As Minnesota legislators attempt to increase reporting and notification requirements for people released from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, it seems the legislation may do more harm than good. The measure, which was recently under consideration in the House of Representatives, would require people convicted of sexual assault to notify community members when they move into a halfway house.
Legislators say that offenders are not currently required to provide community notification for people leaving the program for halfway homes. These legislators argue that this is a hole in the legal framework that allows people who are perceived to be dangerous to live within local communities.
The legislation was authored after a recent hearing revealed this supposed legal gap. A man who had been institutionalized for sexually assaulting a young boy recently received a provisional release from his civil commitment under the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. He had spent time in prison for the sexual assault of a child, but was then ordered to serve more than 20 years in the civil program because judges were convinced that he was not yet ready to be released. The man is the first to be released from the civil commitment program, but this law could cause problems for him and many other people confined to the program who may soon be released.
If community members and neighbors are warned about what the occupants of a halfway house have done previously, it may automatically cause concern among neighbors. Despite serving a prison sentence and an additional 20 years for a sexual assault, this man has been punished for his crime. Now, as he attempts to create a fresh start and ostensibly move on from his past, this new bill would require him to inform all of his neighbors of what he did many years ago.
Source: Minnesota Public Radio, “Zellers prepares bill to close sex offender notification gap,” Rupa Shenoy and Tim Pugmire, Feb. 17, 2012