What will it take to resolve the problem with housing released perpetrators?
Housing situation is far from resolved
I want to thank the countless concerned individuals, groups, elected officials and leaders in Cambridge and around Minnesota who helped temporarily defeat Gov. Mark Dayton’s plans to move dangerous sex offenders to our city. Having spent decades protecting the citizens as a sheriff’s deputy for Isanti County before being elected to the Minnesota Legislature, I was alarmed by these plans. Minnesota’s Department of Human Services was met with outrage and fear when these ideas became public.
The proposal to bring sex offenders to the former state hospital site in the middle of Cambridge, near homes and a city park, was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Would we place patients undergoing treatment for alcoholism next to a liquor store? Of course not. Any facilities housing these offenders should be located far from residential areas.
Our work to protect Cambridge from future plans like this is not over. In fact, state officials have eyed other communities for similar plans. While we legislators will get the opportunity to reform this broken program when we meet in the spring, there are no guarantees that less-secure facilities won’t be used to house these offenders down the road.
I look forward to your input as we move forward and permanently reform these laws to better protect Minnesotans for generations to come.
STATE REP. BRIAN JOHNSON, R-Cambridge
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The principal problem with the sex offender treatment and release program is not our current statute. It is the lack of political courage by our last two governors. We carefully modeled our statute after a 1990 Washington state law that was upheld in a U.S. Supreme Court decision. When Gov. Tim Pawlenty, by executive order, stopped all sex offender releases, I wrote to him predicting a threat to our sex offender program if no release could be had.
Yes, the number of committed offenders has gone from 70 to 700, first because of county attorneys’ increased use of the standards for commitment and second because Minnesota has a drastic shortage of state-run and state-funded transition housing for released offenders.
The release problem can be solved. But where can these persons go to live? The need for state-run facilities should be part of Gov. Dayton’s next budget, and the management of these facilities should be under the various county Community Correction programs that are now state-funded. If Dayton doesn’t fulfill this obvious responsibility, the appropriate legislative leadership should do so.
Why can’t our governor and legislators do as we did for our current statute — namely, look to other states for how they solved this common and politically explosive problem? Let’s not throw out the law we carefully crafted because of lack of political courage.
DAVID BISHOP, Rochester
The writer was a Republican member of the Minnesota House from 1982 to 2002.
The option of being ready for employers
The Nov. 25 Letter of the Day (“Something’s gotta give when it comes to college”), about the perceived lack of value of a four-year college degree, needed to mention the opportunities available at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges. I’ve visited many of them, and it is obvious that these two-year degree colleges are not the stigmatized old-fashioned schools of years ago. Students graduate with a placement rate near 100 percent in their fields of study with very good pay. High-tech companies with clean, well-lit facilities are standing in line to employ them. After getting a good-paying job, they can still complete a four-year degree. It is another option and deserves more attention.
State Sen. MARY KIFFMEYER, R-Big Lake
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Reading the Nov. 24 editorial (“A job-friendly course is right for MnSCU”), it seems that the only purpose of the education in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is to produce functionaries for employers. If this “skilled workers” model is the one that is to control MnSCU, it would seem wise to phase out a lot of our current curriculum. Art and crafts (pottery making, weaving, etc.); philosophy; history; social sciences (except those that have practical applications); any classes that involve the study of literature or poetry, and classes that focus on critical examination of society (politics, gender, race or power in society) — none of these are needed. Medtronic, 3M, Best Buy, Target or Hutchinson Technology can do without employees who understand differences between Impressionist art and cubism, or who can critically reason and understand the dynamics of maintaining control in institutions.
Following this model, we can eliminate the majority of liberal arts and social science courses, and the students can be efficiently prepared with mostly online courses to work in the corporate world of our future.
KARL WIELGUS, Richfield
He inspired hope in government? Horrors!
One is left to wonder what Steve Chapman intended to accomplish by criticizing the late President John Kennedy for leading people to imagine that their government can be a vehicle for improving the world (“The confidence man,” Nov. 22). Kennedy and government leaders (Democrat and Republican alike) throughout history have used rhetoric to encourage hope and inspire action. Indeed, Kennedy’s rhetoric, like no other’s, led (and continues to lead) countless people to believe that they themselves have the capacity to make the world a better place — something that Chapman’s cynicism will never do.
CHRIS WIGER, Minneapolis
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.