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Sex Offender Task Force Recommends More Alternatives to Confinement

The task force says Minnesota needs something between confinement and outright release—a problem emphasized by the disappearance of two sexual predators from Hopkins this fall.

A Sex Offender Civil Commitment Advisory Task Force is recommending a greater variety of housing options for sex offenders like those who garnered so much attention in Hopkins in September and October, according to a report the Minnesota Department of Human Services published Monday.

Click on the PDF to the right to read the full report.

Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson appointed 15 task force members to examine the state’s civil commitment process—a system in which sex offenders are held in secure treatment facilities after they’ve completed their system.

The system has drawn criticism because almost no one has been released, culminating in a federal judge’s order in August for Jesson to convene a task force that could recommend other options.

Specifically, the task force was charged with examining:

  • “The civil commitment and referral process for sex offenders;
  • “Civil commitment options that are less restrictive than placement in a secure treatment facility; and
  • “The standards and processes for the reduction in custody for civilly committed sex offenders.”

The report noted that issue present complex constitutional and legal questions but focused much of the attention on the limited number of so-called “less-restrictive alternatives” that are middle ground on the spectrum of confinement.

“Perhaps the most significant impediment to effective Less Restrictive Alternatives is the absence of facilities and funding for programs to which offenders can be committed short of a secure facility or outright release,” the report stated.

This is a particularly sensitive issue for Hopkins residents after charges were filed against two predatory offenders in the span of a month who had gone missing. In both cases, months went by between the time officers were unable to locate them and when prosecutors filed charges.

Both men were classified as lower level sex offenders and received much less oversight than the highest risk offenders. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension typically sends annual compliance letters to these offenders verifying that they’re at the address they claim. If the offenders don’t respond, BCA notifies local law enforcement. Officers then go to the address to check in person.

Hopkins has just one level III sex offender, the highest risk level. He moved into the community in August and is now under intensive supervised release—which involves regular checks from his supervising agent, drug and alcohol testing and GPS tracking for the first several months.

The report calls on the Legislature to provide adequate funding for “less-secure residential facilities, group homes, outpatient facilities, and treatment programs”—as well as resources for public education and public safety provisions. Any proposals should describe the different types of services that will be required, technology like GPS tracking that will be used and transitional services like employment counseling, it stated.

And if private companies and nonprofits can’t provide sufficient programs and facilities, the human services commissioner should be able to create state-operated facilities and programs, the task force argued.

The task force plans to review the entire civil commitment process in greater depth over the next year and present a final report before Dec. 1, 2013.

 

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