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Minnesota Legislature

Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R)

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SHOULD OUR WORST SEX OFFENDERS BE ALLOWED TO REJOIN SOCIETY?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Parents: What would your reaction be upon learning that a man convicted of almost 100 sex offenses with 30 separate victims – one of them eight years old – would soon be relocating to your neighborhood? Without Governor Dayton’s intervention, this hypothetical question will soon be reality for some St. Paul parents. Not long ago, Dayton’s human services commissioner Lucinda Jesson supported a move that will take a repeated child sex offender from state custody and place him in a halfway house – despite the fact that study after study has proven that our sex offender treatment programs aren’t effective. 64-year-old Clarence Opheim has been in the Minnesota Sex Offender Treatment Program since 1994. He has roughly 100 sex offenses with almost 30 different kids on his resume. The irony in all this is that Opheim had been described as “at a high risk to commit a future serious sexual offense” just under one year ago. Yet Jesson failed to object to his release last week. She agreed with a report that said Opheim deserved a greater degree of freedom after accomplishing the requirements of his treatment program. Because of this, Opheim will be sent to live in a St. Paul halfway house in March. A recent Minnesota Legislative Auditor’s report found the Minnesota Sex Offender Program facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter – where 575 of Minnesota’s worst sexual offenders are treated - have significant problems. Officials from one of the facilities previously testified that not one sex offender had ever been successfully treated to the point where they could be released back into society without fear of re-offense. Opheim will apparently be the first. Treatment is never going to cure our state’s most heinous sex offenders, and Opheim clearly falls in that category. I hope Governor Dayton will reverse this decision and not put the public at risk. I imagine a bunch of St. Paul families feel exactly the same way. But this action by Governor Dayton’s administration highlights why this state needs to come up with improved ways to deal with Minnesota’s sex offenders. Treatment is ineffective and expensive for Minnesota’s most dangerous sex offenders. Prisons, not halfway houses, should be the future destination for convicted pedophiles like Clarence Opheim.