National Association to Protect Children
For Immediate Release
November 28, 2018
New PROTECT Website to Give Citizens Inside View of Justice System
Community Safety Tool Being Piloted in Minnesota
Just weeks after millions of Americans went to the polls and cast wild guesses about prosecutors and judges, the National Association to Protect Children (PROTECT) has launched a new tool that will make Minnesota the first state in the nation where average citizens can see the track records of these officials on sexual violence.
“People are telling us they vote for prosecutors and judges without any idea what their record is,” says J. Christian, CEO of PROTECT. “So, we decided to shine a light on what matters most. We want to stop the guessing.”
PROTECT’s Community Safety Tool allows users to explore what happened with sex crimes prosecutions in their county over the decade of 2007-2016 and compare it to other counties across Minnesota. The interactive website uses data from the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission for felony convictions of criminal sexual assault, child exploitation, and sex trafficking. The site also provides information about individual cases, including the presiding judges.
“We think most Minnesotans would be shocked at how many sexually predatory criminals are being given therapy instead of prison,” says Grier Weeks, Senior Executive with PROTECT. “When it comes to child exploitation, we’ve never seen a state as alarming as Minnesota. But some counties do much better than others. Reform and improvement never happen in the dark, so we hope this tool is a big step towards positive change.”
The Community Safety Tool website can be found at:
Among the key findings from counties over 50,000 in population:
• Sentencing: Among the state’s five largest counties, Hennepin (1.23 million pop.) and Ramsey (540,653 pop.), sentenced offenders to state prison 49% and 51% of the time respectively for criminal sexual conduct, a crime that encompasses rape and child sexual abuse. Washington (253,128) sentenced just 32% of these offenders to state prison, while Anoka (348,652) sent 31% to prison.
• Conviction Rates: When it comes to how often counties prosecute criminal sexual assault, there are wide disparities. Among smaller counties, Mille Lacs (25,860 pop.) successfully prosecuted at a rate three times higher than Carlton (35,744 pop.). Among medium-sized counties, Crow Wing (64,000 pop.) successfully prosecuted at a rate two and a half times higher than Carver (100,621 pop.) during the decade examined.
• Adult Victims: Sentencing for sexual assault of adults varied greatly across Minnesota and was typically stronger than sentencing for crimes against children. Among large counties, Ramsey sentenced offenders with adult victims to prison 72% of the time while Anoka imposed prison in just 33% of cases. Three medium-sized counties (Blue Earth, Winona, Otter Tail) sent less than 20% of these offenders to prison during the decade examined.
• Minor Victims: Sentencing for sexual assault of minors also varied greatly and was generally less serious than crimes against adults. Hennepin County sent 43% of child sexual abusers to state prison and Ramsey, 45%. Wright and Carver both sent less than 25% of these same offenders to prison.
• Child Exploitation: Minnesota counties release the vast majority of criminals convicted of child sexual exploitation with probation or short local jail sentences, often time served. Hennepin County gave prison sentences for child abuse imagery (child pornography) or solicitation of minors for sex just 7% of the time. In Washington, less than 3% of these offenders got prison. The state’s second largest county, Ramsey, gave prison sentences just 21% of the time, with 68% of the remainder serving 90 days or less in jail.
“These horrific crimes are extremely easy to prove and convict,” says Christian, “making weak sentences a reflection of official policy, not difficulty of prosecution.” PROTECT also found that Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines for child sexual exploitation are a serious problem impacting sentencing. In the state’s largest county, Hennepin, guidelines called for prison in only 9% of all cases, as charged.
• Sex Trafficking: Most offenders convicted of sex trafficking avoided prison during the decade examined. In Hennepin County, 43% were sent to state prison, far below the 74% of cases where state sentencing guidelines recommended prison. Washington County sent offenders to prison just 20% of the time and Dakota (418,000 population) just 11% of the time.
• Departures from Sentencing Guidelines: Although Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines call for much lighter sentences than the law provides, prosecutors and judges routinely negotiate or impose sentences below the guidelines. In St. Louis County (199,000 population), guidelines recommended prison 60% of the time, but offenders received prison sentences only 42% of the time. PROTECT also found apparent disparities in how aggressively county attorneys charge sex crimes, as reflected by the differing percentages of cases where the guidelines recommended commitment to state prison.
# # #