The sex offender program in Minnesota is regarded by many to be insufficiently malleable for the range of offenders it houses. Many believe the sex offender program does not offer enough options to treat and house the varying degrees of offenders. The current program is akin to a one size fits all approach where recommended offenders are thrown into an expensive, heavy security confinement. The problem in reforming the program is that it is politically difficult because lawmakers do not want the appearance of going easy on sex crimes.
Currently, the Minnesota Sex Offender Program houses over 650 offenders. Some offenders are as young as 18 and as old as 89. Mental health experts argue many of the young and elderly offenders do not need heavy security confinement because they are in wheelchairs, or not likely to reoffend because they are low-functioning or they are young adults who did not commit felonies but were committed after their juvenile sentences. One Minnesota representative says the net has been cast too wide and that the state needs new options if the goal of commitment is to treat offenders and place them in secure group homes.
Minnesota has the highest number of committed sex offenders of any state when statistics are broken down per capita. The state has not released anyone since the program started in 1994. The cost of housing an individual in the program is $120,000 and lawmakers are feeling budgetary pressures to adjust the system. A proposed law would create a process where low-risk offenders would be separated from the worst. The bill would also create small, secured group homes for elderly and low-functioning individuals.
Source: Star Tribune, “Sex-offender system casts wide net,” Paul McEnroe, 4/17/11