MN Gov Seeks Tougher Sex Offender Laws; Civil Commitments Rise


Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is proposing tough new penalties for sex offenders, saying sentences for those who commit serious crimes against children should be more than doubled, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Under the proposal, those convicted of first-degree sex offenses would see their presumptive sentence go from 12 years to 25 years. Those with criminal histories likely would see tougher penalties. In 2005, the state passed get-tough sentencing reforms, which included the first sentences of life without the possibility of parole for the most serious sex offenders. Pawlenty expressed unhappiness with the way some of those reforms have been implemented by courts. From 2006 to 2008, the latest year for which numbers are available, only seven people received the life without parole sentence.

The sentencing proposal comes as the Legislature debates a $90 million expansion of the state’s sex offender civil commitment program. Since its creation two decades ago, 551 men and one woman have been sent to the program after their criminal sentences ended, and the number has been steadily increasing since college student Dru Sjodin’s 2003 murder. Minnesota has the highest per capita number of civil commitments in the nation. Over the next seven years, the number of civilly committed sex offenders is expected to rise by about 65 a year. The program is expected to reach capacity within three years.

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