Gov. Dayton Says Fixes May Be Costly

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — An array of Minnesota officials gathered at a federal courthouse Monday to privately discuss the future of the state’s program for confining sex offenders.

More than a dozen legislators, Gov. Mark Dayton, Attorney General Lori Swanson and others talked about potential changes to a program that’s been declared unconstitutional. More than 700 offenders are indefinitely held in secure treatment hospitals because they’re deemed a threat to reoffend.

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The conference relates to a class-action lawsuit brought by offenders who’ve been committed to the program by a court apart from any criminal sanctions. Judge Donovan Frank is pushing for a voluntary resolution before imposing required steps by the state.

Dayton said no decisions were made after meeting with Judge Donovan Frank. He says one possible fix is creating an evaluation system with new facilities to house lower-risk patients who need extra medical care. He says it may cost more than $20 million annually.

Earlier this summer, Frank ruled the program is unconstitutional because confinement is indefinite and few offenders ever get out. He has said he will not make any final decisions about Minnesota’s sex offender program Monday, and that the focus of the closed door hearing is to gather ideas and toss around solutions.

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The judge said the state needs to fix its method of dealing with sex offenders because of the program, in its 20-year history, has never fully discharged anyone.

Any final decision on Minnesota’s sex offender program will be presented at a hearing down the road. Unlike Monday, that meeting is expected to be open to the press in the public.

Media groups fought to open the conference but were denied access. Reporters were barred from the courthouse floor where the meeting is occurring.

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