

— A special panel tasked with looking at alternatives to Minnesota's costly, high-security program for dangerous sex offenders recommended state legislators consider less restrictive regional treatment facilities.

The Minnesota Sex Offender Program confines and treats the most dangerous offenders under the court's direction after they have finished their prison sentences. The offenders, which now number more than 600, are confined to high-security treatment facilities at an annual cost of about $120,000 per offender.

A task force headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson looked at how to reduce costs for treating the dangerous sex offenders while protecting the public and not stomping on the offenders' constitutional rights.

Chief U.S. Magistrate Arthur Boylan ordered the state to create the task force of jurists, lawmakers and other professionals to find options to the current, prison-like treatment centers.

Republican Rep. Jim Abeler, a task force member, said that in the coming months, legislators will have to deal with the emotionally charged issue.

"Showing kindness to sex offenders is not something people like to do," Abeler said. "The challenge that's going to come at the end of the day is where do you put these people? It's going to have to be in Minnesota somewhere."

The Star Tribune (http://bit.ly/YKxBik ) said Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson plans to meet with lawmakers in the coming weeks to discuss the recommendations.

Jesson said she does not foresee an end to the current high-security treatment program.

"The problem with civil commitment is it's all or nothing," said Jesson. "You're either in this expensive high-security facility or you are not. I think that is a quandary."

The task force recommendations issued Monday said the Legislature must fund less-restrictive residential facilities and locate them throughout the state, while clearing any regulatory or legal obstacles and ensuring public safety.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com