The Mankato Free Press reports that sex offenders in Minnesota treatment facilities in St. Peter and Moose Lake are not allowed to read newspapers that cover those communities. The ban has been in effect since 2007, but was updated in August to name the Free Press, the St. Peter Herald and the Moose Lake Star Gazette specifically. Offenders may order and read any other newspaper.
The issue arises at the same time that civil commitment policy for Minnesota's most dangerous sex offenders is under review. Earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to consider making changes in the program that allows the state to hold some offenders indefinitely. Committee chairman Sen. Ron Latz said if lawmakers don't reform the program, a judge could do it for them. Last year, a federal judge ruled that an offenders' challenge to the state's sex offender program could move forward as a class action suit.
The Associated Press quotes Nancy Johnston, executive director of the Minnesota Sex Offender Treatment Program, who said that the policy is necessary to protect staff members and their families. She also said the papers might print maps or other local information that could help inmates escape.
The issue arose when an inmate at Moose Lake complained about the policy in a letter to the Mankato newspaper.
Controversy of late has dogged the system that treats the state's sex offenders. Earlier this week, the Star Tribune broke the story that a high-risk, schizophrenic male sex offender had been housed in a co-ed unit with vulnerable women at the Regional Treatment Center in Anoka.