Let your voices be heard

Dear Editor:

I was disturbed to read of the state of Minnesota’s department of Human Services’ (DHS) plan to bring some inmates (or “clients” as DHS refers to them) from the high security St. Peter sex offender treatment facility to a less secure and restrictive facility in Cambridge. Apparently some “clients” of DHS have sued the state in federal court, claiming that a permanent stay in a sex offender treatment program violates their constitutional rights. Moving some sex offenders to Cambridge is DHS’ response to this federal lawsuit.

When the old state hospital buildings were demolished years ago, the state sold the surrounding land to Cambridge Medical Center, Isanti County, and the remainder to the city of Cambridge. Cambridge decided to have homes constructed in this area, and a neighborhood was built. Though DHS is now under pressure to take action because of the federal lawsuit, it is no longer appropriate to use the Cambridge facility for such purposes because the land surrounding the campus is now full of residential homes. DHS claims that the “clients” moved up here will be mentally impaired or medically needy, and that with improved security, there will be minimal risk to the public.

I would argue that no matter what level of security surrounding this facility, or the degree of mental impairment in these “clients,” it is simply not appropriate to house sex offenders in the middle of a residential area.

An additional concern is that while the facility is currently only licensed for 16 “clients,” and DHS is considering only six applicants right now, the facility has 48 beds. “You build it, they will come” is the adage that comes to mind in this case. Once DHS gets their foot in the door, we will have no say in whether they get themselves licensed for additional “clients.”

There was an article published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune September 13, 2013 titled, “Some Sex Offenders May Move.” I would encourage all concerned citizens to google this so that they can educate themselves further.

The city of Cambridge’s hands are tied in this matter. Our only recourse is to let Gov. Mark Dayton know that this is far from appropriate, and invite him or his staff to visit the area so they can see first-hand how close the facility is to residential neighborhoods. Gov. Dayton is running for re-election in 2014, and is the boss of DHS, so hopefully he will be interested in our concerns. The only thing that can stop this move is citizen outcry, pure and simple.

DHS is planning on holding public meetings on Oct. 1 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Armed Forces Reserve and Community Center in Cambridge, 505 Spirit River Drive. It is important to attend one of these meetings as well. I am certain that DHS will say anything they need to in order to assure us that there will be no risk to the people of Cambridge. Keep in mind that their goal is not one of concern for our safety and security, or what sort of risk is involved; rather, their goal is solely to respond to the federal lawsuit. They will say and do whatever it takes to get this matter off their plate. Most important, however, is that you contact the governor’s office. Hopefully the sheer volume of calls and emails will convince him and his staff that this is important.

You can contact Governor Dayton’s office in one of three ways: 1) By phone at 651-201-3400; 2) by email at http://mn.gov/governor/contact-us/ or; 3) by U.S. mail at: Office of the Governor, 130 State Capitol 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.

This is plan has wide-reaching implications on our town, and it is too important to sit back and do nothing. Please, let your voices be heard.

Mara Renier