In 1997, I was one of the first psychologists hired to provide risk assessments for several hundred sex offenders who were scheduled each year for release from Minnesota prisons. An additional role involved my participation in the review with other trained correctional psychologists of all of these offenders for referral of particularly dangerous offenders for possible commitment who required intensive treatment after their release from prison. Typically, a very small number of the sex offenders who were scheduled to be released (20 to 30) were referred to county attorneys for possible commitment as psychopathic sex offenders. Of these, 10 to 20 were accepted as viable cases; not all of them were committed.

Following the murder of Dru Sjodin in 2003 by a sex offender released from prison in Minnesota, a new review process of cases was undertaken by the Department of Corrections. Reviews were now assigned to a committee primarily made up of well-meaning but minimally trained correctional staff; most were not licensed in the field of mental health. The number of referrals increased many times over each year, and a great many of these individuals were committed. Yet no laws changed, and sex offenders released from prisons did not suddenly become more dangerous. What changed was that the process became politicized.

As former state Sen. Don Betzold recently wrote (“What the Minnesota Sex Offender Program was meant to be,” July 1), sex offender commitment laws, including the one he authored in 1994, were now being used to contain sex offenders in a secured facility rather than treat and release them. The state is now confronted by two realities: that it has the highest per-capita rate of committing sex offenders in the nation and that this process is unconstitutional.

Jeffrey Brown, Minneapolis

IRAN NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS

Beware the source of influence when you read commentaries

I was dismayed to see the Star Tribune opinion editors featuring a commentary by Dennis Ross regarding the current negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program (“Content of a deal matters more than timing,” July 2). Mr. Ross is counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which is an offshoot of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful lobbyist for Israeli interests. WINEP has been engaged in efforts to negate the Iran talks, and Ross’ remarks contribute to this effort by suggesting that Iran must submit to impossible conditions in the final agreement.

His commentary fails to note that both Iran and the U.S. are signatories to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), along with 190 other nations but not Israel, Pakistan, India or North Korea. Because Israel is not a signatory to the NPT, it has no seat at the table in the Vienna talks and can only influenced the discussion indirectly through spokespeople such as Ross.

The NPT guarantees Iran and other non-nuclear-weapons states the “inalienable right” to peaceful nuclear development, and it requires the U.S. and other nuclear-weapons states to protect those rights, along with requiring inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear technology. For this reason, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure cannot be dismantled as a result of these talks.

The March Lausanne framework for the current Vienna talks call on Iran to adopt an Additional Protocol to the NPT, which allows wider inspections in nuclear-development states, but it does not allow inspections “anywhere and everywhere” with no notice. This is the position presented by Iranian leaders, and is not a violation of the Lausanne framework.

Mr. Ross surely knows of the existence of the NPT and its parameters. For him to ignore this is disingenuous at best and deceptive at worst. Clearly he mirrors the desire of WINEP to cause the Vienna talks to fail, or to influence the U.S. Congress to negate the final agreement.

William O. Beeman, Minneapolis

 

NICOLLET MALL TRAFFIC

A second motion for quiet, with a couple of refinements

A July 2 letter writer (“Nicollet Mall: Placidity makes an impression”) can count me among those who share his vision of a bus-free mall, but with a condition and a compromise: Bikes would be allowed access to the mall, but subject to severe “calming” infrastructure — and I say that as a longtime bike commuter. Bikers can be self-absorbed and reckless, but mall pedestrians should be allowed to relax and lower their attention a little.

Second, buses would be prohibited during the “al fresco” dining season — say, May through September. That would be a win-win for street-level businesses. In this pleasant season, customers would be attracted by the no-bus ambience, and during the rest of the year buses would deposit customers near Nicollet establishments. Face it: In Minneapolis, there are only two seasons: “mall” and “skyway.”

David Craig Smith, Minneapolis

 

SYMBOLISM AND ATONEMENT

The would-be self-flagellators ought to broaden their view

Contrary to a July 2 letter writer’s lament that the United States “has never apologized for slavery” (“Add, to Independence Day, a day of atonement”), this apology has already been delivered in the form of the Civil War’s 600,000 dead. If the letter writer finds this apology to be an insufficient substitute for a more formal declaration of national atonement, she will find it in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.

Peter Abarbanel, Apple Valley

• • •

I read with interest Wisconsinite Judith Harrington’s July 2 commentary on the Minnesota state flag (“As long as we’re discussing flags, what about Minnesota’s?”). While the representations of the Indian rider and pioneer farmer on the Minnesota flag are certainly open to debate, one thing is clear — the Wisconsin state flag, featuring a white sailor and a white miner, fails to even acknowledge the existence of native peoples.

Marc Sebora, Lester Prairie, Minn.

• • •

Skin color isn’t the most newsworthy topic these days; it’s skin thickness (or lack thereof). Judging from the flap over the names of our lakes and images on our flag, cultural hypersensitivity has reached a new high, which is to say, low.

This silliness knows no bounds. What’s next? Renaming “St. Paul” because it’s offensive to Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and atheists? Rochester because it’s Eurocentric? Duluth and Hennepin because they’re derived from French explorers to the exclusion of the Indians? Washburn High School because it honors a great capitalist builder?

Identity politics has created divisions that contradict our successful and unique history of assimilation of cultures into a special place for all. It’s as juvenile as a feckless kid in a sandbox wailing “he called me a name.”

Richard Morris, Wayzata