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December 18, 2003
Minnesota Legislature Finally Addresses Sex-Offender Sentencing

Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature next year will address the woeful sex-offender sentencing failures that led to Dru Sjodin's disappearance last month. Democrats offered an intial willingness to consider the proposal:

Minnesota House Republicans on Tuesday proposed legislation to ensure the worst sex offenders would never get out of jail. Under the plan, "convicted violent sexual predators and sex offenders who target children and vulnerable adults" would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release. Currently, that's a sentence reserved for the worst murders. ...

Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger and House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, both DFLers, said they could support something similar to the GOP proposal. Sen. Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley, chairman of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, said new sex offender sentences would have be put in the perspective of all criminal sentences.

Life sentences without parole will protect society from these violent sexual predators, who rarely if ever rehabilitate and instead use parole or release as a hunting license against our children and women. This will eventually eliminate the need for the civil commitment process, but not until after all current detainees have been paroled or released and their cases reviewed for the necessity of lifetime commitment.

Of course, some people will argue about the cost of LWOP sentences, but the Republicans are not allowing that to stop them:

They said they did not know how much the legislation would cost but said they were willing to spend the money to pay for any increased cost the plan would entail.

Not to quibble, people, but while a life sentence can burden the state with costs, so does releasing sex offenders. First, parole is not cheap, and even when there is no parole, the state has to follow up on their location for community notification. But apart from that, who wants to put a cost on their almost certain re-offense? The cost of the trial and reincarceration? How about the cost of losing someone like Dru Sjodin to someone who the state knew was extremely likely to commit more violent sexual offenses? What's the cost of that, and when do we start figuring that into the equation?

Minnesota legislators are belatedly beginning to calculate the entire equation. Make no mistake about it -- this represents a major perspective change towards public safety and away from the philosophy of rehabilitation, a shift that is long overdue. It's probably too late to save Dru Sjodin, but it's not too late to save other children and young women.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 18, 2003 5:51 AM

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