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Changes needed in sex offender committment program, legislative auditor’s report says

Changes are needed in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, which keeps sex offenders in civil commitment even after their release from prison, says a Legislative Auditor’s report released Friday.
The state pays about $120,000 per year for each offen

Changes are needed in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, which keeps sex offenders in civil commitment even after their release from prison, says a Legislative Auditor’s report released Friday.

The state pays about $120,000 per year for each offender kept locked up in the program — about three times as much as it costs to keep someone in prison, the report said. There are now 575 offenders in the program, four times more than 10 years ago; the number is expected to double in the next 10 years.

Other findings:

  • Commitment levels vary across the state, and statistical analysis suggests that some sex offenders being committed may have a lower risk of recidivism than others who are being released from prison.
  • Lower-cost alternatives may be appropriate for some sex offenders being considered for commitment or already residing at MSOP facilities.
  • No sex offender has been discharged from MSOP since it was created in 1994, making the state vulnerable to lawsuits over the effectiveness of its treatment program.
  • Frequent leadership changes and significant staff vacancies makes it hard to maintain the type of therapeutic environment necessary for treating high-risk sex offenders.

The report makes these recommendations for improvement:

  • The Legislature should require a plan for lower-cost alternative facilities to be used by certain sex offenders.
  • The Legislature should consider other options for reducing the costs of civil commitment, including changes in the commitment process, commitment standards, and financing of commitment costs, as well as changes in sentencing policy.
  • The Department of Human Services should require MSOP to provide more treatment hours per week than are currently provided.