Minnesota Senate passes bill to toughen up sex offender, mental health commitment rules
Star Tribune - 4/23/2018
April 23--The Minnesota Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday that would create new hurdles for hundreds of sex offenders and people with mental illnesses seeking to be released into the community.
The legislation is a response to a court decision earlier this year which permitted the full discharge of a 51-year-old sex offender, Kirk A. Fugelseth, who has admitted to molesting more than 30 boys and girls and was confined to the Minnesota Sex Offender Progrram (MSOP).
A state Court of Appeals panel ruled in January that Fugelseth no longer requires inpatient treatment or supervision for a sexual disorder, and in an unusual decision, approved his release into the community without any conditions. The decision was upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court this month. Fugelseth is only the second person ever to be fully released from the MSOP in its 24-year history.
A bill introduced by Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, would establish a higher standard for sex offenders and people committed as mentally ill and dangerous who are seeking full release into the community.
"It is simply unbelievable that Minnesota's safety has been put in jeopardy by the courts," Limmer said at a news conference Monday. "This is not a population that should be released quickly and in one fell swoop."
There are about 140 civilly committed sex offenders, and another 300 people committed as mentally ill and dangerous, who could petition the courts for full and unconditional discharge based on the recent court ruling, state officials said. This includes 21 sex offenders who have been approved for conditional release from the MSOP, but are currently living under strict surveillance in the community.
Acting Human Services Commissioner Chuck Johnson, who spoke in support of the bill at Monday's news conference, urged immediate action. Unless the law is changed, dangerous offenders could start being approved by the courts for unconditional release into the community within "days or weeks," he said.
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