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March 16, 2011

Minnesota considering returning to indefinite prison over civil commitment for some sex offenders

As detailed in this local Minnesota article, which is headlined "Bill seeks to keep sex offenders jailed," a state that pioneered determinate sentencing is thinking about a return to indeterminate sentencing for a notable class of offenders.  Here are the particulars:

Minnesota's most predatory sex offenders, repeatedly branded "the worst of the worst," would be kept behind bars indefinitely under a bill moving through the Legislature.  Members of the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday to keep those offenders in prison instead of diverting them to a costly and controversial state program that has civilly committed hundreds of offenders in state treatment centers.

Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, the bill's sponsor, said that asking Minnesotans what the state should do with sex offenders would produce three answers: "life without parole, castration or the death penalty." "I don't mean to be sensationalistic," Cornish added, "but the public expects us to do something drastic."

Under the bill, which was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, convicted offenders would face open-ended prison sentences, known as "indeterminate," if members of a jury found that them to be predatory, meaning they lack control over sexual impulses and pose a danger to others.  Such offenders would have to serve at least twice the recommended sentence and could be released only if the corrections commissioner determined they were no longer a threat to society.

If the bill becomes law, it would mark a return to the system of indeterminate sentencing that was replaced several years ago with sentencing guidelines.  The bill moved out of committee days after the state's Legislative Auditor concluded that the 17-year-old Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) is deeply flawed.

The audit found that more than 575 offenders now held in two state treatment centers receive inadequate therapy from underqualified staff members at excessive cost.  About 55 other offenders have been temporarily housed in other correctional facilities.  The program's population has nearly quadrupled over the past decade, and Minnesota now confines more sex offenders per capita than any other state.  Noting that the number of sex offenders is expected to double again in the next 10 years, Cornish said legislators "are facing a huge decision point right now.  We're spending a heck of a lot on housing."

The bill was supported by Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.  Under the current system, convicted offenders not in the program who have served their sentences are "the criminals who moms and dads want to see locked up a long, long time," Stanek said.

March 16, 2011 at 08:27 AM | Permalink

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Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, the bill's sponsor, said that asking Minnesotans what the state should do with sex offenders would produce three answers: "life without parole, castration or the death penalty." "I don't mean to be sensationalistic," Cornish added, "but the public expects us to do something drastic."

And this is why we have elected representatives instead of a pure democracy. The "public" is comprised of uneducated morons who only parrot what they hear from Nancy Grace and Glenn Beck. They are not a good source of public policy recommendations.

Posted by: NickS | Mar 16, 2011 8:57:38 AM

Nick would it be better for we "uneducated morons" to parrot what we hear from you?

Posted by: Just Curious | Mar 16, 2011 9:55:44 AM

Doung, you left off the best 'graph:

More than 100 Level Three sex offenders live in Hennepin County, according to Stanek. More than 80 are repeat offenders and more than 60 are free from court supervision. "We know what damage and havoc they wreak on our streets," he said.

I live in Hennepin County and haven't noticed any "damage and havoc" being "wreak[ed] on [the] streets" by Level 3 sex offenders. Or anyone else for that matter. But maybe I haven't been paying attention.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 16, 2011 11:55:36 AM

NickS (Mar 16, 2011 8:57:38 AM): You are EXACTLY right. Honestly, I believe that a good 90+% of the American population are morons who are not nearly capable of objective thought. They “think” with their emotions. They are the reason why we have the idiotic, worse than worthless SEX OFFENDER laws that we do. Personally, I am sick of their nanny government BS and would like for a lot more Americans to step up and pay for the cr*p they want.

There is no doubt that allowing the majority of Americans to drive social policy (including SEX OFFENDER laws) is a very bad idea. Each American citizen should be protected by the tyranny of the majority. Just because a majority wants something does not me it is moral or right. Politicians are the people who must temper the tyrannical majority.

I truly believe that the “people” who zealously support the SEX OFFENDER Registries and its tag-along laws are simply terrorists. They are people who cannot leave other people alone. Regardless of facts. They have to hate, harass, and punish those people.

“Life without parole” and similar sentences simply are not justified for at least 95% of the crimes that were committed by people who are listed on the SEX OFFENDER Registries. Those sentences are not even close to reasonable. If a person compares the actual damage caused by sexual offenses to the actual damage caused by hundreds of other categories of crimes, the sentences for sexual offenses cannot be justified.

When I hear criminal terrorists like Tony Cornish talk about “life without parole”, etc., I always pray to God that the people who are being given such sentences are their children. That is karma for them. I pray that the next SEX OFFENDERS in the United States are Tony Cornish’s children and that we get to put them in prison for life.

Justice for the terrorists.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Mar 16, 2011 1:01:13 PM

When they set up civil commitments, it was defended in court because it was seen not as extra punishment, but as treatment for illness. Now that they want to move it back to prison sentences extended indefinitely, would that not set it up for failure due to ex-post-facto for anyone who is still serving time and may be effected by this?
Sounds like a few years of "courts sorting it out" followed by declaration of unconstitutionality. Tax payer money wasted to supposedly ease the financial burden created by civil commitments. Is that what you call digging a hole to fill another?

Posted by: tbucket | Mar 16, 2011 1:39:43 PM

what i loved was this part!

"The audit found that more than 575 offenders now held in two state treatment centers receive inadequate therapy from underqualified staff members at excessive cost. About 55 other offenders have been temporarily housed in other correctional facilities. The program's population has nearly quadrupled over the past decade, and Minnesota now confines more sex offenders per capita than any other state. Noting that the number of sex offenders is expected to double again in the next 10 years, Cornish said legislators "are facing a huge decision point right now. We're spending a heck of a lot on housing."


Guess what you minnesota idiots...if you are dumb enough to do this. First EVERY one of the 575 individuals illegaly locked up in your bogus "sex treatment facilities" would have to be IMMEDIATELY released....Since EVERY one has finished their legal COURT ORDERED CRIMINAL sentence!

2nd the next 1,000+ that are expected to be released during the next 10 years would ALSO HAVE TO BE RELEASED immediately upon finishing their again LEGAL COURT ORDERED sentence.

Since guess what you retards YOU CAN'T go back an resentence them now!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 16, 2011 3:14:28 PM

"...and Minnesota now confines more sex offenders per capita than any other state. Noting that the number of sex offenders is expected to double again in the next 10 years..."

Double again? Are they planning on raising the age of consent to 24?

Posted by: Robert | Mar 16, 2011 3:30:39 PM

I too am somewhat surprised that anyone held ordered for treatment who is not in fact being treated is not in court right now demanding that the state either provide treatment designed to culminate in release or free the offender now. I thought the SCOTUS decision on such programs was pretty specific that the confinement did in fact need to be therapeutic else it was an unconstitutional ex post facto punishment. Although the court makeup has shifted enough since it first went up that I would not be particularly optimistic about a favorable ruling from the Supremes.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 16, 2011 4:34:18 PM

Get rid of the "one size fits all" for sex offenders!
Also Civil commitment of mentally ill people "is wrong"
also sending people to prison for being mentally ill "is wrong".
And for those of you whom believe the media's propaganda that all sex offrenders are evil monsters and will attack again and soon, really? you need to take a look around your town, how many drug dealers are ready to serve your childern? how many drunks could run over your childern at any time? exc? Just because the crime invoved "SEX" then you right away see it as the only danger! Can you say "over reaction!!! Get a grip.stop the pathetic witch hunting and media brain washing all ready "please"!!

Posted by: Becky r. mills | Mar 27, 2011 2:26:11 AM

Whats up with a "targetted" group of offenders being "forced to submitt to polygraphs or get sent back to prison? Fair and equal justis? USA or USSR??

Posted by: Becky r. mills | Mar 28, 2011 4:53:05 AM

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