In the wake of a new law that took effect Aug. 1, local officials are going to have to decide what it is worth to counties to confine Minnesota’s most dangerous sex offenders after prison.


In the wake of a new law that took effect Aug. 1, local officials are going to have to decide what it is worth to counties to confine Minnesota’s most dangerous sex offenders after prison.

One thing is certain; it will cost counties more than twice as much per sexual predator as it has to send them to the Minnesota Sexual Offender Program in the future.

Counties will have to pay 25 percent of the $120,000 annual cost, up from the current 10 percent. The move is expected to save the state $2 million over the next two years and more in following years.

The crux is that lawmakers are trying to make local officials choose cheaper ways to manage high-risk sex offenders in the future. Prosecutors in the offender’s home county decide whether to seek the court-ordered treatment, usually when an offender is close to finishing a prison term.

The reasoning behind the increase is that having counties pay more out of their budget may make them a lttle bit more careful about who they commit, according to Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, who pushed for the higher county payments.

Whether the change has the desired result remains to be seen.

“I know that it’s a big expense, but it won’t change my approach to these cases,” said Chippewa County Attorney David Gil­bertson.

He explained that he looked at these types of cases a lot more closely in the post-Dru Sjodin period.

Sjodin was a University of North Dakota student who was abducted and murdered in 2003. A released registered sexual offender, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr,, was convicted in 2006 of murdering Sjodin.

Gilbertson explained that his office routinely handles civil committments involving individuals who have mental health issues, including those who are delusional or suicidal. But there are differences between these individuals and criminal sexual predators in Gilbertson’s estimation.

“A lot of prosecutors are more inclined to try to keep predatory offenders locked up rather than let someone out who will re-offend,” said Gilbertson.

According to an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch, rural prosecutors tended to pursue the post-prison option more than prosecutors in the Twin Cities.

The reason given is that rural counties have fewer sexual offenders than other counties, which makes it more likely offenders finishing their criminal sentences will be under more scrutiny because local officials are familiar with them.

There are currently five high-risk sex offenders from Chippewa County who are committed to the sex offender program, and there are two more who may potentially be committed, according to Gilbertson.

According to figures provided by Jon Clauson, county auditor/treasurer, Chip­pewa County spent $268,361 from 2008 through 2010 for the five. The cost would have been slightly higher, but one offender attempted to escape from treatment and was returned to prison.

Gilbertson noted there is a movement afoot to look at other ways to protect the public from predatory offenders, including amending sentencing guidelines.

But until that happens, elected county officials will have to come up with more money to pay the higher share of sex offender treatment.