Sex offender program release plan draws criticism

By KBJR News 1

October 24, 2013 Updated Oct 24, 2013 at 11:18 PM CDT

St. Peter, MN (NNCOW.com) - For the first time in many years, the Minnesota Sex Offender Program is getting ready to release some men.

The sex offenders being looked at for release, have served their time in prison, and have been civilly committed to the program.

These men are currently housed in the St. Peter facility.

The plan is to release them into less restrictive settings in Cambridge, Minnesota and that plan is not sitting well with everyone.

Minnesota Representative Brian Johnson of Cambridge has spoken out against the release.

The Isanti County News published a letter from Representative Johnson saying he lives within two miles of the facility and would like more information before a final release decision is made.

In response to concerns like that, the Minnesota Human Services Department will hold a public hearing on Tuesday in Cambridge to share further details with community residents.

The sex offenders, who range in age from their 40s to their 80s, have been described by the Human Services Department as low functioning.

"Petitions have been advanced to the supreme court and special review panel on behalf of approximately 12 clients who reside in MSOP at St. Peter. We are beginning to look for less restrictive alternatives when it is safe in the community and safe within our programs and we are moving ahead down that path." The deputy commissioner of the MN Dept. of Human Services Anne Barry said.

Meanwhile a 15 member task force, set up in response to an ongoing class action lawsuit by a number of clients in the Sex Offender Treatment Program, is expected to deliver recommendations about the future of the program on December First.

The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of keeping sex offenders in secure facilities after they have served their prison time.

They claim they are being locked up for crimes they may commit in the future.

Minnesota has 698 offenders in the civil commitment treatment program with 509 housed in secure facilities in Moose Lake and 189 locked up in St. Peter.

The civil commitment program has been in existence in Minnesota for 19 years. In that time only one offender has been successfully released.

Barbara Reyelts