‘Emergency’ bill sex offender notification bill planned

The Minnesota House is expected to pass Monday what leaders term an emergency bill to ensure Minnesotans are notified when a sex offender is released from a state treatment program to a halfway house.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said that House members will be asked to suspend normal procedures that would slow down the bill’s passage so a law can be in place before Clarence Opheim can be released.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said Democrats probably will support the bill and Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said he would expect the Senate to follow the House’s lead. Gov. Mark Dayton said that if the bill is as Zellers described, he could support it.

The issue arose when a judicial panel decided to release Opheim, the first time an offender has been released after being court-ordered to take state sex offender treatment indefinitely.

Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said that once Opheim is released from the treatment program to a Twin Cities halfway house, he will be monitored around the clock, including by an escort if he leaves the house.

Jesson said he probably will be under tight surveillance the rest of his life.

The state is being sued for keeping sex offenders locked up indefinitely, even after their prison terms end.

While the community often is notified of a sex offender’s release, that is not the case if one is let out of the state treatment program and goes to a halfway house.

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