Lack of Action Could Mean Release of Sex Offenders

Updated: 03/14/2014 10:45 PM
Created: 03/14/2014 9:47 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 News) -- Despite strong warnings from a federal judge to make changes to the state's sex offender program, lawmakers are unlikely to act on it this session. But doing nothing poses an even greater risk.

"Anytime you do anything with sex offenders other than increase their sentences, other than be tougher on them, it's difficult politically,” said Representative Tina Liebling (DFL) of Rochester, when we spoke with her last November.

Friday, Governor Mark Dayton says he believes a legislative solution will likely not happen this year.

"I'm concerned the legislature didn't act quickly enough,” said Olmsted County Attorney, Mark Ostrem. He’s part of the task force which made recommendations to help change the current program.

"Given the state of the lawsuit, it’s very disappointing they didn’t try,” said Ostrem.

Now it could be up to a federal judge to make that final call. Just last month, a federal judge said the program is clearly broken and may even be unconstitutional. This after a lawsuit brought on by a group of offenders who claim they are being locked up indefinitely.

"The scary thing is the judge could say ok you know x number of people are going to be released tomorrow and we aren't ready for them,” said Ostrem. He’s talking about the state not having any lesser restrictive replacement programs for these offenders, meaning they could be released into communities.

"They are the absolute worst of the worst, so to release those folks without any support, without any supervision is a little concerning,” said Ostrem.

There is no time frame for this lawsuit and again a federal judge could rule on this at any point. However, Ostrem tells us he hopes the federal judge gives our lawmakers more time whether that be in a special session or next year.

To watch ABC 6's two-part investigation on the Minnesota sex offender program you can click on these links:  ABC 6 Investigates:  Minnesota Sex Offender Program Part 1 and Part 2.