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Sex Offender’s Release Prompts Backlash, Defense

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – State lawmakers plan to hold a special meeting Monday to try to close a loophole in the sex offender notification law. Republican leaders are hoping to pass a bill allowing the public to be notified before Clarence Opheim is released from a state hospital in St. Peter sometime next week.

Opheim is a sex offender who molested 29 children in the 1970s and ’80s.

He served jail time years ago and has been under the care of the Department of Human Services, rather than the Department of Corrections, for 18 years.

The Department of Corrections is the agency that alerts the public when a sex offender is moving into their community. The Department of Human Services does not, at the moment.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to see if anything can be done,” said Rep. Matt Dean, the House Majority Leader.

At the Capitol, lawmakers could move at rare speed, passing a law that would alert the community where Opheim will make his new home.

“On notification, I think we can move immediately,” Dean said.

Lawmakers will also take a closer look at the Minnesota Sex Offender program and the treatment Opheim’s received to earn his provisional release.

“We certainly want to question this program,” Dean said. “We have a lot of scrutiny on this program.”

Some of that scrutiny will fall on Project Pathfinder, an organization that will oversee Opheim’s therapy.

Warren Maas, executive director of Project Pathfinder, said the organization is taking Opheim’s release and treatment very seriously.

To even meet the possibility of release, a patient has to undergo years of intense therapy.

“They have to convince us that they’ve made a change at the core of their psychology,” Maas said.

The therapy Opheim has to undergo is a routine that will continue on a weekly basis, likely for the rest of his life.

“We’re certainly not in the business of putting the community in any danger,” Maas said.

Releasing Opheim is a test of the idea that sex offenders can be rehabilitated. However, there is no way of knowing the outcome of such a test.

“If people are expecting us to fail, I’m pretty committed to showing them they’re wrong,” Maas said.

As for Opheim’s treatment, Maas could not give specifics. Opheim will move from the hospital in St. Peter to a halfway house. He will be monitored with a GPS tracking device and he’ll be under some form of surveillance.

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