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Concern Over Minnesota's Sex Offender Program

Posted at: 03/05/2013 6:43 PM
By: Katie Eldred

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- A federal court is urging Minnesota to address its program that keeps sex offenders locked up, saying it may be unconstitutional.

A task force is now looking into this problem.

There are more than 18,000 convicted sex offenders in Minnesota. While many of them serve their sentence and are then freed to live among us, there are some who are too likely recommit.

"These are generally people of the highest absolute risk and people who have failed treatment many times," said Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem.

Ostrem has dealt with many of these cases. He says those high risk sex offenders are committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program and sent to the prison like facilities in either Moose Lake or St. Peter.

"A commitment like that to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program is an for an undetermined period of time," said Ostrem.

But now, there's a law suit against the state of Minnesota that has a federal judge questioning if this program is constitutional.

"These individuals that are committed have already served their sentence, in effect they are being sentenced for crimes they may commit," said Eric Magnuson.

Former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice, Eric Magnuson, is the chair of the task force that has been put together to look into this issue. He says the task force has several areas where the state needs improvement.

"How people get into the system, how they are treated in the system, and how they can be moved through the system all while keeping in mind the need for public safety at all times," said Magnuson.

While many of the offender committed require the secure and restrictive facility Magnusson says there are some who would do better in a less prison like environment. He says the biggest issue is a need for a less restrictive alternative facility.

The tasks force’s recommendations are out there, now it's up to the legislature to act. If the legislature doesn't act the federal judge will. And that could come with some serious consequences.

"It's in our best interest to address those problems ourselves and fix it ourselves, and not leave it to a judge," said Ostrem.

The task force has another meeting next Monday. The federal judge has given the task force until December of 2014 to solve this issue.