Not every juvenile sexual offender ends up with a rap sheet in Dakota County.
Since 2013, 28 youths charged with sex offenses that weren't violent or coercive have been referred to the Targeted Accountability Program (TAP), a collaboration of the Dakota County attorney's office, community corrections and social services. The teens in the program complete evaluations and treatment and meet with social workers or probation offers. It's meant to mimic probation — without the criminal histories or court records that follow.
TAP's early success in preventing recidivism and helping the teens avoid what Dakota County officials call "collateral consequences" led the county to apply for a National Association of Counties achievement award earlier this month. The association recognizes innovative programs across 21 categories at a national convention each summer.
With TAP, Dakota County wants to levy consequences and offer treatment without producing a footprint in the court system. A criminal record may keep juveniles from being eligible for student aid, bar them from some jobs and affect housing options in the future.
Of the roughly 30 juveniles charged with sex offenses each year in Dakota County, the county attorney's office said 60 percent are 14 or younger and 70 percent have had no other court involvement.
Before TAP, a judge could agree to delay sentencing or continue a case to see how a young offender responds with the dismissal of charges a possibility. But even when charges were dropped, juveniles were still left with a court record that landlords and potential employers could find in a background search.
So far, only two of the 28 juveniles referred to the program have failed to finish. Of those two, one moved out of the county and another didn't respond to the invitation. Another 12 completed the program without reoffending and 14 remain active.
The county said it has spent $644 per successful participant, much less than the $4,085 spent per juvenile who went through court and probation for similar offenses in that time.