Only a handful attend sex offender meeting

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 11/18/97.

The sex offender informational meeting, held Nov. 10 in Paynesville, was an atempt to inform the public about the recent changes in the laws including public disclosure. Will Alexander of the Minnesota Department of Corrections, was in Paynesville to explain the sex offender program.

Legislation over the years has changed the sex offender laws. In 1988, Attorney General Hubert Humphrey formed the first task force to study sex offender crimes. As a result of that task force study, criminal cases now require DNA analysis, have the three time loser law, a patterned sex offender statute and sex offender registration. In addition, the department of corrections is required to provide more sex offender treatment in its institutions.

After the 1991 incident where Melissa Johnson, St. Cloud State University student, was murdered by a man on probation, the department of corrections has re-examined their release procedures and prisoners are escorted everywhere from the door of the prison to halfway houses. They are not allowed to reach their destination on their own.

In 1992, the legislature extended the length of mandatory sentence for sex offenders, extended probation to 10 years for repeat offenders, and broadened sex offender registration

With the latest sex offender law changes, the courts can require further expansion of the sex offender registration. Police departments are doing in-depth background checks before releasing them from prison.

ďMinnesota does a good job of watching offenders,Ē Alexander said. ďPrison sentences are being increased along with longer probation periods. DNA testing is being used to match evidence. Sex offender registration applies up to 10 years after release from prison. As of July 1, 1997, there were 6,500 registered sex offenders in Minnesota.

ďThere is increased supervision training, increased direct support services for victims of sexual assault, and increased knowledge by law enforcement and other agencies on how to deal with victims,Ē Alexander added.

The number of sex offenders in Minnesota has doubled from 1990 to 1997. The average prison sentence for sex offenders is as follows: rape, 95 months; incest, 79 months; child molestation, 68 months; and sex offense (pornography, Internet or prostitution) 66 months.

The average age of sex offenders is: rapists, 28 years old, 80 percent are younger than 35; incest, 38 years old, 60 percent are older than 35; and child molestation, 35 years old.

Eighty percent sex offenders are acquainted with their victim; 75 percent have no prior felony or sex offense convictions and 70 percent are chemically dependent.

Sex offenders are ranked on three levels: level one, low risk of reoffense; level two, moderate risk of reoffense; and level three, high risk of reoffense.

In the situation of a level one offender moving to Paynesville, mandatory disclosure of the personís presence is only made known to the victim, the witnesses, and other law enforcement agencies where the offender is likely to be encountered.

When a level two offender moves into a neighborhood, mandatory disclosure is made to victim, the witnesses, other law enforcement agencies where the offender is likely to be encountered, daycare establishments, public schools, and organizations that primarily serve individuals likely to be victimized by the offender.

When a level three offender moves into a neighborhood, mandatory disclosure is made to the same individuals as in level one and two, in addition to any members of the community the offender is likely to encounter.

With level three offenders, additional disclosure of a fact sheet may be made. The fact sheet would state his prior history, offense characteristics, his or her photo and characteristics of likely victims.

The public will also be informed of the offenderís rights to be free of illegal harassment.

Of the sex offenders in the state, 63 percent are classified as level one offenders; 25 percent, level two and 12 percent, level three.

ďSex offenders are usually not imported into new communities, they return to a town with family connection,Ē Alexander said.

The Paynesville City Council and Paynesville Police Department adopted a sex offender policy in December 1996 which went into effect on Jan. 1, 1997.

Over the years, Paynesville has had some sex offenders return to the area after serving their time. However, the community was not aware of them because there was not a sex offender law in place at that time.

Anyone wishing more information can contact Paynesville Police Chief Tony Schmitt, 243-7346 or by calling Alexander at 612-643-3467 or e-mail:

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