Monday, 10. March 2014
A recent 75-page ruling penned by U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank highlighted the current failings of Minnesota’s government-controlled sex offender reform program and called for sweeping changes.
In addition to condemning the current system, Frank took some steps to move control of the program to Minnesota’s legal system, as opposed to leaving the decisions up to legislators. Frank hired experts to advise the court on sex offender risk assessment, placement, and care and treatment standards as he declared the current program had “grave deficiencies.”
One of the deficiencies Frank alluded to is the number of sex offenders who have been locked up for treatment after completing their prison sentences. Most alarming of all, of the nearly 700 individuals who have entered the treatment program over the last two decades, only one person has successfully completed treatment. Frank said these indefinite treatment sentences are little more than thinly veiled prison sentences on the presumption that the offender may commit a future crime.
Another alarming statistic is the number of offenders who are seemingly lost in a purgatory-style treatment phase that does little to treat their condition. Frank wrote, “no sex-offender-specific treatment whatsoever is provided in Phase I,” yet according to the 2012 statistics, “64 percent of Minnesota Sex Offender Program patients were in Phase I” of a three-phase treatment program.
Frank has taken steps to address the programs lack of success by hiring advisory experts. The experts will review offender profiles to determine “a complete and independent evaluation of each patient.” The experts will also comb over current files to determine who truly needs to be in the program and who has shown true rehabilitation.
The ruling showcases that Frank is serious about taking over control of the program, and it should serve as a wakeup call to lawmakers in Minnesota. The House failed to pass mild reforms that had bipartisan support last year, and it doesn’t appear that any changes will occur in the near future. Neither the House nor the Senate has scheduled hearings to discuss possible reforms. Some speculate that legislators aren’t in a hurry to reform a program that may make them appear soft on crime, especially during an election year.
Mel Welch comments
I made a statement in the blog about the police who shot an unarmed teen that I feel relates to this issue. I said, “Many offenders with mental illnesses are bound to continue to cycle through the legal system because we refuse to address the real problem. They go from jail to the street and are asked to find a solution even though they don’t have the means to attain it.”
This sentiment applies to the current sex offender system. Some people believe the best way to deal with the problem is to lock up these offenders and throw away the key, instead of making sure these individuals get the help they need. Not every offender reoffends, despite public belief that they will. According to a recent study, 75 percent of Americans believe sex offenders will reoffend, while the data shows that only 14 percent reoffend with five years after release.
There needs to be a concentrated effort to re-examine the current system and ensure that offenders who serve their time and prove they are rehabilitated don’t have to stay adrift in a program that unjustly punishes them for future crimes they likely won’t commit.
Related source: Star Tribune