June 12, 2011

Rydberg case highlights problems Minnesota has keeping track of sexual offenders without going broke

6-12-2011 Minnesota:

In the middle of Friday's hearing on whether a violent rapist should be released to a Golden Valley halfway house, the man's ankle bracelet started buzzing.

The next witness, called by the attorney for sex offender John Rydberg, explained that it was a "low battery" signal.

Scott Halvorson works for the Minnesota Sex Offender Program as a reintegration specialist. He's been responsible for preparing Rydberg, 69, for possible release from his civil commitment at the St. Peter psychiatric hospital.

If he wins his freedom, Rydberg would be the first person permanently released from the state's sex offender program, which had grown to 618 patients as of April 1. Attorneys for the state and Blue Earth County, where he raped a woman at knifepoint in front of her children in 1979, are arguing against his release.

His sex offender program workers have recommended it.

Halvorson said he believed Rydberg when he told him he'd charged the bracelet Friday morning, as he must every day. He has worn one for several years, and frequently goes biking with it on, Halvorson said.

State attorney Noah Cashman, who is arguing for the Commissioner of Human Services that Rydberg should stay at St. Peter, looked at the courtroom clock.

"Is there any reason why it would be going off at 2:25 p.m.?" he asked Halvorson.

"It could be malfunctioning," Halvorson said. "We talked about that, and he told me he charged it."

"But he's had problems with charging it in the past, correct?" Cashman asked.

"Not that I'm aware of," Halvorson said.

Cashman said there were notations in Rydberg's file to that effect.

"It's possible that he forgot to charge it?" Cashman said.

"It's possible," Halvorson said.

Halvorson said the bracelet is connected to a GPS device that sends a signal when the battery is low. On Friday, the GPS administrator "called to verify (Rydberg) was with me."

Halvorson could not answer questions about what the overall life of the battery might be, when Rydberg last received a new one or how long it would take for the battery to go from "low" to dead.

The Rydberg case was last discussed at hearings March 4 and 11 in the Ramsey County Courthouse. Two more days of hearings are expected this summer. The three judges who will rule are serving as a special review panel of the state Supreme Court.

Also called as a witness for Rydberg on Friday was Richard Gardell, chief executive officer of the nonprofit 180 Degrees, which works with adult and juvenile offenders as they re-enter the community.

A new subsidiary of 180 Degrees, called Community Re-entry Services (CRS), is designed to serve people coming out of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. CRS signed a contract with the state in February

Rydberg would be CRS's first client.

In response to questions from Rydberg's attorney, Brian Southwell, Gardell said Rydberg's provisional release plan calls for him to be housed at an 18-bed halfway house in the 5700 block of Olson Memorial Highway in Golden Valley, a mostly light-industrial area. On average, about half the house's occupants are sex offenders released from prison.

The house has a "variety of security measures," Gardell said, including required phone calls from the patients when they go out in the community to GPS monitoring, as Rydberg has now.

A closed-circuit video system inside allows staff to keep an eye on the clients. Rydberg would have a case manager there. And an alarm system alerts staff when anyone leaves the house through a door or window after 10 p.m., Gardell said.

He said Rydberg would be expected to live there for six months, "with some flexibility." That could be extended, he said, but it would be unusual for someone to be there up to two or three years.

Has anyone ever escaped from the house? Cashman asked Gardell.

"It's a halfway house, so 'escape' is not the appropriate word," Gardell said.

"Have you had people leave the facility?" Cashman asked.

"Yes," Gardell said.

He said he could not guarantee that Rydberg would not reoffend sexually.

Ramsey County judges Joanne Smith and Kathleen Gearin, as well as retired Dakota County judge Leslie Metzen, will decide the case.

Following his conviction for the brutal rape of a woman and her husband in Wisconsin, Rydberg was committed to the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Wisconsin in June 1976.

He escaped twice from there. The second time, in 1979, he fled to Mankato, where his last rape occurred.

After serving sentences for aggravated robbery, attempted rape and prison escape, Rydberg was civilly committed in 1993 as a "psychopathic personality."

Rydberg's case is being debated as the state groans under a projected $5 billion budget deficit.

Costs of the sex offender program will grow as more offenders are committed and none released. Furthermore, critics question the constitutionality of a civil commitment program in which no one ever gets out. ..Source.. by Emily Gurnon


Stephen K. said...

"Following his conviction for the brutal rape of a woman and her husband in Wisconsin, Rydberg was committed to the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Wisconsin in June 1976."

Now this one sounds to me like a violent offender! He raped the woman, and her husband. That's a violent predator right there. And we get compared to them! Is that right?

Anonymous said...

No it is not right Stephen K. This is why judges are given discretion to put people like this in prison for life. It is my opinion that the
public registries,as we know them today, will undergo some serious revisions in the near future.They are too costly, growing too quickly,and do little to protect anyone.More and more credible studies are being done that expose the truth about the costly ineffectiveness of the public registries.Way too many citizens on them that don't belong belong there.