Nonprofit Might Offer Pathway to Re-Entry for Violent Sex Offenders

February 28, 2011; Source: Minnesota Public Radio | Can sex offenders thought to be too dangerous, even after serving time in prison, ever be allowed to re-enter society? In Minnesota, state officials hope to find out through a program they're initiating with help from a nonprofit.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, the state has never permanently released violent sex offenders from confinement in special treatment centers where they're sent after serving prison sentences. This week, though, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which runs the state's Sex Offender Program, signed a contract with Community Re-Entry Services, handing over responsibility for its first sex offender, John Ryberg, and perhaps more later.

If a review panel of the Minnesota Supreme Court agrees, the 68-year-old Ryberg, who has spent decades confined to treatment for a history of assaults that date back three decades, would be released into the care of Community Re-entry Services. Ryberg, as well as any other offenders, would be supervised 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They also be required to wear a GPS device, take random drug and lie detector tests, and check in daily with a state human services case worker.

Depending on the course of treatment, offenders might eventually be allowed to move from a halfway house to a less restrictive form of independent living. "It will be a process that'll move very slowly. We want to see how they do under a reduced level of structure in a community setting," said Dennis Benson, who runs the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. "At such a time that they're ready to move to a different address, we would require housing and employment, or some means to support themselves."

Benson says the program has been in development for three years. Among the attractions of the partnership between the state and nonprofit is its lower cost. Richard Gardell, CEO of the Community Re-Entry's parent, 180 Degrees, says the state will pay the nonprofit about $120 per person compared to the $300 per day it costs Minnesota to house an offender in one of its facilities.—Bruce Trachtenberg