After Heinrich Plea, Lawmaker Calls For Greater Sentences For Sex Offenders

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A top Minnesota state lawmaker says violent sex offenders should go to prison, not treatment programs.

GOP Representative Tony Cornish is proposing tougher sentences: up to 60 years for aggravated sexual assault.

Minnesota confines 725 dangerous sex offenders for treatment at St. Peter and Moose Lake, but Cornish, the powerful Chair of the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee, says they cannot be treated, or cured.

“You just lock these guys up, and for long sentences,” he said.

In a Facebook post beginning “ATTENTION, parents of young children,” Cornish proposes phasing out the state’s sex offender program, and phasing in much tougher punishment.

“People are sick of these sex crimes happening,” Cornish told WCCO-TV. “And then you see when you do the criminal background checks that they were caught in 2000 and released in 2006. Caught in 2008 released in 2012. And then they commit a heinous crime.”

Cornish proposes a mandatory 60 year prison sentence for violent sexual assualts. Sex offender treatment begins after 40 years.

“I think people are demanding that something happen, other than the low sentences we are getting now,” he said. “And then they get out and they commit another crime.”

But legal experts say tougher prison sentences are not always the right answer.

“There’s tragedy, we react. A tragedy, we react. A tragedy, we react,” said Eric Janus, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul and a national expert on laws regarding criminal sex offenders.

Janus says reacting to the horrible details of the Wetterling case is understandable, but doesn’t fix the problem.

“Public policy developed in the emotional heat of a tragedy is not necessarily the best public policy,” he said.

Janus says cases like the Wetterling murder are very rare: “So vivid, we tend to think of this incident as typical. But it’s not. In fact, it’s extreme.”

Studies show sex offenders re-offend at a low 5 to 7 percent rate, but Cornish says it’s not low enough.

“We’re not talking about somebody who recidivizes by taking your tools — we’re talking about recidivism where they rape or molest your child, or take your life,” he said.

Cornish says the mandatory 60 year prison term would be triggered by the most violent sex crimes like murder; but also kidnapping, rape or molesting a child.

More from Pat Kessler

One Comment

  1. S Strand says:

    We need more men as Intelligent as Mr. Cornish. He is not afraid to stand up to the evil’s, that are allowed to be inflicted upon God’s children.

    1. TNF 13 says:

      We need Mr. Cornish to be removed from office before more ineffective nonsense becomes law.

  2. TNF 13 says:

    Cornish needs to spend the money actually preventing crime rather than trying to harvest votes. Learn a few things about sex abuse, Mr. Cornish. The people who abuse children are not registered sex offenders. The people that murder children are not registered sex offenders. They are people we know and trust, 90% of the time. I am aware from one major study (Sandler et al, 2008, “Does A Watched Pot Boil? A Time-Series Analysis of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration And Notification Law”) that indicates that 95% of new sex crimes are committed by first-time offenders.

    What good does a registry or harsher penalties on sex offenders do if they are not the ones hurting people sexually?

    This man is all about talking a good talk, but at the expense of our children. As an advocate for the primary prevention of child sexual abuse (making sure it does not happen in the first place) I am with Janus on this one. We have to legislate based on fact so that our children are protected, end of story.

    1. antiestablishmentarianism says:

      This is not a fight for advocates of registry reform since this really has nothing to do with the registry. This article is calling for stricter sentencing upon commission of the crime itself, which I have a hard time not agreeing with. The article states he wants to phase out the registry and lock up truly dangerous predators. Isn’t that really what advocates are pushing for is constitutionality by satisfying due process? I would make a few change to his proposal though: That the exceptional sentencing guideline be attributed to repeat offenders only. As you stated, 95% of first time offenders learn their lesson. The 5% who don’t should be threatened with a much longer sentence, but not life. My reasoning behind this is the life sentence is akin to a murder sentence, so a repeat offender might murder the victim to avoid detection with no real threat of a heavier sentence. Then we would have unsolved child murders everywhere causing a real drain on our system and a public safety problem. If we removed the registry and gave repeat offenders no less than 25 years, a lot of our safety concerns would be alleviated and the first time offenders could get on with their lives.

      1. TNF 13 says:

        I agree with the majority of what you are suggesting, but what Cornish is suggesting is still prevention- it is called tertiary prevention, or preventing further acts after they have been committed. Not every sex offender is even required to get specialized treatment…

  3. occonnor says:

    Didn’t we do this with marijuana laws in the forties? Look how that turned out. Better parenting is better, more effective and cheaper.

    1. occonnor says:

      It looks like someone is up for re-election. BTW, the registry wouldn’t have prevented the Wetterling murder. Nor Adam Walsh or any of them. 97% of sex crimes are committed by people not on the registry.

  4. memphisgrass says:

    Castration would be a good start.

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