States have released sex offenders, with varying successMinnesota is one of 20 states in the country that civilly commits its sex offenders for treatment, but it’s the only state that has never permanently released an offender, records reviewed by the News Tribune show.
Minnesota is one of 20 states in the country that civilly commits its sex offenders for treatment, but it’s the only state that has never permanently released an offender, records reviewed by the News Tribune show.
While Texas hasn’t released any offender, it commits them to halfway houses and intensively monitors their movement through the community.
Since the Texas program began in 1999, no offender has been charged with a new sex offense, though some have been charged with violating conditions of their release and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences.
Missouri, Pennsylvania and Nebraska have released only a handful of sex offenders, but their populations of committed offenders are far smaller than Minnesota’s.
States that have released numerous offenders have seen varying degrees of success. Wisconsin, for example, has discharged more than 90 of its offenders since 1995, and of those had 37 revocations. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve reoffended, said Seth Boffeli, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Human Services, which runs the state’s program. It could also mean they’ve violated terms of their release, such as displaying questionable behavior, drinking or tampering with tracking devices.
He couldn’t say how many were recommitted for a new sex offense.
Perhaps the most successful program in the country is run by the state of Washington. Ten years ago, the state’s program was found to be unconstitutional by a federal judge, who ordered the state to make major changes or be faced with millions of dollars in fines and the threat of releasing offenders.
“In order to be found constitutional, we had to provide people with opportunities to make their way through the program and earn their release,” said Kelly Cunningham, the director of the state’s commitment program.
Ten years later, 57 offenders have been released, Cunningham said, and not one has been recommitted.
Cunningham said getting there wasn’t easy. When the first few offenders were released, administrators would be met by an outraged public at hearings.
“We had people throwing things at leadership,” Cunningham said.
Now releases are barely noticed, he said.
“For the states that have these programs, you’ve got to release people,” Cunningham said. “The state now realizes as a result of the injunction that you have to release people who have completed the program. We cannot continue to hold somebody indefinitely without questioning the constitutionality of the program.”