In 1996, Megan’s Law was passed, requiring that every state enact a community notification law or lose federal crime control funds. Each state is allowed to implement their own method of conducting community notification as long as it meets federal guidelines.
When a Level 3 sex offender moves into a community, the residents of that community are informed of the offender’s name, appearance, general location and nature of their offense.
Community notification denies sex offenders the secrecy that could be used to prey on unknowing victims. Notification provides an opportunity for local law enforcement to share information with the community so that citizens can make well informed decisions with regard to their safety and welfare. While the community is being informed about a specific offender, it is important to remember that the safety information also applies to unknown offenders and situations. With this new knowledge, the residents collectively have the ability to hold the offender accountable for their daily behavior, and in so doing, contribute to building a safer community.
At least 90 days before release, sex offenders are given a risk level by an End-of-Confinement-Review Committee (see below): Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3. Information about the offender, including their risk level, is sent to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over where the offender plans to live. Law enforcement decides whom they may notify based on the risk level of the offender, who the offender is likely to encounter and any patterns of victimizing or victim preferences the offender has shown in the past. Law enforcement must also follow guidelines that limit the scope of disclosure for each risk level. The scope of disclosure is always related to the scope of risk.
Minnesota’s notification law applies to adult sex offenders convicted or released after January 1, 1997 (date law became effective). Community notification may be applied for as long as the offender is required to register under Minnesota’s sex offender registration law, which is at least 10 years.
Each correctional institution has a standing committee called the End-Of-Confinement-Review Committee. The committee evaluates each sex offender at least 90 days before they are released and assigns a risk level based on their findings. By law, the committee must consist of:
- The head of the correctional facility where the offender is currently confined (or their designee)
- A law enforcement officer
- A treatment professional who is trained in the assessment of sex offenders
- A caseworker experienced in supervising sex offenders
- A member of Department of Corrections Victim Services Unit
- The offender’s past behavior
- Behavior while incarcerated
- The conditions under which the offender will be released
After receiving their risk assignment, offenders may request a hearing before an administrative law judge to appeal their risk level. Offenders may request a hearing to change their risk level every two years. A law enforcement agency may also appeal the risk level of an offender.