This case strikes me as raising all sorts of constitutional issues.
After serving nearly two years for criminal sexual contact with a minor, Brown, 26, enrolled at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and began searching for a stable job and a place to live.
But just four months into his probation, Brown was sent back to prison. His offense: failing to enter sex offender treatment that he could not afford.
Attorneys and therapists say his case has exposed a major gap in Minnesota’s system of treatment for the nearly 1,600 convicted sex offenders who live under supervision in the community after leaving prison.
In Minnesota, sex offenders are often ordered by local judges to pay for their own treatment as a condition of probation. Yet many walk out of prison too broke to afford the co-payments. Brown was homeless, jobless and so destitute that his probation officer suggested he sell his blood to cover his $42 co-payment, court records show.
Last month a state appeals court panel upheld the revocation of Brown’s probation, triggering denunciations by prisoner advocates and public defenders. In an unusually blistering dissent, Chief Judge Edward Cleary said that preventing indigent sex offenders from obtaining treatment, due to lack of funds, sets them up for failure and undermines public safety. Quoting a Charles Dickens novel, “Martin Chuzzlewit,” the judge wrote: “Dollars! All their cares, hopes, joys, affections, virtues, and associations seemed to be melted down into dollars.”
There's more at the link.
I can see the point of requiring paroled sex offenders to enter treatment (although, in this specific case, Brown's crime was sleeping with a 15-year-old - a statutory violation, not a violent criminal act). However, if they can't afford to pay for the treatment because they can't find a job, to put them back in jail seems like a sort of post-conviction double jeopardy - being punished twice for the same offense. It's not their fault, so why blame them?
I think this will have to be sorted out by a series of higher court rulings. It's going to be a complicated issue.