As many as 40 dangerous sexual predators may be on the street or about to go free because the Minnesota Department of Corrections isn’t following the law, state Attorney General Mike Hatch charged yesterday. His office is trying to help local prosecutors get those offenders back or keep them locked up.
Hatch wrote to Corrections Commissioner Joan Fabian amid a dispute between their offices over how the state should handle dangerous sex offenders. The two are scheduled to meet today.
Under state law, courts may order civil commitments for the most dangerous “Level 3” offenders. Those commitments allow the state to hold offenders in secure psychiatric facilities indefinitely. The Corrections Department has stopped recommending to county attorneys whether to seek civil commitments for Level 3 offenders approaching release. It made the change after criticism for allowing the release of Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., the Level 3 offender charged in December with kidnapping college student Dru Sjodin. He has denied the allegations.
Corrections still notifies prosecutors of impending releases, but no longer recommends whether they should seek civil commitments – recommendations the attorney general says are required by law. Since December, the state has sent 236 letters to county attorneys notifying them of Level 3 offenders about to be released. Hatch has focused on 75 offenders in the 80 rural counties and says many of them already have gone free. He estimated that 40 of them deserve civil commitment. “If this is the case, it means that we have approximately 40 sexual predators who are unable to control their sexual impulses on the street, or about to be on the street, due to the failure of the department to do its job,” he said.
Fabian replied: “We really have no way of knowing if that’s an accurate number and neither does he. I don’t see it the same way as he does, but then I’m not running for governor,” she said, alluding to the assumption that Hatch will challenge Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the 2006 election.