Lawmakers aim to close elder abuse loophole

9:04 PM, Apr 11, 2011   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota lawmakers are moving to close a loophole in Minnesota's sexual predator laws, to track those who abuse vulnerable nursing home residents.

The bill would add those who commit such acts would be automatically added to the state's registry of predatory offenders.

"Sadly we're finding that there's been an increase in abuse of our elderly, and those that may be maybe either have mental health issues, or simply have physical disabilities," Sen. Warren Limmer, R - Maple Grove, told KARE.

Limmer's bill cleared its final committee Monday and is now headed to the Senate floor.

"We have to step up our game in Minnesota to address this rise in abuse. We need to make sure we're staying on top of this problem and the perpetrators."

The Minnesota Predatory Offender Registry currently includes those convicted of sexual criminal conduct, kidnapping, soliciting a minor, or possessing child pornography.  Limmer's bill would require nursing home employees convicted of Criminal Abuse of a Vulnerable Adult.

Iris Freeman, associate director of the Center for Elder Justice & Policy at William Mitchell School of Law, said the original laws to track sex offenders were passed in 1991 in the wake of the 1989 Jacob Wetterling abduction.

She said Criminal Abuse of a Vulnerable Adult, which includes "sexual contact or penetration" of a care facility resident by an employee, was added to the books in 1995.

Freeman wanted to make it clear the bill would not create a new crime or a new offender registry for elder abuse, but would add this specific offense to the list of crimes requiring registration.

"We believe it was an oversight at the time, not to include those convicted of this crime in the predatory offender registry, which is what we're advocating be done now," Freeman explained.

Not everyone is happy with an expansion of the registry.

In response to KARE's original coverage of this hearing, Fima Estrin wrote to say, "If somebody is added to registry, his
life is over. It's absolutely impossible to find a job and housing, and these individuals end up getting fed by relatives. If not, they are on the streets."

Estrin is a Minnesota member of Reform Sex Offender Laws, an organization that contends the registries cast too broad of a net, lumping hardened serial sex offenders together with people guilty of less serious crimes. 

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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