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Sex Offender Law is Unconstitutional

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What do you call a forced in-patient treatment program that has never successfully treated and released a patient? Either it is a complete and utter failure, or you call it what it really is -- a prison. That is the problem that Minnesota faces. It has 605 sex offender inmateswho have no pending charges or convictions.

They are not on probation. In fact, all of these people have already been convicted and have served their debts to society. However, some Minnesotans feel that is not enough. Rather, Minnesota is holding them for what they might do. While both state and federal courts have called this dubious decision constitutional, they have done so only because it is "treatment." Otherwise, the program would be considered unconstitutional. Which takes me back to my initial point. If there has been no successful treatment, then it is nothing but incarceration.

You doubt me?

Minnesota started its Sex Offender Treatment Program in 1994. The number of inmates is growing by about 50 a year. They are held at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter and at a facility in Moose Lake. However, both are running out of space. St. Peter is looking to expand its facility by an additional 55 beds, while Moose Lake is seeking to expand by some 400 beds. At a cost of about $96,000 per inmate per year, this is not a cheap proposition.

And how successful has the treatment been? Not one person forced into the Sex Offender Treatment Program has ever been released. I repeat: Not one!

As we speak, one man is trying to be the first person ever released from the program. Admittedly, he has done some horrible things, but he has been held for decades and has done everything -- everything -- asked of him.

However, while the Special Review Board may go along with the release, state Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson opposes the release. Frankly, she is a politician, and nobody would want an albatross like this around their neck if things went south.

But that is the ultimate problem. Again, these convicts have done some pretty terrible things. As a result, the standard refrains seem to be "lock 'em up and throw away the key" or "shoot 'em out of a cannon." Of course, these arguments are irrelevant to the point at hand. It is not about what one should do to those who commit these types of crimes in the first place.

If Minnesota thinks they should never see the light of day, the Legislature should consider that issue. This is about what we as a society should do once people have fulfilled their obligations. If the state continues to do as it has done with this program for 16 years, the courts will see it for what it is: a prison.

When that happens, this entire system will be justifiably shut down.

Then what do we do?