Sex offenders at Minnesota’s newest treatment facility can watch television on one of two dozen new, 50-inch flat-screen TVs, and more may be on the way, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The cost of the sports bar-type, plasma TVs — $1,576 apiece, plus a $706 mounting bracket — is a relatively small part of the state’s multimillion-dollar effort to house and treat sex offenders.
A debate has ensued over whether the TVs help make the offenders easier to manage and have a clinical benefit, or a needless luxury for a controversial program that faces a skyrocketing budget and patient population. Surprisingly, the loudest critics of the TVs may be the sex offenders. Two of them have complained to state legislators that the TVs mounted in common areas of the new 400-bed facility are a waste of money because most patients have small televisions in their rooms. “I am appalled by the fact that there are children in school now that probably don’t have schoolbooks, and that bridges are falling down, and old people are going without medicine, and we’re sitting here in this ‘white horse’ bolting these huge sports bar televisions onto the walls,” said Rodger Robb II, a sex offender living in the new $45 million complex that opened in July. Officials bristle at suggestions that the TVs are a waste of taxpayer money, and say focusing on their cost ignores the complex treatment plans devised for a population for which there are no quick cures.