Growing numbers of sex offenders are remaining confined in Minnesota’s controversial treatment program even after judges approved their release, amid an intensifying local backlash against state efforts to return them to the community, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Across the state, anxious communities are rushing to pass extraordinary rules aimed at banning sex offenders from moving in, with far-reaching ordinances that would effectively bar them from any residential neighborhood. More than 40 localities have adopted such bans, and emotions have reached such a pitch that Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper, whose agency oversees the sex offender program, received a threat of violence against her children.
The city of Dayton, 25 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, is the latest flash point. On Friday, the city passed one of the most restrictive measures yet, barring offenders from living near churches, pumpkin patches, and apple orchards. In an emotional three-hour hearing, residents lashed out at the state for attempting to move three convicted rapists to a private group home in Dayton, as City Council members called for a statewide movement against such placements. Looming over the hearings is the memory of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling, whose remains were found last month, 27 years after his abduction along a country road. “Jacob was abducted in a sprawling, wide-open place just like this,” said Malina Hruby, a mother of two in Dayton, gesturing toward farm fields. “He is on all of our minds.” The backlash is confounding state officials, who are running out of places to house sex offenders even as they face court pressure to release more of them.