When this mom talks about this particular topic, you know that each of her words are valuable and carefully chosen.
Patty Wetterling lost a son to the acts of a sex offender. But she now has concerns about a sex offender registry that she helped create.
Your concerns deserve attention.
Wetterling’s son Jacob was kidnapped and killed by a local man in central Minnesota in 1989. After Jacob’s disappearance, Wetterling worked to set up a sex offender registry to help mark offenders for prosecution. (The man who admitted that Jacob was kidnapped and killed 27 years later would in fact not have been on such a register because he was never charged or convicted of a sex crime.)
Today, Wetterling has concerns that the register, which has been drastically changed over the years by lawmakers to include more criminals aggressively, has gone too far.
Minnesota’s list now has over 18,000 registrants, including teenagers, some of whom are not much older than 11-year-old Jacob when he was kidnapped, reports the Star Tribune.
Wetterling and others are calling on lawmakers to consider reforming the register so that it doesn’t throw that wide a net and capture large numbers of juvenile offenders, some of whom have not even been convicted or have committed minor offenses, such as: B. the public urinating.
Wetterling himself has been approached by families who do not want to report a sexual offense between two family members because they do not want the child to be included in a registry. In this scenario, nobody gets the help they need, she said.
And getting off the list is difficult. Attorney Jim Fleming, a former Mankato public defense attorney who now works in Ramsey County, told the Star Tribune that a man in his thirties came to see him because he was on the register when he was 13. His 10-year period on the list restarted after being charged with disorderly conduct and another unrelated charge. Fleming had to tell the man that there was no way he could challenge his time on the list.
Teens who are still in the midst of brain development have some of the lowest relapse rates. Many have the potential and time to change their destructive patterns or learn that their behavior is unacceptable and change it. Wetterling and other child advocates want to make sure that these children have the opportunity to do so.
The legislature must review and amend the register so that young people who are not on the list are not included in the register.