The state's report card on sex offender treatment
Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed a cabinet-level position in 2004 to coordinate sex offender policy and management across state agencies. At the direction of the state Legislature, a working group of experts was convened in 2005 to develop statewide sex offender management standards. The group issued its final report in February, 2007. The report is designed to serve as a blueprint for sex offender managment policy in Minnesota. Here are some excerpts of that report.
St. Paul, Minn. — From 1988 through 2005, there were 12,038 convictions for felony-level sex offenses. Of these, 4,016 offenders were sent to prison and the remaining 8,022 were managed in the community.
The ultimate goal of adult sex offender treatment is to protect the community from criminal sexual behavior by facilitating behavior change necessary to reduce the client's risk of re-offense.
COORDINATION AND COLLABORATION
One of the major themes discussed in relation to supervising and treating sex offenders is the need for coordinated efforts among all of the individuals and entities that handle sex offender management in Minnesota.
Some examples of this include: the formation of an oversight entity to provide statewide monitoring and implementation assistance on sex offender management policies; the recommendation that supervising agents and child protection services be allowed to share information; and the request that polygraph examiners be included in a collaborative case management team.
A systemic deficiency exists in the existence of the programs as individual "silos" with a lack of coordination and communication between programs.
All programs in the state, including those in Department of Corrections facilities (and perhaps someday DHS facilities), should be networked in a cohesive web of communication with common goals and expectations.
This connectivity within the system will increase the quality of services provided, as well as produce more efficiency and cost-effectiveness by reducing duplication of treatment with certain offenders and sharing of effective policies and practices.
In conjunction with increased communication and interconnectivity, more focus must be placed on establishing a true continuum of services across the state.
This continuum will provide the most appropriate services to offenders at the most appropriate time. This will enhance program effectiveness, decrease overall system costs, and increase public safety.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ENHANCING SUPERVISION
• Funding is necessary to increase training to corrections professionals on sex offender issues, including best practices and future enhancements.
• Additional funding for investigations by counties in child protection matters.
• Data practice language should be updated to allow sharing of information between child protection and probation staff on juvenile sex offenders.
• Specialized caseloads and units dedicated to the supervision of sex offenders should be created whenever feasible.
• Additional funding should be allocated to incorporate new technology in sex offender management and upgrade local operational systems.
• Create and fund an ongoing small-scale entity to coordinate, assess, and improve statewide responses to sex offender management, including identifying new and emerging issues; providing training, technical assistance, and oversight to agencies allowing them to meet the standards; and working closely with researchers.
• Create an independent, statewide operational and policy research entity to review national and international best practices, identify emerging trends, conduct research, and provide local, state, and national policy-makers with evidence-based recommendations for improving sex offender management.
The Adult Work Group specifically addressed the issue of establishing distance requirements regarding where offenders may live. This refers to local ordinances or statewide legislation which would require those convicted of a sexual offense to live a certain number of feet from schools, licensed daycares, or from each other. Such restrictions have been established in other states.
Prior research suggests that residency restrictions make it more difficult for sex offenders to successfully re-enter society by limiting employment prospects, reducing suitable housing opportunities, and increasing emotional and financial stress, thereby increasing their risk to the community.
Further, there are strong indications that such legislation negatively impacts the accuracy of predatory offender registration information maintained by law enforcement and corrections, also contributing to increased risk to the community.
Previous reports on concentration and housing in Minnesota suggest that in urban areas there would not be adequate housing for sex offenders where proximity restrictions to schools, day-cares, and/or other offenders are enacted.
Restrictions on concentration of sex offenders pose an additional barrier to housing, and were not supported by the work group. Concentration can actually make it easier for agents to supervise this high-risk population and ensure predatory offenders continue to register.
The work group recommends, instead of concentration restrictions, that institutional pre-release plans and intrastate transfers follow standard investigative practices, including supervising agent consideration of residence location, occupants, and visitation to the proposed residence.
While GPS monitoring shows potential for the future, the current state of this technology has demonstrated serious limitations.
GPS has been found to be helpful in tracking a specific offender location. However, the expenses associated with staff resources, along with connectivity and reliability issues, make it a lower priority at this time. They felt that advances in technology may make future use of the technology possible, but that use of GPS in this area should proceed with caution.
PRIMARY FUNDING RECOMMENDATIONS
• Additional funding is needed to increase the number of supervising agents, to reduce caseload for agents supervising sex offenders.
• All the work groups identified the need for additional funding for sex offender treatment.
• Offender housing on release from both Minnesota correctional facilities and local correctional facilities. This should include substantial increases in halfway house funding, expansion of re-entry housing, and long-term establishment of subsidized, supervised apartment facilities throughout the state.
• A statewide fund should be established to subsidize polygraph testing.