First Person To Leave MN Sex Offender Program

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Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper cleared the way for the first person ever to be fully released without conditions from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Reversing an earlier position, Piper said she would not appeal a state Supreme Court ruling to release Eric Terhaar, 26, who has been confined for six years based solely on acts he committed as a juvenile. Piper has “actively opposed” Terhaar’s release. “Given an appellate court decision in an earlier case that disregarded expert testimony and granted the release of another MSOP client, I decided not to appeal this case,” she said. “To do so could create a precedent that puts at risk the future of this program, which is critical to public safety.”

Piper’s decision means that for the first time since the program was established two decades ago, a person will be allowed to leave it and re-enter society without highly intrusive state supervision. In the past, those discharged have been sent to halfway houses or nursing homes, where they were subject to such conditions as round-the-clock surveillance, GPS monitoring, and random searches. Terhaar had become a symbol of a system that critics say puts away too many people for too long. He was committed indefinitely even though he has never been convicted of a sexual offense as an adult. He was confined based partly on acts when he was as young as 10. “The court is becoming more sensitive to the notion that the system is not working,” said Dan Gustafson, attorney for sex offenders suing the state.

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