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Constitutionality Of MN’s Sex Offender Program Questioned

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Minnesota senators who met Monday at the Capitol say they must act quickly to modify the state’s sex offender treatment program before a federal judge does it for them.

The judge has said lawmakers must alter the state’s system of keeping sex offenders in indefinite custody after they finish prison terms, or risk a ruling that it’s unconstitutional.

Former Minnesota Chief Justice Eric Magnuson heads a task force that’s working to revise Minnesota’s sex offender treatment rules.

“The way you are operating, it does not work because nobody gets treated, and nobody gets out,” Magnuson said. “And it is, in effect, a life sentence.”

And the number of civilly-committed sex offenders in Minnesota is accelerating, according to the Department of Human Services, which oversees the program.

In 2003, there were 199. In 2013, the number was at 698. And by 2018, an estimated 995 sex offenders could be in the program.

The rise in commitments came in 2003, after college student Dru Sjodin was murdered by a sex offender who had been recently released.

Politicians reacted by putting more of them in treatment.

Now, they need to figure out a way to let them go, under strict supervision, despite what is already a political outcry.

Sen. Kathy Sheran, D-Mankato, authored a bill last year to reform the program.

“It’s very easy, politically, to scare people about the possibility that somebody is going to do harm to you again like they did in the past, without regard to the fact that the person has served their time and has gone through some treatment programs,” Sheran said.

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