Minnesota moved a step closer to reforming its troubled sex offender program with a recommendation that the legislature create a network of regional treatment facilities to serve as alternatives to the current high-cost, high-security system, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The recommendation from a task force headed by former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson is the latest effort to solve the thorny question of how to protect the public from dangerous sex offenders while not violating their constitutional rights.
The state faces a federal lawsuit by several offenders who argue that the Minnesota Sex Offender Program subjects them to illegal indefinite detention without adequate therapy. The program was created in 1994 to confine and treat the most dangerous sex offenders under court commitment after they have finished their prison sentences. It has discharged only two offenders since its creation, and some argue that commitment amounts to a de facto life sentence. The program’s population has ballooned to more than 600 offenders confined in high-security treatment facilities at a cost of approximately $120,000 annually per patient.