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Minnesota lawmakers consider altering programs for sex offenders

Minnesota lawmakers consider altering programs for sex offenders

Despite being reluctant to consider the issue in the past, Minnesota lawmakers may now be ready to make changes to the ways in which sex offenders are treated. At a recent Senate hearing, legislators seemed to be receptive to ideas that were put forward by a panel comprised of judges and other criminal experts that were appointed by the state. The proposed changes included treating people convicted of sex crimes within the prison system, as opposed to indefinitely confining them to treatment centers that come at a high cost to taxpayers. The panel also suggests that a centralized state court be created in order to specifically deal with pedophiles, rapists and other sex offenders.

Some of the changes may be related to a lawsuit that is currently questioning whether the current Minnesota Sex Offender Program is constitutional. A judge is expected to rule on the lawsuit on or before Feb. 16, meaning that lawmakers may need to take immediate action. If the MSOP is found to be unconstitutional, sex offenders might end up in less-restrictive settings.

The changes that the panel suggests are not without merit. According to a study conducted by the Corrections Department in 2009, reconviction rates among sex offenders treated within the prison system dropped 27 percent. Also, prison-based treatment reduced re-arrest risks for violent crimes, sexual or otherwise, by 18 percent. The Minnesota Human Services Commissioner also stated that prison-based treatment costs about a third of what the MSOP needs to operate.

July 2013 figures indicate that there are over 3,000 sex offenders serving an average of 8.5 years in Minnesota correctional facilities. If the MSOP is found unconstitutional, it might mean that convicted sex offenders could see shorter sentences. On the other hand, the time would be served in prison rather than in civil commitment.

Charges involving sex crimes can have serious penalties. Creating a strong defense against such charges is crucial. An experienced criminal defense attorney works diligently to ensure that his or her clients’ rights are protected during the criminal court process. Just because a person is charged with a crime does not mean he or she is automatically guilty. A prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Source: startribune.com, “Lawmakers weigh changes to Minnesota’s sex-offender program” Chris Serres, Jan. 16, 2014

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