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In addition to public safety, both sides need the other to join them in any proposed solution in order to limit finger-pointing. But House Minority Leader Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said there are legitimate differences on approaches to reform that pose a barrier to legislative change.
“My impression is that the Democrats right now have their mind wrapped around some kind of less-restrictive alternative for the current population, and I think this would be incredibly unpopular,” Daudt said. “The public doesn’t support it because the public understands this is a dangerous population and they don’t want these people living next door to them.
Warren Maas, executive director of Project Pathfinder, which works with sex offenders to prevent recidivism, fully understands the political realities. Maas was there, shortly after Frank’s order, when the Minnesota chapter of the Association for the Treatment of Sex Abusers held an informational session for all 201 legislators, offering assistance in the event of MSOP reform.
Six lawmakers showed up.
“I think for most of them it wasn’t a priority,” Maas said. “But for some of them it was whatever the opposite of priority is. Some of the legislators are pretty adamant that they’re not going to lift a finger. They’re going to let the court system take the hit on the issue of release from MSOP.”
Maas said he wasn’t surprised: The public’s revulsion to sex offenders becomes “low-hanging fruit for negative political messaging.”
Maas said the lawmakers who did show up were engaged, attentive and interested, but their numbers were too few to make a difference.
“It’s a huge disservice not just to offenders but to the community at large,” he said. “We’re wasting a lot of time demonizing a group of people who have the second-lowest recidivism rate among criminals, and nobody wants to hear that.”
Staff writers Patrick Condon and Chris Serres contributed to this report.
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