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State bill would return convicted sex offenders to open-ended sentences

State bill would return convicted sex offenders to open-ended sentences

In reaction to growing resistance to the current Minnesota Sex Offender Program and in reaction to the Minnesota Legislative Auditor’s conclusion that the Minnesota Sex Offender Program has rooted problems, state legislators who are members of the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee approved a bill that would give convicted sex offenders open-ended prison sentences.

According to state legislators, the bill is intended to keep the worst of sex offenders behind bars indefinitely. Currently, those that are convicted of sex crimes are civilly committed to one of the two treatment centers in the state for further review and possible release. The new program would divert “the worst of the worst” from the civil commitment program. Instead, convicted sex offender would be subject to open-ended or indeterminate prison sentences if a jury found the offender to be predatory. A predatory sex offender is defined as someone who cannot control their sexual impulses and is a danger to the public.

Under the bill, predatory offenders would serve twice the recommended sentences and would only be released if the prison corrections commissioner found them to no longer be a threat to the public.

Today, there are 575 offenders housed in two state treatment centers. The population of the treatment centers has quadrupled over the last ten years, and the population is expected to double in the next decade. The state legislative audit found that many offenders receive inadequate treatment from under qualified staff at the state treatment centers. Legislators believe too much money is being spent on housing sex offenders in the treatment programs.

Source: Star Tribune, “Bill seeks to keep sex offenders jailed,” Bob Von Sternberg, 3/15/11

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