KARE Investigates: Sexual Predator Laws in Minnesota and Wisconsin

7:04 PM, Feb 16, 2004   |    comments
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    Hundreds of dangerous sex offenders are behind bars in Minnesota and they want out. But right now, they're being civilly committed with no real chance of ever being freed.

    A lot of people believe that's the right thing to do — but across the border in Wisconsin, they're dealing with sex offenders in a much different way.


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    In fact, Wisconsin has released more potentially dangerous sex offenders than any other state in the nation. Sunday night, Mark Daly looked at the emotionally-charged issue and some controversial ideas on how to deal with it. The following is based on his report.

   




    Fourteen-year-old Barbara Iverson was babysitting at a neighbor's house in Shoreview back in 1965 when Dennis Linehan kidnapped and strangled her. To this day, her family struggles with the loss.

    "Everyday I think about her, every single day," says Barbara's mother Joan. "You exist each day — you don't live — you exist each day because your whole insides are completely torn up."

    In 1992, shortly before he was due to be released, authorities labeled Linehan a 'sexual psychopath' and they used civil commitment procedures to keep him locked up indefinitely.

    "I have never forgot it, there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about what I did," Linehan said in a 1994 interview.

    Dennis Linehan is not alone. In the past 12 years, prosecutors have locked up 209 sex offenders facilities in Moose Lake or Saint Peter. They're sent there for treatment after they've completed their prison terms. In truth, just about the only way to get out is to die.

"... a model citizen."
    On the November 14, 1981, in the St. Paul neighborhood near University and Western Avenues , a young woman walking home after work is attacked. Her assailant says he has a gun — forces her behind a truck and rapes her. He forces her to his home and rapes her again.

    Ray Hubbard — whose criminal history includes three sexual assault convictions and several other allegations of rape — is the man who did that. In 1991, authorities concluded Hubbard was sexual psychopathic and had him committed.

    Five years later -- after intense treatment -- Hubbard became the first and only sexual psychopath in Minnesota who was granted a series of day passes back into the community.

    "Ray was a success, he was a demonstration that someone could be rehabilitated and returned to the community and kept in the community safely," says Warren Maas of the Commitment Defense Project.

    In March of 2000 Hubbard was "provisionally discharged" allowing him to live and sleep at home with his wife and children in Eagan.

    Hubbard spent the next three years working as a driver for BFI — except for a brief period when his release was revoked, because he left the state without permission.

    "He was a model employee, he was a model citizen," Maas says.

    Then last summer, Governor Pawlenty issued an executive order making it even harder for civilly committed sex offenders to be released.

    The disappearance of Dru Sjodin last fall intensified political pressure against releasing sex offenders under any circumstances.

    "I want to say as a Minnesotan, as the Governor, a parent of two you daughters, I've had it with sexual predators," Pawlenty said at the time.

    Ray Hubbard has been locked up in St. Peter ever since.

    "There is no doubt in my mind that Ray Hubbard is currently a political prisoner," Maas says.

Wisconsin's system
    Across the border, it's a much different story. Wisconsin law calls for the release of sex offenders if a judge determines there's 'a substantial probability' he will not re-offend or, if the risk of re-offense can be managed in the community.

    Forty-five of Wisconsin's most dangerous sex offenders have been discharged or granted supervised releases from civil commitment.

    Of those, two committed sex crimes in their communities. One assaulted a child, the other possessed child pornography. Thirteen more Wisconsin sex offenders have had their releases revoked for a variety of non-violent rules violations.

    Steven Sawyer, who heads a non-profit group focusing on the elimination of sexual violence and abuse, has treated hundreds of sex offenders and believes some of even worst ones can be rehabilitated.

    "I think the reality is we don't know who is going to re-offend," Sawyer says. "Yes, some of them can change. Yes, we have the treatment that can help them change. They don't all re-offend."

    Sawyer also believes that refusing to release any high-risk offenders takes away their motivation to change.

    "If we could get some of them back into the community, living productive lives, being safe — everybody benefits," he says.

    The offenders themselves agree.

    "It is discouraging to think that there is no hope," says Robert Hall, a convicted sex offender now locked up under civil commitment.

    Hall is one of six sex offenders named in a lawsuit alleging Governor Pawlenty's executive order is unconstitutional.

    "It's not supposed to be about just locking people up so they can't get out,: Hall says. "It's supposed to be about treatment."

    After serving his prison term for rape and completing ten years of treatment, Hall feels he deserves another chance.

    "How can you be sure that you won't do what you did before?" Daly asked.

    "I can't. There's still some desire to do that," says Hall. "However, I would take a look at the statistics that show that people being monitored have almost no recidivism rate."

    "They tend to be, if I could describe them as, the worst of the worst when it comes to sexual predators," says Kevin Goodno, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

    Goodno plays a key role in determining when and if sex offenders are released from civil commitment.

    "You know, the goal isn't to release — I mean I don't think you can measure success by the people that are released into the community," Goodno says.

    Goodno says the primary purpose of civil commitment is to ensure public safety and he prefers Minnesota's way of dealing with sex offenders to Wisconsin's.

    "With regard to our program, I think maybe we require more from people before we allow them to go into the public," he says.

    "This is a sham," Mass says. "If it wasn't meant to be a sham at some point, it's a sham now."

    In addition to constitutional concerns — critics say keeping sex offenders locked up indefinitely is too expensive.

    It costs about $22 million per year to house, feed, and treat 209 sex offenders in Moose Lake and St. Peter. That's more than $105,260.00 apiece each year — or about $288 per prisoner per day.

    Cost, however, can be measured many different ways.

    "There's no guarantees, there's never going to be any guarantees," Hall says.

    "They'll never be cured," Joan Iversen says, adding of Linehan "If he gets out he's going to harm somebody else's child."

    Mark Daly, KARE-11 News.

    (Copyright 2004 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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