Resident voices concerns with plan to move sex offender program clients to Cambridge

Mara Reiner
Guest Columnist

A group of concerned citizens met with Representative Brian Johnson on Sunday and learned many interesting things about the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) plan to make changes to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP); specifically, they plan to move “low-functioning” and “medically-needy” clients from their Minnesota Sex Offender Treatment Program from St. Peter and Moose Lake to Cambridge.

I believe DHS has characterized the clients it plans to move as “low-functioning” or “mentally-impaired” so that the citizens of Cambridge are not alarmed. In essence, they are playing to our sympathies.

A closer look at the facts reveals an entirely different picture. Let’s take a look.

• Clients of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) are there because they have been civilly committed as sex offenders (sexually dangerous or sexual psychopath as defined by Minnesota Statute 253B.185) and likely to re-offend

• In order to be civilly committed, offenders must have served time in prison for their crime

• In order to serve time in prison, they have to have been deemed mentally competent to withstand trial

• In order to be deemed mentally competent (and not “low-functioning” or “mentally-impaired”) to withstand trial, they have to have taken a test under Rule 20 of the Minnesota Rules of Criminal procedure and “passed” with a score of 70 or higher

• Offenders scoring 69 or lower on the test under Rule 20 do not withstand trial, and do not go to prison. Instead they are assigned to a program, such as Minnesota Extended Treatment Options (METO)

• Therefore, there are no “low-functioning” or “mentally-impaired” offenders in MSOP

• By definition then, all clients transferred to Cambridge from Moose Lake or St. Peter will not be “low-functioning” or “mentally-impaired”

• Clients transferred to Cambridge will be mentally-ill and dangerous psychopaths

At the DHS “Fall Overview” held last week, DHS officials stated they fully intend to “re-integrate clients into the community.” That means they will be allowed off the grounds of the facility.

Clients will all have GPS monitored ankle bracelets on, but according to members of our local law enforcement community, GPS devices are easily disabled.

DHS characterized local law enforcement as being “in support” of their plan. I spoke with each of these individuals and the only extent to which they are comfortable is that they are finally being brought into the information loop. That’s it.

Additionally, Representative Johnson heard from a reliable source that DHS plans to eventually use all 48 beds of our facility.

There is no doubt that the Minnesota Sex Offender Program is in a state of disarray. In the February 13, 2012 edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, there was an article titled, “St. Peter Psychiatric Hospital is in Turmoil.” I urge you to read for yourself the dysfunctional nature of DHS management, as it has grave implications for our community. Back in 2010, department investigators described the workplace culture there as “chaotic, dangerous and dysfunctional.” (http://www.startribune.com/local/138298354.html).

I don’t believe our community should be the testing ground for DHS’ experiment, and it is important that we inform Governor Dayton of our concerns, as per my previous letter to the editor in last week’s edition of this paper. Governor Dayton’s office has told our group of concerned citizens that they will only listen if we submit to them a petition signed by members of our community. If you are interested in signing this petition, please stay tuned for further information in a future letter.

Mara Reiner is a resident of the city of Cambridge, and lives five blocks from the facility.

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