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Sex Offender Released from Minnesota Civil Commitment

For only the second time in 19 years, the Minnesota civil commitment program will release a convicted sex offender into the community. Sixty-four year old Clarence Opheim was sentenced to prison in 1988 for molesting an 11-year-old boy. Opheim eventually admitted to molesting 29 children, luring them into his home with snacks and soda. After his prison term, he was civilly committed to a Minnesota sex offender program where he lived in a treatment center.

Now, Opheim is being released to a Golden Valley halfway house on a provisional discharge. He will be under tight supervision, including alarms, GPS tracking, supervised movement outside the house, no access to computers or cell phones and monitored communications. A violation of any of the 32 rules Opheim is held to will result in a revocation of his conditional release from civil commitment.

Opheim’s release marks the state’s tentative steps towards returning individuals convicted of sex crimes back to the streets. For many years, civil commitment has been the state’s way of making sure those individuals it deems most dangerous never return to the street. Now, the tide may be changing, but much of that future will depend on how Opheim does after his release.

Minnesota Legislature’s Response

Despite the lowest recidivism rate of any group of offenders, the stigma that follows an individual convicted of child molestation and other sex offenses still looms large in Minnesota. In response to news of Opheim’s release, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton proposed a change to the state’s sex offender release notification system. The law previously required notification when a sex offender moved into a community, but not into a halfway house. The state legislature voted 127-1 to expand the notification to include any “residence facility.”

The Golden Valley community was alerted and officials held a public meeting to field questions and resolve concerns over Opheim’s movement into their community and into a less-secure facility. While many residents still did not like the fact that Opheim was coming, most felt better about the precautions being taken.

Implication for Others Like Opheim

A lot is riding on Opheim to prove that sex offenders can change and you can be sure state officials will be watching. Being only the second person to be given a chance in almost 20 years, Opheim’s behavior will in large part determine the fate of the 600 other civilly committed individuals petitioning for release. Hopefully Opheim will flourish in the halfway house and prove that he and others should not just be locked up forever.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime, it is important you get representation right away to protect your legal rights. A Minneapolis sex crimes lawyer can advise you about what you should be doing while your case is pending. An experienced attorney will work aggressively to protect your freedom.

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