The Minnesota House of Representatives today voted to close a loophole in the state’s sex offender community notification law.
Under current state law, local law enforcement is prohibited from holding community notification meetings on sex offenders being released from the Minnesota Sexual Offender Program (MSOP) to a half-way house. The Minnesota House today approved legislation that will authorize local law enforcement to notify the public when a sex offender from MSOP is provisionally discharged into the community.
“One of our first responsibilities as legislators is public safety. Current state law regarding community notification of sex offenders contained an unfortunate loophole that could jeopardize public safety,” said Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers. “If high risk sex offenders are going to be released from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, citizens deserve to know where they will live.”
During a February 15 legislative hearing, MSOP officials said that Minnesota state law does not require community notification in instances of sex offenders from the program being released to a halfway house. House Republicans were concerned with this information as a judicial panel recently decided to provisionally discharge Clarence Opheim, a sex offender who molested 29 children in the 1970s and 1980s. Opheim is expected to be released from the MSOP program in the next week.
“Communities should be informed when a convicted sex offender moves into their neighborhood,” said Representative Kathy Lohmer, author of the bill. “Instead of rumor and uncertainty, community notification will provide factual public safety information regarding the discharge and supervision of sex offenders from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program to concerned citizens.”
The bill was sent to the Minnesota Senate. Governor Mark Dayton has indicated he will sign the bill into law.