Is Mn. Sex Offender Crackdown At Odds With Facts?


Minnesota state Rep. Kurt Zellers hailed House passage of his legislation to lock up sex offenders for life without parole when they commit first-degree rape. “It was time for us to send a message to these predators that we will no longer allow them to repeatedly victimize our families and communities,” he declared, says the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

A major U.S. government study, the largest of its kind, indicates that sex offenders, as a group, including violent sex offenders, are less likely to be arrested for new crimes than other released criminals. The study shows that only about 5 percent of sex offenders are arrested for new sex crimes within three years. That finding is mirrored in Minnesota data.

The Star Tribune says other studies cited by legislators say that research based on arrests and convictions underestimate true recidivism rates, because many sex crimes are unreported or unsolved. “The sexual predator has had his last chance in Minnesota,” said Rep. Steve Smith, R-Mound, chairman of the judiciary policy and finance committee. “We’re tired of these acts, and they cannot be permitted or tolerated.”

The bill’s driving force is the case of kidnapped and murdered University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin. Alfonso Rodriguez, a released sex offender, has been charged with kidnapping her. Why and how he got out has inspired intense debate. Belief is widespread at the Capitol that the release of many incarcerated sex offenders is unconscionable, particularly because of their high likelihood to reoffend.

The Justice Department found that of the 3,115 released rapists it studied, 5 percent had a new arrest for a sex crime within the first three years. Of the 6,576 released sexual assaulters, 5.5 percent were arrested for a new sex crime.

Much of the discussion has centered on one category of sex offenders, so-called Level 3. Those are offenders who are convicted for sex-related offenses, and have been classified by the state corrections department, using a psychological scoring system, as being most likely to reoffend. Among those who score at the highest level, such as Rodriguez, experts say 45 to 75 percent will commit another sex crime, depending on how the data are analyzed.


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