Letter: Pedophile shouldn't be released from programI’m troubled by a decision made by Governor Dayton’s commissioner to release a serial pedophile from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program and send him to a St. Paul halfway house.
By: District 22A Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, Worthington Daily Globe
I’m troubled by a decision made by Governor Dayton’s commissioner to release a serial pedophile from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program and send him to a St. Paul halfway house.
This isn’t a political issue; it’s a welfare and safety issue. There is no turning back and saying ‘whoops’ if this offender is released and reoffends and affects the life of another victim.
Sixty-four-year-old Clarence Opheim has been in the Minnesota Sex Offender Treatment Program since 1994. He has roughly 100 sex offenses with almost 30 different kids under the age of 17 on his resume — including one crime with an 8-year old.
Less than one year ago, Opheim had been described as “at a high risk to commit a future serious sexual offense.” Yet Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson failed to object to his release last week, agreeing with a new report stating Opheim deserved a greater degree of freedom after accomplishing the requirements of his treatment program.
Study after study has proven that sex offenders cannot be treated, and the recidivism rate for this crime is high. Officials from one of Minnesota’s sex offender program facilities told a House committee last year that in the long history of the program, not one sex offender had ever been successfully treated to the point where they could be released back into society without fear of re-offense. Apparently Opheim will be the first.
Governor Dayton could reverse the Opheim decision, a move I hope the governor will make.
The silver lining to this bad decision is that it calls attention and support to non-profit organizations like the Southwest Crisis Center and its local, specially trained staff. Officials from the Crisis Center say that lately they have seen a rise in sex offenses in southwestern Minnesota, meaning more victims are in need of assistance. Many of the workers at the Southwest Crisis Center are volunteers who put in their time to help those who were attacked.
Public protection is the greatest concern when it comes to sex offenses, but after that I belief the state should focus its efforts more on prevention, not treatment. With a success rate of exactly zero, it’s clear to me that our worst sex offenders cannot be treated and should not be allowed to rejoin society. These programs come with a huge price tag, and to date we are getting no return on our investment.
Organizations like the Southwest Crisis Center are providing a tremendous service to those victims who couldn’t be helped through prevention, and they are vital to our community. The services provided by these specialists can help the victim evolve into a survivor. If you know of anyone from southwestern Minnesota who is a victim or survivor of sexual or domestic abuse and could benefit from some confidential advice, I urge them to call 1-800-376-4311 and allow these professionals to share their support.