Changes in state laws that would overhaul the sentencing of sex offenders and the way young prostitutes are treated took a step forward at the Legislature Wednesday. 

Minnesota's most predatory sex offenders would be kept behind bars indefinitely under a bill that was sent to the House floor by the chamber’s Ways and Means Committee.
 
The bill would keep those offenders in prison instead of diverting them to a costly and controversial state program that has civilly committed hundreds of offenders in state treatment centers.
 
Under the bill, convicted offenders would face open-ended prison sentences, known as "indeterminate," if members of a jury found that them to be predatory, meaning they lack control over sexual impulses and pose a danger to others.

Such offenders would have to serve at least twice the recommended sentence and could be released only if the corrections commissioner determined they were no longer a threat to society.

If the bill becomes law, it would mark a return to the system of indeterminate sentencing that was replaced several years ago with sentencing guidelines. The bill comes on the heels of  the state's Legislative Auditor conclusion that the 17-year-old Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) is deeply flawed.
 
The committee also sent to the full House a bill that would classify juveniles engaged in prostitution as "sexually exploited youth" who could not be prosecuted. A prostitute is defined by the bill as an individual 18 and over.
 
The bill parallels an announcement in February by prosecutors in the Twin Cities metro area that they are overhauling their policies to ensure that juvenile prostitutes are treated as crime victims instead of criminals, even as some regions of the state see an uptick in teen prostitution cases.

The revised policies and procedures give prosecutors clear direction, they said, because the current state law is contradictory in defining children involved in prostitution both as delinquents and victims of sex trafficking.
 

 

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