MPR’s Midmorning today tackled one of the most controversial subjects in Minnesota — should the state be spending more money to house sex offenders after they’ve served their time?
University of Massachusetts Lowell professor Andrew Harris and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman considered whether there are other ways to deal with the likely problem. None surface that is likely to affect Minnesota between now and the time the Legislature considers a bill to expand the facilities for the sex offender program at Moose Lake.
We’ve gotten these responses to the show (so far) from the audience.
From White Bear Lake:
As a person whose family was destroyed by sex abuse, any policy that lets pedophiles out of prison to offend again-and they will- is too lenient. I never supported the death penalty before, but I do now for crimes against children. The pedophile that tore apart my family is out of prison, whereas we live with a life sentence due to the effect of his actions. You can not underestimate the impact of sex abuse of a child on their life-for the rest of their life. Even with therapy, we are forever changed.
From St. Paul:
In contrast to what we are spending for this very expensive approach to addressing sexual violence, Minnesota spends zero dollars on primary prevention of sexual violence. It seems like our public policy is out of balance, we spend whatever it takes or is requested to deal with people once offended, but nothing to really change the environment or circumstances in which sexual violence is nurtured.
Attorney Freeman indicated Minnesota is one of the lowest states for percentage of its population behind bars. But since 2007, the state is actually in the highest fifth of states in incarceration rates, with a 5.1% increase, according to a study by the Pew Center on the States. And a separate Pew report says 1 in 26 people in the state is under the control of the Department of Corrections in some fashion.
But Minnesota spends comparatively little on its incarcerated people. Only 2.7% of its general fund goes to prisons. Only Alabama spends less, according to Pew. And the state is last in spending on prisons compared to, say, spending on education.