Should sex offenders ever be released?
To better understand why so few people have progressed in treatment through the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, the News Tribune interviewed seven clients who have been committed to MSOP in Moose Lake.
All expressed scorn for the treatment that MSOP provides and said they believe they should be released, though they had little hope of that ever happening. Here are three of their stories:
Wayne Clements says he may be the only person committed to Moose Lake for misdemeanor crimes: six charges of indecent exposure and one of frotteurism -- rubbing against an unsuspecting person for sexual gratification.
"I've never been charged with criminal sexual misconduct," he said. "I've never had a felony sex offense. I've never been accused of one or arrested of any."
Technically, he's right. In the 1980s, when he was charged, his crimes didn't fall under the definition of criminal sexual misconduct. But the reasons for his commitment, and why he's been civilly committed for nearly 25 years, go beyond those convictions.
Records show that by the time Clements was 24, in 1984, he had been hospitalized several times for severe depression and self-destructive behavior. He told the people treating him that he heard voices talking to him in an accusing manner, and that he had disturbing thoughts about molesting 11- and 13-year-old girls. When he was admitted to a mental health center, he threatened to sexually assault female members of the staff.
He admitted to various treatment providers that he began exposing himself at age 10, made obscene phone calls at age 20 and supported himself as a prostitute from ages 19 to 22. He admitted to thinking about raping women, following one potential victim and hiding in women's restrooms to surprise others.
"He admits that he likes to masturbate in front of women," according to a report from his 1988 commitment record, "and doesn't know any other way to communicate his feelings to them except by exposing himself."
In 1986, he masturbated in front of his female neighbor. In 1987, he exposed himself to a woman at a park. That year he was sentenced to a workhouse, where he exposed himself to a female guard.
After he was released from the workhouse, in October 1987, dressed in only shoes and socks, he approached a woman in a parking ramp, masturbating, and asking her to help him. Later that month, he followed three girls for several blocks while exposing himself and masturbating.
Hennepin County petitioned the courts to civilly commit Clements on the grounds that he had a psychopathic personality and his "bad sexual behavior is escalating and with it the risk for serious sexual assault to a completely innocent victim."
The court relied on the testimony of four sex offender experts to decide whether he should be committed. Three of them said they did not believe Clements fit the statutory definition of a psychopathic personality. The one who did, Dr. Roger C. Sweet, according to court records, acknowledged at the time he had "no specific training in the area of violent sexual offenders" and "no prior experience treating persons with psychopathic personalities."
The court approved Clements' commitment in 1988. When Moose Lake's sex offender treatment center opened in 1996, he was transferred there.
Fifteen years later, Clements is still in the first stages of treatment and said unless the Legislature intervenes, he has no hope of ever being released.
Part of what's held him back are the numerous crimes he's been convicted of while at the facility, including four separate counts of terroristic threats and one count of second-degree assault for fighting a security counselor. For that, he served his first prison sentence.
He has assaulted security counselors five other times. In the last year, records show, Clements has been involved in numerous confrontations with MSOP security counselors.
Clements blamed the behavior on schizophrenia and anger at how he has been treated at Moose Lake.
"I believe that I needed to be punished for what I did, but the punishment should suit the crime. And I believe the state of Minnesota took 20 years of my life that they didn't have coming," Clements said. "If they would have incarcerated me for five years, I would consider that to be justice. But seeing as I never raped anybody, never molested any children, never attempted to rape nobody, never attempted to molest children, they took too many years of my life."
Clements' attorney, Terri Port Wright of Cloquet, said her client's behavior should be viewed in the context of the setting at Moose Lake.
"We have to be smart enough to look at the circumstances," she said. "Yes, he sucker-punched a guard. But what caused that scenario to happen? Is that scenario going to be present in the outside world? If he did it because he has problems controlling his anger, well then, give him anger management (therapy)."
Treatment or not, Clements said he should be released because he has proven he won't reoffend sexually.
"I can sexually act out every day here," said Clements. Records show that he last exposed himself at Moose Lake in 2003.
"My main acting out was indecent exposure," he said. "Every day I have female security counselors look in my room. Every day. And if I want to expose myself, I could do it right then. And I'd get in less trouble here than I would in the streets, but I don't do it because I no longer live with the desire, thank God."
Ironically, Sweet, the man who helped commit Clements, also says Clements should be released.
"I don't think it's fair and reasonable to keep someone there that long," he said.
Sweet said about eight to 10 years ago he worked to try to get Clements out of MSOP by trying to get him classified as mentally ill and dangerous rather than as a dangerous sex offender. He was unsuccessful.
He said he now regrets the recommendation to commit Clements.
"But who knew in 1989 that we would have this expensive sex offender program where nobody would ever get out?" he said.
For a full version of this story, see Monday's Duluth News Tribune print edition.