ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Sex offenders in Minnesota’s high security treatment centers say they are frustrated but hopeful they can someday be released.

That’s after a federal judge found the program unconstitutional, and ordered the state to find ways to release sex offenders.

Minnesota confines 733 people to sex offender programs at St. Peter and Moose Lake. So far, none of them has gone home.

“Not everybody here is the monster you think they are,” said Craig Bolte, a sex offender housed at Moose Lake.

Bolte served four years in juvenile detention for sexually assaulting his 11-year-old sister, and the last nine years in a sex offender treatment program at Moose Lake. Bolte says he realized immediately sex offender treatment is different from a jail.

“And I asked somebody, ‘How do you get out of here?’ And I was given a very simple answer: ‘You get out by dying,'” he said.

Sex offenders like Bolte were civilly committed after they served their sentences.

Federal Judge Donovan Frank on Thursday ordered the state to evaluate which ones can be safely released to less restrictive settings. But Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton says the court is wrong, and he’s appealing the judges order.

“And to say or imply that he could consider canceling the entire program and dumping people in larges numbers on the streets of Minnesota,” Dayton said, “I think is extremely inappropriate and highly offensive.”

The state says it has already started assessing sex offenders for possible release, but the patients we talked to are skeptical the state is sincere.

Kevin Nelson has been committed at Moose Lake for seven years, after serving prison time for sexually assaulting his girlfriend’s daughter.

He says he is no longer a danger to society, and that he’s successfully completed a treatment program.

“There are bad people,” he said. “But not everybody is a bad person. A human being has the potential inside himself to change.”

Pat Kessler

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