Throwing Away the Key

There is no cure and no way out. So why does the state spend more than $20 million a year to treat 179 former sex offenders?

Professor Janus points out that the resources currently being used to treat these 179 men could be spread out throughout the criminal justice system, for prison treatment programs, post-release monitoring, and other measures. Janus estimates that 90 percent of the government funds available for sex offender treatment are now being lavished on the residents of Moose Lake and St. Peter. The tiny piece that remains is all that's left to deal with all of the other perpetrators in the state. "It's just totally backwards," he says.

The U of M's Michael Miner, a less avid critic of civil commitment laws, concurs: "It's very hard to get funding for sex offender treatment. And frankly, I think there are better ways to spend the money than on this small group of people."

Shawn Barber

The 179 sex offenders who have been involuntarily committed are locked behind steel doors, fenced in by barbed wire, monitored by armed guards, and sometimes kept in seclusion for months at a time. This stringent control undoubtedly provides their victims and the general public peace of mind--and politicians something tangible to point to as proof that they're tough on sex offenders. But while it might make everyone feel better to permanently lock up the likes of Timothy Sarne, Michael Meyer, and Rodger Robb, until we fully understand both what causes sex crimes and how to treat sex criminals, this perception of safety is largely an illusion.

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