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Corrections officers across the area say they are seeing an increase in the number of serious adult offenders

GRANITE FALLS -- After increasing for years, the number of juveniles breaking the law and coming under the supervision of 6W Community Corrections in Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties has held steady in 2008.

But that good news from Midge Christianson, director of 6W Community Corrections, was quickly tempered by news that the number of adult offenders and the severity of their cases jumped significantly in the four counties.

More high-risk offenders are serving probation in the four rural counties than ever before, and for longer periods of time, Christianson told the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

6W correction agents saw the number of juvenile offenders in their caseloads remain steady at 508 last year, or only one more than in 2007.

But the number of adult cases referred to the corrections system grew 24 percent overall to 1,652, compared to 1,332 in 2007.

Correction agents are seeing more clients who have recently been released from prison. The number of those assessed as "high risk'' and requiring more supervision is on the rise as well.

Last year her agents took on duties for 63 clients just released from prison, Christianson told the commissioners.

The caseload includes more sex offenders with long -- in some cases lifetime -- requirements for supervised probation. The rise in these and other types of high-risk offenders places more burdens on the system. "You can't just take those kinds of offenders and say you are not going to see them,'' she said.

The corrections system and courts use a variety of tools to assess the risk that offenders will continue to break the law. Those assessed to be higher risks can be required to meet weekly with their probation officers. Those believed to have a low risk may be required to meet with an agent only once every three months, said Christianson.

The demographics of the rural system's caseload are beginning to mirror that of larger, more populated areas in the state, according to Christianson.

A sign of the change, she said, is the fact that some 6W clients are technically homeless. In previous years, offenders returning from jail or prison could always find a family member or friend willing to give them a place to stay.

Christianson said some of the offenders today are very mobile people who have had residences in other areas and states, and no family here.

The Internet has served to make it much more difficult for offenders to find jobs and places to live as well, said Christianson. Landlords and prospective employers routinely run searches on the Internet, but the information they obtain is often not complete.

She described the case of one recent client who has faced rejections from prospective employers and landlords alike. He was convicted of no more than a misdemeanor, but Internet searches showed that he was originally charged with two serious felonies.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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