The Minnesota Sex Offender Program continues to move forward with plans to bring sex offender program clients to Cambridge.
The MSOP team is currently supporting petitions of 12 intellectually disabled clients to transfer to the Cambridge site housed at the Minnesota Speciality Health System-Cambridge Campus.
The MSOP provides comprehensive services to individuals who have been court-ordered to receive sex offender treatment. Most MSOP clients have completed prison sentences. Clients are civilly committed by the courts and placed in treatment for an indeterminate period of time. A court may commit a person to MSOP to ensure public safety if a judge determines that the individual is a “sexual psychopathic personality” or a “sexually dangerous person,” or both.
On Nov. 6, MSOP officials gave the media an update on the plans, as well as a tour of the Cambridge Campus where the clients will be housed.
Nancy Johnston, executive director of the MSOP, said under state law, the transfer or provisional discharge petitions of the MSOP clients will be considered by the Special Review Board. The ultimate decision will be made by the Supreme Court Appeal Panel, consisting of three district court judges.
“Our top priority remains the safety and security of the community and our clients,” Johnston said. “We have spent a lot of time talking with the city officials, county officials and local law enforcement about the security of the facility.”
Johnston explained the Minnesota Specialty Health System-Cambridge campus currently serves individuals who are civilly committed for developmental disabilities and present a public safety risk. They include some clients with sexual offense histories and others who are sent to the program as they undergo competency assessments to stand trial for criminal charges. Some clients have dual diagnoses as developmentally disabled and mentally ill.
Johnston explained as part of a legal settlement agreement, the Cambridge facility has been working to move clients into more integrated community settings. At the same time, the Department of Human Services has been working to develop alternative placements for MSOP clients who can be served safely in settings that are secure but less restrictive than the facilities at Moose Lake and St. Peter.
The last of the current Cambridge clients will transfer to more integrated programs in the community by early 2014, making the facility available for MSOP clients if their transfers and provisional discharges are approved by the court. The legal review process for MSOP clients can take several months. Johnston said the earliest any sex offender clients would be moved to Cambridge would be the spring of 2014.
Johnston explained public safety is a top priority for the MSOP. She said a chain link fence already surrounds the facility. Other security features at the Cambridge facility will include cameras, key-pass entrances, a phone monitoring system and installation of a staffed guard station at the entrance that will limit access to the grounds. MSOP clients will wear GPS bracelets and be escorted by staff at all times.
Johnston said the current program at the Cambridge site is closing because the facility was part of the Jensen settlement agreement. The original plaintiffs asked for closure of the facility; the court has asked DHS for a Cambridge implementation plan so that the current clients can live in the most integrated setting. This plan is in the spirit of that agreement. This is also in keeping with Olmstead principles of serving people in the most integrated setting possible.
Johnston explained, as of Nov. 5, there are eight clients and 70 employees at the Cambridge site. She explained the MSOP is working with labor representatives to limit the impact of these changes on employees, as they work out the details of the new plan.
Johnston said she realizes the concerns of the community. The Isanti County Board of Commissioners, as well as the Cambridge City Council, have passed resolutions opposing the state’s plans to move the MSOP program to Cambridge. A citizen petition has also been circulating around the community the past several weeks.
“When we hear concerns from government officials, or the local community, we address them as we can,” Johnston said. “We want this program to be successful in the community. Our operations at St. Peter and Moose Lake have been successful. Obviously the criticism the program has taken lately has been difficult, but we have to continue to go forward with our plans.”
Johnston said Cambridge was selected because the facilities already exists in the community.
“This facility and building fits the needs of the clientele of this program,” Johnston said. “The current residents will be moving off the site in the near future, and the facility works well.”
During a tour of the facility, the media were able to see the administration building, vocational building, gymnasium building and a tour of one of town homes the clients will be living in. Each client has their own bedroom, with shared bathroom, living room and kitchen space.