Officials: Public at risk if sex offender program is cut - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Chris Conte

Officials: Public at risk if sex offender program is cut

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ROCHESTER, Minn (KTTC-DT) --  Sex offenders who are at the highest risk of repeating their crimes may not be able to get the help they need if the state cuts one local program and officials say children are at risk.

The program called Safety Center Inc. mostly deals with mentally ill patients who are also sexual offenders and their victims are often times young kids, once convicted of some of the most heinous crimes Dodge, Fillmore and Olmsted Counties send them to Safety Center for rehabilitation.

"These are our highest risk offenders, especially to children," says Wanda Berg, Senior Probation Officer for DFO County Community Correctional Services.

Berg is concerned that the Department of Human Services could wants to scale back the program for budget reasons. On Monday in St. Paul, DHS will meet to discuss trimming the program which would mean elimination day-long programs in Rochester.

When asked if that means these people would be more likely to offend, Berg said,"Definitely, and these are people who because of disabilities there victims are children."

In last eight years, out of the 200 sex offenders the program has treated state-wide only three have re-offended. Berg says it because most clients spend four years in treatment, the state now wants them to spent just four months in the program.

"For the amount of money this program costs it's far greater to have them in it versus incarcerating them," Berg adds.

According to studies done by Safety Center Inc., it costs about $7,000 for a convicted sex offender to go through the program. If the same person was sent to jail it would cost the state upwards of $116,000. The sex offenders aren't coming from just Rochester, places as far away as Martin and Houston Counties are utilizing the program because of their proven track record.

"We're doing an effective job of keeping are clients from re offending from getting them the treatment they need, the treatment is affective," says Dean Devries of Safety Centers Inc.

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