Governor Pawlenty of Minnesota has been hard at work during his last term as governor. Throughout his term, he has taken steps to increase sentences for sex offenders and to improve Minnesota’s policies in this area.
Recently, Governor Tim Pawlenty announced a proposal to more than double prison time for sex offenders and a new comprehensive Internet education program to help protect children from online predators.
Under the Governor’s proposal, an offender convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct would receive a 25-year sentence, more than doubling the current presumptive sentence. Governor Pawlenty said that while he has led efforts to increase sentencing in the past, he feels that more can be done to protect citizens from dangerous sexual predators. With these changes in the law it will help to keep predators off our streets.
In 2005, Governor Pawlenty led efforts that significantly enhanced sentencing for criminal sexual conduct offenses. Under the law, someone who commits a particularly egregious first offense or is a repeat sex offender could be sentenced to life in prison or until they could prove they were worthy of release. Offenders would have had to commit their first offense with two other statutorily described “heinous elements” before they could be sentenced for life.
However, under current law offenders who are convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct without such “heinous elements” face a maximum sentence of 30 years. Minnesota courts typically impose a presumptive sentence of 12 years. The Governor’s proposals will more than double the 12-year presumptive sentence to 25 years.
Governor Pawlenty also introduced a NetSmartz Internet Safety Education Program that is a comprehensive Internet safety education program that will be made available to every school in the state at no charge. NetSmartz, developed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), provides detailed information for students, teachers, parents and law enforcement about the dangers that children can face when they go online.
Children face sexual predators online everyday. This program will provide training and instructional materials that teachers can use to help educate students about the dangers that exist online. The U.S. Department of Education statistics show that more than 1 in 5 children use the Internet by the time they reach nursery school age. One in three children use the Internet by Kindergarten and four in five by high school.
This program will be a partnership between the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. NetSmartz kits are made available through a Department of Justice grant.