Home for high risk parolees criticizedPublished 9:57am Monday, July 14, 2014
MANKATO — State officials set up a rental home in Mankato to house high-risk felons on parole and never informed the city or neighbors until the deal was done, according to a report published Sunday.
Corrections officials said the fears are misplaced and they don’t consider the house to be a group home because it doesn’t provide meals.
The 98-year-old, three-bedroom house was set up specifically to be a residence for multiple convicted offenders.
City officials said they believe the northwestern Minnesota pawnshop owner who owns the home violated Mankato ordinances regulating group homes, and they believe the Department of Corrections acted in bad faith by deliberately staying under the city’s radar.
“They should have disclosed to us what they were going to do with it before entering into a contract,” Community Development Director Paul Vogel said.
Ron Solheid, deputy commissioner for community services at the DOC, said maintaining the intense supervision that high-risk offenders require is all but impossible if the released inmate is homeless. At least one of the felons is a sex offender.
A 2007 study of sex offenders re-offending after release showed that their new crimes rarely had any connection to the neighborhood where they lived, unless someone in the neighborhood developed a relationship with them. When offenders assaulted strangers, it was usually father away, said Mark Bliven, director of risk assessment and community notification for the department.
Terry Harrison, the Frazee pawn shop owner, told The Free Press he purchased the Mankato house specifically at the request of the Corrections department, and that he’s done it elsewhere to provide housing for released inmates.
“The state of Minnesota sometimes contacts me to see if I can purchase a house for them,” Harrison acknowledged.
The property is in close proximity to a day care center, school bus stops and at least one home that provides adult foster care.
Thelma Roben, who said she’s cared for vulnerable adults for 40 years a half-block from the house, said some of her clients would be particularly susceptible to a predator.
“One of them would go with anyone anywhere,” Roben said.
Mankato is preparing a new zoning ordinance that would specifically define places like the house as “offender transitional housing” and would closely regulate where such residences could be located.