August 17, 2011

State budget doubles cost to counties to commit sex offenders

This system of charging counties for folks they submit for possible civil commitment may very well cut the number of cases referred.
8-17-2011 Minnesota:

St. Paul, Minn. — The new state budget will double costs to counties for committed sex offenders, and some say that may affect how those criminal cases are handled.

The state began committing sex offenders in the late 1980s. The system detains sex offenders after they've served their prison sentences. They're held for voluntary treatment. No one has been permanently released.

Now, Minnesota has more civilly committed sex offenders per capita than any other state, each costing $328 daily. Under the new budget, the county contribution is bumped to 25 percent, up from 10 percent.

"What we want to do is have the counties think more about what they're doing," said State Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder.

By counties, Cornish refers to county prosecutors. Cornish chairs the state's House Judiciary and Public Safety committee. County prosecutors decide which cases are considered for civil commitment, he said. Some prosecutors exercise that power often, others don't.

That lack of uniformity could mean some prosecutors are committing people they shouldn't, a recent legislative auditor's report concluded. Cornish said the report is compelling.

"In a way, it's probably taking the safe way out," Cornish said. "Rather than suffer the political consequences of guessing wrong and not committing somebody and they offend again. It's like locking someone up forever."

The state's two facilities for civilly committed sex offenders are running out of beds and space. The state is spending millions to expand those resources, but many legislators think the system is out of control.

The 3rd Judicial District in southwestern Minnesota has the highest commitment rate per capita in the state and includes Steele County, which may be affected the greatest.

County cost increases for civil commitment were included in an early budget bill that Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed. The measure didn't resurface until state leaders emerged from closed door meetings with a budget deal. The only options available to Steele County involve reallocating budgeted money or increasing taxes to address the bump in costs, county administrator Riaz Aziz said.

"This was done from what I understand at the wee hours of the morning," Aziz said. "Not a lot of comment from the public — certainly not from county government — and this is one of those issues where we don't have a lot of flexibility.

For 20 years, the state has had just one option for sex offenders considered too dangerous for release. There should be other choices county administrators said. Some advocate changes to the civil commitment law, increasing prison sentences, or adding more halfway houses for sex offenders.

Because of money, Minnesota's hard line stance appears to be crumbling. Deciding to pursue commitment is up to prosecutors, but David Perkins, a commissioner in Olmstead County, said "I think we're a little more aggressive in sentencing our sex offenders. We may have to back off a little on that."

As prosecutors commit more sex offenders, the cost will take up more of county budgets. But county attorneys said they won't prosecute or commit fewer people in order to save money.

"We don't do things up for financial basis. We do them because public safety requires admit it. And I can say without limitation that there's not a single county attorney in Minnesota who makes a prosecutorial decision based on finances," said Mike Freeman, an attorney for Hennepin County. That county commits more people than any other. ..Source.. by Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio


Anonymous said...

"As prosecutors commit more sex offenders".......Where did these people (federal,state,county,city
FSO management lawmakers)get thier
professional degrees from?You mean to tell me out of all those Phd.'s,Dr.'s, Esquires, and Honorables nobody anticipated that a public registry, coupled by volumes of new sex related laws and restrictions, and the explosion of new convictions wouldn't grow at an astronomical rate and become fiscally and materially unmanageable in a short period of time??? I support protecting our precious children 110% (7 of my own). However, our elected officials need to start asking themselves some hard questions.The entire operation is BROKEN.....FIX IT...while you still can!

Anonymous said...

It is because of such frivilous, unnecessary spending that this nation is in big economic trouble, yet you rarely hear suggestions of doing away with any unnecessary Sex Offender laws/restrictions that require astronomical amounts of money to enforce!